The cellar master watches over centuries of tradition and is constantly preparing for the future. From the arrival of the grapes to the bottling, he is the one who looks after the wine. Let’s meet Frédéric Bénour, cellar master at Château Dauzac for over 25 years.
How did you come to work at Château Dauzac?
I was first posted to a Medoc estate on a fixed-term contract, where I had my first experience as a cellar worker under the guidance of my father-in-law, who was cellar master. My hard work echoed through to Château Dauzac, which was looking for a cellar worker. Twenty-five years ago I joined the estate, then climbed the ladder to become cellar master.
I gained my first experience as a cellar worker under the guidance of my father-in-law who was cellar master. My hard work echoed all the way to Château Dauzac, which was looking for a cellar worker. Twenty-five years ago I joined the estate, then progressed to become cellar master.
Can you describe your daily life at the Château?
A cellar master is the person responsible for the wine in the cellar. He must know how to vinify, age and taste the wines. My day-to-day work is very varied: I organise all the various tasks in the cellar, I take care of the vinification with the monitoring of fermentation and maceration, I manage the maturing of the wines with racking and filtration, I regularly taste the wines, and finally I prepare the various samples for the different events at the estate. It’s an extremely rewarding job.
What qualities should a good cellar master have?
A good cellar master must be passionate, attentive, rigorous, a perfectionist, a trainer, as well as a good manager creating a good team spirit.
What do you like most about your job?
The two things I like the most are:
– The blending which allows the birth of a new vintage
– The primeurs, which reveals the results of our work to a large part of the world, this brings great satisfaction.
What have been the major developments at Château Dauzac in terms of viticulture and vinification?
In terms of viticulture, the work on the soil and the green harvest have become more precise, and the harvest is now collected in crates.
With regards to the vinification, the sorting of the grapes, the recent vat room and its new pumping-over equipment which saves us precious time and which is also much more environmental friendly.
Would you have a memorable memory or an amusing anecdote to share with us?
During the winemaking process, I was supervising a pumping-over operation, leaning on the wine tank, when I was thrown off balance and suddenly slipped and fell into the tank full of wine. I found myself completely soaked and stained from head to toe. After taking a shower, without any clothes to change into, I found myself for the rest the day in my underwear and apron! It was a great moment.
What is the best advice you have been given that you can pass on?
A well-known cellar master in the Médoc once told me, “In this profession you have to remain humble, respectful, generous and hard-working. This is what I have always done and I try to pass it on to the people around me.
Finally, what is your favourite vintage?
I have several, they are the vintages that stand out for me because they are perfect vintages, furthermore they are the years my children were born
I would add the 2004 vintage with the great changes and evolutions of the estate.