What do you like to do when you are not working in the vineyard?
I have a lot of fun in the mountains. Skiing has been my favourite hobby since I was a child. I really enjoy Winter sports in general, they are important to me. They give me strength during the cold season. Otherwise, with my family, we travel whenever we have the opportunity. Often, these adventures take us to other wine-growing regions, whether in Europe or elsewhere in the world.
Christian Dutruy mainly looks after the estate's wine nurseries, an important sector of their operation. In fact, Christian and his brother Julien are among the leading vine nurserymen-grafters in Switzerland, which explains the great diversity of grape varieties on their land. Christian holds a federal master's degree in viticulture and has completed numerous internships in Switzerland and abroad, notably in California in the Napa Valley and South Africa. In South Africa, at the age of 23, he managed a business that produces 15 million litres of wine per year. Since 2002, he has held the presidency of the Federation of Swiss Winegrowers' Nursery Growers.
Where do you travel to?
We have been to Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. Many of these countries also produce wine. The only trip that had nothing to do with my job was chosen by my wife and it was for our honeymoon. We visited an unusual place: Antarctica. She probably did it on purpose, knowing that there would be no trace of vines there (laughs). I have such fond memories of it. Certainly, the most beautiful trip of my life.
Julien Dutruy is in charge of vinification, viticulture and oenology. He began his training in Marcelin and continued it in Burgundy where he joined the University of Oenology of Bordeaux. There he obtained a National Diploma in Oenology. He then did his practical training at Gevrey-Chambertin, Château Smith-Haut-Laffite, Château Canon La Gaffelière, Château La Mondotte and Clos de l'Oratoire. Complementing this extensive professional experience, Julien works in the vineyards of Alsace, Domaine Hugel, and New Zealand at the Highfield Estate in Marlborough. Currently he manages the marketing for the Frères Dutruy.
What did you like about Antarctica?
Total isolation, experiencing nature in its purest state. Animals are not afraid of man because they are in their own territory. There is no civilisation nearby. You really feel like you're no longer on planet Earth, it's just phenomenal. As a mountain lover, I found elements that spoke to me: the fresh air, the icebergs, the high altitude, rocky mountains. Being surrounded by the ocean in the vast icy expanses give this place an atmosphere completely different from what we normally experience. It gives me a sense of freedom that helped me disconnect from the hectic world we live in.
What is the best time on the estate?
Without a doubt the harvest! It's a time when there is a lot at stake, a lot of pressure, a lot of thinking and a lot of fatigue too, but all this is rewarded when you see the work of the entire year finally come to fruition. If I could no longer work in this industry, I would certainly miss the harvest period the most. I've been making wine for fourteen years now and I can remember each vintage according to the various events that have occurred as well as the weather of the year in question. The evolution of our vineyards is told through the story of our vintages.
Do you remember your first sip of wine?
I've never been asked this question before, it's funny. Yes, I remember it. It was at a grape harvest party that my parents organised in their cellar. I had been able to taste a Chasselas in the typical small Vaud glasses. The images are still engraved in my memory. The bottle was a clear green as they used to be. Immediately, a grimace appeared on my face. I really didn't like it. At the same time, who can claim to love wine at 10 years old?
The evolution of our vineyards is told through the story of our vintages.
What are your greatest achievements on the estate?
In terms of grape varieties, we are really proud of the Gamay. It´s not very well known, but you will understand our pride when you taste one of good quality. Our vintages from this terroir are very much appreciated, both the classic Gamay matured in vats and the "Roman" Gamay matured in barrels. These are astonishing wines, with a lot of complexity. A flagship wine worthy of our praise.
How would you define the taste of this grape variety?
It´s a spicy wine, with a peppery side and floral notes, marked with a noticeable cherry flavour. The aromatic palette is varied. Our Gamay wines are complex vintages with attractive colour and volume while keeping a pleasant acidity. They are very mature wines, which are similar to Syrah, but a little lighter.
You make compost to work in biodynamics. Can you tell me more about it?
All the wine-growing area of our estate is certified organic. To do so, we use two types of compost: one solid and the other liquid. The solid compost is composed of all our organic waste from, for example, winemaking, vine shoots or the nursery. Then we let this compost evolve for a year and finally we add biodynamic preparations that stimulate life. The liquid compost is a maceration of the solid compost in a vat that we ferment for 24 hours. It is very rich in microorganisms such as bacteria or yeasts. In the spring, we spread it on our 25 hectares.
What is the interest of these composts?
Every 4 years, the solid compost is spread in rotation on all our plots. What is interesting is not only the quality of the soil which, thanks to this enrichment, is more fertile, but also the reutilization of organic waste. We recycle the raw material and thus revalue it. As far as liquid compost is concerned, its role is decisive in strengthening the roots of the vine. Indeed, the micro fungi coming from the compost allow a symbiosis to develop: mycorrhizae. This strengthens the root system of the plant. Thus, the vine is able to absorb more mineral nutrients and becomes more resistant, particularly to diseases.
What have been the most difficult years on the estate?
The hailstorm of 2013 caused us to lose 100% of our production that year. In 7 minutes, everything was destroyed by a storm that had never occurred in more than 100 years in Founex. We had never experienced a storm of this size. We then developed new strategies for the farm to survive economically. It was difficult seeing as a year later we were building the new cellar and had to postpone the project, a risk that resulted in us winning the title of Swiss Cellar of the Year, in 2017.
What would you like to improve in your field?
With regards to climate change, we are questioning certain grape varieties.We will continue to look for the best organic balance for each plot. It's a process that takes time, even if we have already achieved this on a good part of the estate. We would also like to offer more opportunities to our employees so that they can express some of their desires and ideas about the estate. We can always do better, the learning never stops.