Getting to know Birte Jantzen – Journalist, blogger (WineBubble) and taster (Bettane & Desseauve)
2019… a year and a communication 200% targeted on the terroirs of Rasteau! So, with the help of the oenologist Georges TRUC and Denis Plat, A.O.C Rasteau has decided to talk more about its terroirs, both with the general public and professionals! And there is no lack of opportunities: after-works, masterclasses, OFF evenings, professional trade shows such as Prowein and Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône…
Birte Jantzen, freelance journalist, blogger on Winebubble and taster for the guide Bettane & Desseauve, presented our ‘Rasteau – Land of Grenache’ masterclass at the ProWein trade show in Düsseldorf last March. She has lived in Paris for around twenty years and knows the region and the wines of the Rasteau appellation very well. And that is one of the reasons why we wanted to introduce you to this Rhône Valley specialist.
“I was fed up with knowing so little about the subject!”
A.O.C Rasteau: Wine is an integral part of your life. You are a freelance journalist, author of the blog called Wine Bubble, taster for the guide Bettane & Desseauve, where does your love of wine come from?
“I am not from a family with any connections to the wine sector, but my parents have always appreciated wine and I was used to seeing it served with a meal. They weren’t into collecting labels or anything like that, but we have always associated wine with a moment of conviviality and sharing. My love of wine came quite late on, in France actually, and in 2011 to be exact. Before, I enjoyed wine like any other everyday person and was a bit lost in front of the huge range of bottles you generally see in stores. I would choose one more or less by instinct. So, in 2011, I decided to take lessons at a tasting school in Paris called “Grain Noble” which someone recommended to me because I was fed up with knowing so little about the subject. Then my wine education continued with a course to obtain a diploma from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (which is what you need in order to apply to do a Master’s in Wine). And there, I discovered a new world (behind the label) and my passion for wine really began.
It was at that time that I realised that it is really about working with nature rather than against it. I also love art and craft professions and when I taste some wines, for me we are not just talking about working the land, we are talking about a very high level of craftsmanship. And like any craftsman, the winemaker, if he wants to work well, must listen to his material… it is his terroir, it is his vine. And from there, fabulous things start happening”.
“I dream of dressing just as I like, and that would be extremely unconventional (laughs)”
A.O.C Rasteau: You are originally from Hamburg in Germany, but you have lived in Paris for many years now. What made you want to come to France and to share your knowledge in our country?
“I’ve lived in France since 1992, so for quite some time. At first, I had no plans of a career in wine. I wanted to be a fashion designer. I have a hands-on approach to learning so I decided to do a course in haute couture. In Germany, there were not many options so I had the choice between France, the UK and Italy. But my Italian was not great and I really liked France. So, I came to Paris and entered the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, which is the school that you have to do if you want to become a designer or join one of the manual professions of fashion. I did my haute couture apprenticeship at Christian Dior. After that, I continued my course with young designers who had the same work philosophy as me. It was wonderful. I have a lot of respect for craftspeople, and especially craftspeople of a very high level, because it is not something that comes naturally. It is very hard work. You have to be patient. I worked in that field for quite a few years but without ever really making it to the design stage. I did some costumes for theatre, and some things for myself, but I still dream of one day having a big enough flat to hold a workshop and of dressing just as I like. And that would be extremely unconventional!! (laughs)”.
“A wine can express a place, a winemaker, and if we’re lucky, both!”
A.O.C Rasteau: Do you think that a wine can resemble the winemaker who made it? Do you have an example to give us?
“Yes, some wines definitely resemble the winemaker who made them. There have been quite a few occasions during professional tastings that I have had the impression that the person was right there in front of me. Here’s a story to prove it. I started talking with the people around the table who were not the winemaker and I asked questions to try to guess the winemaker’s philosophy of life. The people looked at me strangely and asked me if I knew him but I didn’t! So yes, some wines are very expressive. They can express a place, a winemaker, and if we’re lucky, both!”
“Even if 80% of a wine comes down to the vines, the interaction between the vines and the team at the vineyard is important!”
A.O.C Rasteau: Do you think this is the case for Rasteau?
“Yes, for example at the Domaine du Trapadis with Helen Durand. The first time I tasted her wines, I thought to myself “wow, this person works like a Burgundy winemaker”. At the time I didn’t yet know Helen and I later learnt that she had spent some of her time learning the ropes in Burgundy. I found it really funny this link that can be made between a winemaker and his wines which have somehow taken on his philosophy. Even if 80% of a wine comes down to the vines, there is also the interaction between the vines and the team at the vineyard”.
“At Rasteau, there is a real terroir of Natural Sweet Wines (VDN)!”
A.O.C Rasteau: As well as being the author of the Wine Bubble blog and an expert in Rhône Valley wines, you regularly present masterclasses. For example, you presented the ‘Rasteau – Land of Grenache’ masterclass in March at the ProWein show. What can you say about what makes the terroir of Rasteau special?
“What I really love about the terroirs of Rasteau is that they are divided into three very distinct zones. And we can sense these three zones when tasting the wines. The terroir of Rasteau is one of the sunniest terroirs of all the Southern Rhône Valley appellations. But what is really special at Rasteau is that there is also a real terroir of Natural Sweet Wines. Unfortunately, these wines are not widely known. The winemakers who produce them are – it must be said – brave. The appellation will have to fight to spread the word about these wines because they are above all a part of the local culture of the appellation”.
“At Rasteau, there is a trio of terroirs!”
A.O.C Rasteau: Rasteau is one of the Crus of the Rhône Valley. What is special about it? What do you like in the wines of the appellation? And what makes them unique?
“What makes them unique is the diversity of the terroirs. There is a trio of terroirs and that’s magnificent. The winemaking methods can really vary! Better still, the Grenache is very generous, full of freshness and finesse. It’s true that with a Helen Durand or a Domaine Wilfried down below and a Domaine des Escaravailles high up, there is a wide range of different interpretations. It’s a bit like a palette of different shades of a colour! And obviously, what makes Rasteau unique are the VDN! I am a big fan of these sweet wines! They offer great possibilities for associations and wine and food pairings. But these wines really deserve to be explained more and to get back onto our tables, however unusual they may be. But that’s exactly why it’s important to cultivate the originality of this type of wine!”
“Rasteau just keeps gaining in precision and finesse!”
A.O.C Rasteau: In 2010, the appellation obtained Cru status so 2020 will be its 10th anniversary. How has the appellation evolved and what future do you see for it?
“Well, for me, as the years go by, Rasteau just keeps gaining in precision and finesse. But there’s always more work to be done to aim for excellence because everyone else is improving too. It’s important not to rest on your laurels and think “that’s it, we have Cru status, all is well”. You must continue to reinforce your excellence and highlight the terroir of Rasteau and the talent of the winemakers. It’s good that an appellation like Rasteau is doing its bit towards a real qualitative and top-end identity of the southern Côtes du Rhône wines. It makes me happy because the appellation has some great places and great terroirs”.
A.O.C Rasteau: Any future plans?
“Yes, but for the moment they are a secret!”
Thankyou Birte for agreeing to talk to us and tell us more about yourself and also for your support for the Rasteau appellation!
If you want to find out more about Birte Jantzen’s activities, visit her blog Winebubble!