Caroline Frey - is a former equestrian champion and an accomplished pianist also topped her Class of 2003 in oenology at the University of Bordeaux. Caroline’s family own Château La Lagune in the Haut-Médoc in Bordeaux, along with Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné in the Rhône Valley, and has a substantial but not majority shareholding in Champagne Billecart-Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.
Château La Lagune is the first Cru Classe one encounters as you drive along the Route du Medoc. The Frey family has owned the property since 2000, and is determined to produce a wine of the highest order worthy of this honour. Classified as a Third Growth Haut-Médoc in the 1855 Classification, La Lagune is in the village of Ludon before Le Pian.
Caroline Frey has been the winemaker at Ch. La Lagune since 2004, in the same year she asked her former professor, Denis Dubourdieu, to join as a consultant. In 2006, the family bought a prestigious yet slightly tired domain, Paul Jaboulet Ainé in the Rhône Valley. There, Caroline discovered the power of some of the rarest terroirs of the Northern Rhône.
I have had the pleasure to meet with Caroline Frey in both Bordeaux at Château La Lagune in the Haut Medoc and at Maison Jaboulet in the Rhône Valley. So thought what better way to start this series than by talking with a winemaker who works with two such unique, removed terroirs and different grape varieties and find out what shapes the winemaker, who shapes these influential wines.
What first attracted you to the wine industry and as a winemaker?
“I grew up amongst some of the world’s most beautiful vineyards in Champagne, where my father purchased his first vineyards when I was very young. We spent a lot of time together in the vineyards and in the cellars. I always had many questions and he would take the time to explain details about the vineyards and winemaking to me. Growing up I was very interested in wine but not yet ready to become a winemaker as I was consumed by another passion - horse-riding and show-jumping in equestrian competitions! It was only when I turned 20-years-old that I decided to study oenology.”
Where and when did you study winemaking?
“I studied at the Bordeaux Enology University (2002-2003). There I had the chance to meet my mentor Denis Dubourdieu and I did several training periods in his winery”.
Which person has influenced you the most as a winemaker and why?
“Denis Dubourdieu. He is my mentor! He has taught me the value of continuously trying to do better.”
What is your favourite grape varietal to work with and why?
“I love all the grape varieties, especially the ones I use in both our properties at La Lagune and Paul Jaboulet Ainé: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier!”
Which grape varietal would you most like to work with in the future and why?
“I would like to have a parcel of Petit Arvine! This is a little known Swiss grape varietal.”
With each new vintage what do you most look forward to?
“The challenge is always to produce better and better wines. I am always trying to improve.”
To date what has been you most interesting/challenging vintage and why?
“It would have to be the 2006 vintage - the year we first started working with the team at Paul Jaboulet and with such old vines”
Which person ‘current’ or ‘past’ would you most like to have met or meet and why?
“I would like to meet Georges Brunet; he really saved La Lagune in the 60’s and Gerard Jaboulet who poured his life into the winery. Without them La Lagune and Jaboulet would probably not be here today.”
If you were stranded on a desert island and you could take one bottle of wine with you - what would it be and why?
“It would have to be wine which is beautiful and also one which holds sentimental value for me. And there is only one wine I would consider. It is our exclusive blend, one barrel only(!), called ‘DUO’ - 50% La Lagune and 50% La Chapelle. Tres Belle!”
If you could make wine anywhere else in the world - where would it be and why?
“It would be in Switzerland, in the Valais. It is the North of the Rhone Valley!”
What advice would you give a young person starting out as a winemaker?
“First condition to succeed: Being Passionate!”
If you weren’t a winemaker - what would you like to be and why?
In the future, what exciting changes can you see, or would like to see for your wines, wine styles, vineyard or winery?
“My vision for our wineries is to have fully biodynamic viticulture - that will be my challenge in the next few years!”