Producer Spotlight: Valerie Forgues

Producer Spotlight: Valerie Forgues

Valerie Forgues, producer at Domaine de la Méchinière, has seen her fair share of difficulties in her efforts to preserve the estate. In 2008, with no viticulture or winemaking experience, she pursued learning from other nearby vignerons so as to save her home, the place in which her sons had grown up, from bankruptcy. With guidance from former producers Catherine Roussel and Didier Barrouillet of the famed Clos Roche Blanche, she began to work her 16 hectares. Fast forward to today and she's farming organically, using native yeast fermentations, and harvesting all of her grapes by hand.

Her story is powerful and Louis/Dressner Selections interviewed her back in 2017. Below are excerpts from that interview. Read it to learn more about her story, one of perseverance.

- Erica Christian

How did you end up heading Domaine de la Méchinière? I’m not from the area and have absolutely no agricultural or viticultural background. I do have some family ties to the Cher, but it’s a total coincidence I found myself living here. Like a good little Frenchie, I went to school to follow a career path.

To answer your question about the estate, love is what brought me here. It was a decision I made with my ex-husband about 20 years ago. I knew nothing about wine.

So how did you go about taking the estate over? My brother-in-law was a retired vigneron, and he was instrumental in keeping things together in the very beginning. He quite frankly ran the entire estate the first few months, and for that I will always be thankful to him.

He was also very helpful in actively engaging me, in encouraging me to come see the work in the vines, what different choices meant, etc... He also made me understand that if I really wanted to do this, just how much responsibility it really meant. From managing employees to working the tractor, he showed me the way.

It was hard though, because of course having him around meant a constant reminder of my ex-husband. It also bothered me because at that point Didier would swing by occasionally and point out that his work was extremely conventional. Didier’s philosophy and vision of agriculture resonated with me in a way my brother-in-law’s did not.

So how did the two of you go about creating the new direction for the estate? I can’t even remember how the process started. But I know that we constantly talked about what was possible in the vines and the cellar, and that his responses resonated with me. I’d ask him what he would have done in my place. This led to him visiting the vines and cellar with me and getting increasingly specific with his advice. Some of it I follow, some I don't; but if I’m asking someone for advice it’s either to follow it or have a conversation about it!

I think that it was around 2011 that the collaboration was fully under way. He was helping me in the vines, constantly tasting from vat, giving his advice... It all happened very naturally. As far as converting to organic viticulture, which I began in 2013, these are the moments of our collaboration that I remember most vividly. It started with an argument: he told me that at the point I’d progressed, that I should take the next step and convert the vineyards. I told him to hold his horses: this meant making an already demanding job even harder! I had to ensure I was bringing fruit to the cellar!

I could never have taken such a big risk without his help, so he agreed he’d be there every step of the way to help me convert. And you know how it is: for someone to commit voluntarily (and benevolently!) to such a huge undertaking, he’s got to believe in the final result!