Guillaume Clémenceau, 36, is a winegrower in Juillac in the Gironde, on the left bank of the Dordogne and in Saint-Emilion.
How did you become a winegrower ?
I'm the grandson of Maurice Clémenceau, the man who started the family vineyard in our village of Juillac and then moved on to Saint-Emilion 25km further west. He was a multi-skilled farmer, planting vines in the old-fashioned way on the best terroirs on the plateau and hillsides, growing cereals on the plains, keeping pasture for his animals and lining his plots with hedges and woodland. I took over the reins of the estate in 2004 at the age of 17, I was young but I had observed a lot. Today, I'm trying to bring coherence to the choices I make and to bring life to these places to which I'm fundamentally attached.
Can you describe your world ?
There are two different places in terms of wine-growing landscapes, soils and exposure. In Juillac we're nestled at 110m (which is high in the Gironde) on limestone rock covered with red clay. It's a slightly wild plateau, perfectly designed, from which rise slopes with varying degrees of steepness. In Saint-Emilion, we are in the south of the appellation, on vineyards covering gravel, sand and clay veins with very little relief.
What are the technical differences between the two estates ?
The vine-growing methods are virtually the same. supporting the plant, considering the vine as a separate individual when pruning. Ensure that the soil is aerated, to encourage the vine to take root and energise it. Make it fertile naturally during the cycle, so that it can also rest at the right time.
On the other hand, the choice of harvest dates, the vinification and ageing methods all differ, which gives each cuvée its own distinctive character.
How do you create your cuvées ? What grape varieties do you use ?
I make both blended and single-varietal wines.
In Juillac :
-Clos Dominique A dense, deep Bordeaux made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.
-Les Mains Noires, with which I restore Petit-Verdot to its former glory
-A mention for Syrah, which gives a Gironde expression to this grape variety that I adore around the 45th parallel.
-Instant-Vol du Sauvignon planted towards the north, harvested in two stages : the first at the right point of ripeness, the second a little riper.
In Saint-Emilion :
Epigone, the first cuvée I made by isolating the plots planted on clayey gravel and planted with Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. And with the same blend I made Château Vieux-Verdot, which helped me to understand many things, in particular that these sandier soils, treated with care, gave us fine, aromatic, very well-balanced wines, either immediately or over time.
What is your philosophy ? What gets you up in the morning ?
I live with my family, with work just outside the door. I love the change of the four seasons and the vintages, which are never the same. I try to make something good, or at least something better, every year by remaining myself.
What do you like about wine ?
I like wine because it keeps people at the table, makes people talk, gives us emotion, links us with the land and the passing of time.