Winemakers are a creative bunch, expressing their talents and passions through finished wines, often hoping to convey a story or sense of place. While you may not meet or talk to them on a daily basis, the wine-loving community is unique—you can feel connected to these winemakers just by drinking their work.
As you become more familiar with specific wine regions, your appreciation for them is increasingly shaped by insight into the different estates and the various people who work them. You begin to retain specific details, like the modern approach of one winemaker versus the traditional way of another, or the preferred oak regimen of one producer compared to that of its neighbor. You might even develop an affinity for one producer, valuing what that winemaker has been able to communicate to you through their finished wines.
To me, Jacques Lardière—recipient of Wine Enthusiast’s Wine Star Award for Winemaker of the Year in 2004—is one of these magical people. A brilliant winemaker who has connected with millions through the wines of Maison Louis Jadot, Lardière has been a part of the Jadot team since 1970.He was appointed technical director in 1980 and is retiring this year, passing the reins to Frédéric Barnier.
Lardière is a master of both the spiritual and technical aspects of wine. He seems to value expression over technical perfection, allowing the characteristics of each vineyard and vintage to shine. He believes in the connectivity of it all, from the soil and vine to the human aspects and interactions that bring us all together. And although I didn’t learn all of this from Jacques himself through our professional encounters until later in life, this is something that I always felt while drinking his wines, long before we ever met.
I can remember the first time I had a bottle of wine from Maison Louis Jadot. I was young, out for dinner on City Island in New York with my father. I was just starting my vinous journey—only familiar with the predominantly Italian selections that were available on holidays and at family gatherings—but my father had more wine knowledge to share with his budding oenophile daughter.
So as we examined the list, he began to rattle off information about grapes, appellations and producers, and that’s what inspired our first Burgundy wine tasting experience together.
The wine he ordered was a Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé. The waiter presented the bottle, popped the cork and handed it to my dad. After confirming the bottle was in good condition, we toasted and went in for our first full sip. What might be considered an accessible, entry-level selection was the perfect first foray into the world of white Burgundy, and it immediately ignited a new wine passion in me.
Having been mostly exposed to big Italian reds or easy-drinking Pinot Grigio, I was thrilled to discover a white that offered depth, layers of flavor and complexity. After discussing the wine’s characteristics and sharing our impressions, I then received my first lesson in brand reputation and loyalty.
“You see this picture?” my dad asked as he pointed to the iconic Bacchus-inspired insignia on the label. “When you’re out on dates, if you’re ever in doubt on what to order, or the guy suggests something really crappy, just look for something with this on it and you’ll be fine.”
He handed me the cork, which also features the logo, as a memento to never forget both the lesson I had learned and the experience of that evening.
And I never did. Over time, I’ve enjoyed many other selections from Jadot, each one creating a new experience connecting me to the people I enjoyed the wine with and the individuals who had a hand in crafting it.