What are your hobbies outside of viticulture?
Being a winegrower is a very demanding job, you can't have hobbies that require very precise schedules. So I like running and trail running because you can do them whenever you want. And in winter, I like to ski, a lot. I will also always have a place in my heart for watchmaking, my first profession, which I still love. I have very fond memories of it and I have good contacts with my former colleagues. As for the rest of my family, they also love skiing. My father taught us to ski and we have been going regularly since we were children. But it is the vine that keeps us fit, we have regular physical activity thanks to it.
After mandatory schooling, Xavier Dupraz obtained a technical diploma with a focus on mechanics and micro-engineering, and then embarked on an apprenticeship in the same field. He worked in the watchmaking industry and then decided to change directions. He studied at the Haute Ecole de Changins. After a year of training and three years of schooling, he obtained the diploma of oenological engineer and began to work on the estate. His brother, Antoine, did a CFC in agricultural machinery and viticulture before working on the estate. Their cousin Lucas did a CFC as a winemaker and winegrower followed by two years of training. He has recently started working on the estate. Their fathers and uncles, Jacques and Christophe, also studied at the Haute Ecole de Changins before taking over the estate from their grandfather (Jacques and Christophe's father).
Isn't it too hard to work with your family?
There are times when it's tense, we don't hide it, even from our clients. But most of the time, it's the other way around, it's interesting because we have full confidence in each other. We all do very different things in the field, but we complement each other, we have the same work perspective. The final result depends on everyone and if one of us does a bad job, everyone else will feel it. What is difficult is if you have had a problem during the day and you have a family dinner in the evening. There's no escaping that one! (laughs)
What would be your ideal wine?
It will depend on the grape variety of the wine you are working with. For example, if I take a Sauvignon Blanc, for me it has to be very citrusy and have a certain tension. That would be the ideal wine for this grape variety in my opinion. We have certain criteria for each of the grape varieties we work with and we try to vinify them in the best possible way, so that they resemble us as much as possible. We also make sure that we take into account what was done before and bring our personal touch. We keep the traditional methods but we refine the details.
What is the proportion of mechanical and manual work on the estate?
It's hard to say. Ninety percent of the leaf removal is done manually and we do a little machine work just beforehand to make the manual work easier, but that's it. However, a lot of work is mechanised: the shearing of the vines, for example. We haven't used herbicides on the estate for about five years, so the soil work is mechanised. During harvest, we sometimes help ourselves to the machine when we are busy, but the proportion of this work is minimal compared to what enters the cellar overall.
We keep the traditional methods but we fine-tune the details.
Did you spend a lot of time on the estate as a child?
Yes, like all children of winegrowers or farmers, we were always a bit involved. Every time we do something, it's related to that, we never really leave it. When we are at home, we are not really at home, we are always thinking about it!
Do you have any special memories of that period?
Harvest is a period that left a deep impression on me. Indeed, when I was little, if I wanted to see my father during the harvest, I had to come to the cellar. That's a bit what happens now with my wife and children. When I'm at harvest time, they come to see me at work because it's a time when you work all the time and you only sleep a few hours at night. Another aspect that really impressed me as a child was the bottling. For a child, seeing the bottling machine start up is very exciting. And then the work in the vineyard in general is very striking. For example, when it's cold in winter and the vines have to be pruned, it's always a special moment. We live with nature!
Which were the most difficult years on the estate?
2013 was a very complicated year, we had one of the biggest hail storms in the history of the estate, we lost 80 to 90% of the harvest. In 2017, we had frost and lost about 30% of the harvest. We also had a small hail in 2019 which did less damage than the previous ones but still caused 10 to 15% losses. It's always painful when you arrive to the vineyard after hail or frost and see the damage that has been caused. But that's part of the job, you have to accept it.
And the best years?
2015 was a very good year, very sunny. 2018 was also a very sunny year which gave a very nice harvest. I also feel that 2020 is going to be a good vintage, the wines are in the cellar, they all show a good balance, it's a very interesting year.
Do you have any predictions for 2021?
We can already see that it's a little colder than last year, but it's not necessarily winter that will determine the final product. It is rather when the vine starts to grow that the weather becomes very important. It is even good for the vine that it is very cold in winter, that way the plant can rest, it understands more quickly that it is not the moment to start to be active.