“All we want to do is make quality wine”

As both a winemaker and viticulturist, Julian Viaud is unique amongst wine consultant Michel Rolland’s team

Michel Rolland is arguably the most famous and influential wine consultant in the world. But behind him is a five-strong team helping him to work with a network of wineries and vineyards around the world that stretches from Argentina, through India and into the depths of southern China. We caught up with one of them, Julian Viaud, who is at Vinexpo helping to promote the work the Rolland team is doing to develop Grands Chais de France’s Bordeaux wines.

How long have you been working with Michel Rolland and how did you link up?

I have been working with him for 11 years now. Previously I had been the general manager of a small winery in the south of France which was such a good experience as I learnt everything there is to do in a vineyard and in a winery. I spent four years there and started off not knowing anything and finished up working for Michel Rolland. I think it is because I was able to bring both winemaking and viticulturist skills to his team. I am the only one in the team that can do both.

How do you and the rest of the consulting team work with Michel Rolland?

I think people are surprised to find out that there are only five people working with Michel Rolland. Particularly when you realise we are consulting for 300 different vineyards in 23 countries. Where different members of the team work is mainly split between those who can speak English and those who can speak Spanish. But whatever projects we are on, we all work collaboratively and it is a very connected team.

Which countries do you personally work in?

I am currently working in China, India, Russian Lebanon, Italy and Bordeaux. It is really interesting to see the differences between the countries. But you have to remember the two most important factors when working with any winery, regardless of where they are, is its terroir and the people. They are different everywhere you go. You have to be good at learning and understanding new cultural skills and how to connect with the people where you are working.

OUR PHILOSOPHY NO MATTER WHERE WE ARE WORKING IS TO MAKE GOOD WINE THAT YOU CAN DRINK AND SELL

Is there a Michel Rolland recipe for making wine?

Not at all. We have no rules. Our philosophy no matter where we are working is to make good wine that you can drink and sell. After all being able to sell the wine you make is the most important. So if you are in an area that makes good fruity wine then that is the wine you have to try and make.

Can you explain the work you have been doing with Grand Chais de France and its Bordeaux chateaux?

Yes, we started working with Grands Chais de France’s five Bordeaux chateaux in about 2008. We work very closely and collaborate with Grand Chais de France’s winemaking team. It is important to make clear that we are not making the wine, but are there to offer an independent view. Whilst they are concerned about every day issues, we can come in and give them a different view. We want to help them make wines that are the true expression of that region and that terroir. But they are the winemaker, we are the consultant.

How does that work?

Our philosophy is to go deeply in to all the details, where we might make lots of little changes that all add up to make a better wine. Grands Chais de France is very committed to making great quality wine. Every year I will present three blends from a property, the first being the best quality, the second is OK and the third is slightly less quality. It always goes for the rest blend.


Photo: Julian Viaud – Winemaker and viticulturist, Michel Rolland team