Serge & Vincent Roh

Cave Les Ruinettes,  Valais, Switzerland

As complementary as the red and white "Les Ruinettes" wines, Serge and his son Vincent work aiming for top quality.

In your opinion, what's the best time on the estate?

Vincent Roh: It may be the harvest because it is the moment when we get the fruit of a year of hard work in the vineyard and then it is also there that we develop the new vintage , so this is the most exciting time of the year.
Serge Roh:
Yes indeed, harvest is the most important moment in the wine year. We see whether we have done a good or not so good job on our vines during the past months.

Serge Roh

Serge Roh studied at the Changins school. At the time it was a one-year course, specialising in viti-oenology. In 1986, he returned to work on the estate. From then on, he also planted new grape varieties such as Cornalin and Syrah. Thirteen years later, he took over the estate under his own name.

Do you remember the first time you tasted wine?

V. R.: I think it was around my fourteenth birthday. I must have tried red wine with friends. I wasn't too young, it's fine (laughs).

Vincent Roh

Vincent Roh, Serge's son, arrived, on the estate in September 2019, after completing a Bachelor's degree in oenology and viticulture at the Changins School of Engineering. He is currently mainly responsible for the cellar (harvesting, reception of grapes and vinification of red and white wine) and administrative tasks rather than for the vineyard.

Did you like it?

V. R.: It's complicated. Coming from a family of winemakers, I didn't want to say anything bad about it, but honestly I must not have found it very pleasant. Red wine is quite an acidic, tannic drink, so I think at the time maybe I would have preferred a beer (laughs).

What about you, Serge?

S. R.: In my case, I was about the same age as my son, also with friends. We drank white wine with blackcurrant syrup to make it easier to drink (laughs). Of course, we liked the taste, maybe even a little too much, to the point of making us sick (laughs).

How does the father-son collaboration work?

V. R.: It goes well. Having different characters we complement each other. Also, we don't work together all day. My father is in charge of most representations and deliveries; sales basically. I do more of the cellar and office work. Maybe that's why it's easier, because we dont see each other so often.

It's good to have someone in the family who is interested in wine and who is also trained in the field.

What about wine production decisions?

V. R.: We often agree. I'm still learning a lot in terms of tasting and also to determine when the wine is ready. My father always has the last word, he has the final decision. But otherwise, in terms of production and style of the wines, we have relatively the same ideas and the same open-mindedness. We are always ready to try new things.

Serge, how did you take the news, when Vincent decided to join you on the estate?

S. R.: I was happy! It's clear that it's good to have someone in the family who is interested in wine and who is also trained in the field. He has the right information to do this job. That doesn't mean that you can't do this job without it, but it'd be a bit more complicated. No, but I was delighted.

What are your greatest achievements on the estate?

S. R.: To be where I am now,. It's not easy to maintain a certain level. When I started working in the vineyard with my father, he aimed for different yields than now. I have reduced them a lot to improve the quality, I am no longer in the same spirit of maximisation. Afterwards, I had to be patient to plant certain grape varieties, because I didn't have the plots on the hillside. I could have rushed and grown them elsewhere, but that would have been less good. I had to make an effort and wait for the right moment for my work to bear fruit in the long term.

What were the most difficult years on the estate?

S. R.: We had a hard frost period in the spring of 2017. Otherwise, in 2003, a very hot year, I had to prune the grapes a lot in July and as a result I got 35% less yield than in 2004. It was hard! I had lots of orders, but no wine to deliver...

Some grape varieties will no longer do well in the Valais, because it will be too hot.

How do you overcome an event like this?

S. R.: We don't have much choice, we have to hold on. It's not easy at the time, that's true. The vines were burnt, we thought there would be no harvest, a loss of income.
V. R.: Anyway, we know that we work with nature, so we have a good chance of having a year that could turn out badly. We must not stop as soon as there is a climatic accident. We must not let go of everything because these are things that happen and I think they will happen more and more. And then the fact of being recognized, with a good customer base, we have no worries on the sales side so that too are reassuring things.

You were talking about climate change, are you thinking of changing grape varieties to avoid certain disadvantages that you are encountering?

V. R.: Changing the grape varieties it's a little more complicated because people are still keen to consume certain wines such as Petite Arvine, Amigne, etc. It is true that the new resistant grape varieties available now are very new grape varieties, we have little or no knowledge, about them. After that it's a bet to take, but anyway there will be improvements to be made I think, we will have no choice. Some grape varieties will no longer grown well in Valais, because it will be too hot.

Is this the case with Petite Arvine, for example?

V. R.: No, not Petite Arvine, I gave this example because it is typically the kind of grape variety that we could not let go of. But Pinot Noir perhaps, because it is a grape variety that likes cooler places and the Valais is a canton where it is hot, even very hot. It is one of the grape varieties that we harvest first - and always earlier. So it is one of the first grape varieties which we will have to rethink.

You have a certain ecological awareness, how does it translate into action?

V.R.: We're going to stop the chemical weedkiller. Instead, we will be working with machines and tractors. The transition will take place over many years, because it represents a significant initial investment. Also, in the future, I would like to switch entirely to organic in order to be labeled. But I prefer to wait and do things properly.

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