Who Is Baptiste Cuvelier?
Today I am focusing on one of my favorite winemakers, Baptiste Cuvelier. Baptiste was born in France and spent most of his youth working in Bordeaux. His family has been wine merchants dating back to the early 1800s and the Cuvelier name is centuries older yet. The Cuvelier family has been producing under some of the finest labels in Bordeaux including Château Léoville-Poyferré and Château Le Crock. After working for years in Bordeaux, Baptiste began to produce wines under a new label in Argentina called Cuvelier Los Andes. In 2009 Baptiste also began to produce wines in Chile under the label Agricola Cuvelier. Every year this fantastic winemaker creates powerful yet complex and expressive wines that are buoyed by his commitment to Biodynamics(For more info click the link) and high quality fruit.
His Approach In The Vineyard
In the vineyard, Baptiste aims for quality over quantity, claiming that he harvests about one third of the fruit that his fellow Argentinian producers who are farming the same amount of land would harvest. The real work has already been done in the vineyard. Ideally his fruit has had a long and healthy ripening process and both the acid and sugar levels are right where he wants them when the grapes are finally harvested. In the arid regions in which he grows his grapes, calculated irrigation is key. Taking measures to ripen the grapes fully and also to respect the environment are religiously practiced. There are absolutely no herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or any chemicals used throughout the growing process. Most wine on the global market have tons of additives (click the link), which aim to preserve and manipulate the wines. In contrast, Baptist has an honest, dedicated, and sustainable approach to production that rewards both the land and the consumer in so many ways.
In The Cellar
Only the highest quality fruit is used in production for both Cuvelier Los Andes wines and Agricola Cuvelier. In the cellar Baptiste is mostly hands off. Having said this, of course his attention to detail is impressive in terms of conducting the fermentation process, barreling, and then bottling. Depending on the wine that he is making he will select from various materials to store the wine in; such as French oak barrels which can range from neutral to brand new. Specific types of barrels will affect the tannins of the juice and the ageability of the wine in the long run so this is an important step. Although Baptiste produces many different types of wines he uses the majority of his fruit to make his Bordeaux style blends. Meaning most years there will be the Coleccion and Grand Vin along with single veriatles such as Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, however, in especially fantastic vintages he will focus on the blends. His approach is similar to a typical approach in Bordeaux; a first and a second label.
Enjoying a day with a winemaker is so fantastic. There is nothing like tasting the fruits of their labor (no pun intended) and having them paint a picture of the place and process. All of a sudden the wine comes alive and we are able to better imagine the land, the people, and the environment.
Spending time with Baptiste was a great learning experience for me and I took away a number of lessons from our time together. There is no single approach to making or drinking wine that is objectively ideal. At the end of the day we are simply talking about fermented juice. However, when wine is made with love, passion, and an expert’s knowledge there is something magical about the outcome. Baptiste would often be looking off in the distance enjoying a cigarette utterly content yet he conducts himself with a strong sense of purpose and passion. In one way he seems to glide effortlessly through his day and in another he is incredibly purposeful and caring with his energy. Fluidity is the vehicle of excellence when the process feels both natural and determined.
Stress is an aspect of everyone’s lives that is unavoidable. Winemakers must be daring people seeing as their entire livelihood is dependent on the environment. In other words they have little control over some of the most important aspects of making wine. When I first got into the wine industry I imagined that producers and vineyard managers would be neurotic and anxious beyond belief. So far I have largely been proven wrong. Of course, like any industry with high levels of stress and volatility, those who can take the heat thrive in the figurative kitchen. Baptist is no different. At one point we were on the road speeding along to our next appointment when he had to take a call and deal with some major logistical issues concerning his marketing department and also some huge shipments. We had just been talking about the challenges in the vineyard and also in the cellar and for a moment I wondered how he was maintaining such a contagious calm nature. He hung up and smiled and said “well it’s only money, right!” It takes a truly special and talented person to thrive in chaos. If the vineyard and cellar represent a great ship then Baptiste is the ideal captain for the job. Always calm. Trusting the vision and the process.
Tell a story and appreciate the timeline. Savor all the influences and try to imagine another world, another time. Wine can be the perfect wake up call to a busy and hectic lifestyle. The 21st century is a chaotic time and it is rare that we are able to take time in a day to stop and smell the roses. Hanging out with Baptiste reinforced this perspective in my eyes. His wines are produced in South America with the flair and eloquence of a sexy French approach. From his wine labels to the juice itself Baptist’s wines scream complexity and balance. In one glass there are so many outside factors at play. High elevation, drastic day to night temperature change, beautiful ripe fruit, nuance and restraint, power, biodynamics, clean juice, new and old oak, innovative techniques, and family secrets dating back many generations. Baptiste Cuvelier is, to me, a prime example of where wine has come from and where it is going. He comes from a long lineage of wine producers and merchants and he strives to represent the fruit in its finest form all with a commitment to sustainability.
Take my advice. Go pick up one of the wines from the Cuvelier Los Andes or Agricola Cuvelier lineup and enjoy the magic. You might even find your stress melt away just as mine did when I took my first sip of one of these beautiful wines. Channel your inner Baptiste!
Baptiste’s Wines – His Sites
P.S. Message me to find out where you can find these wines.