What if we talked about the history of oenology?
What joy (and a bit of stress too 🙂 to interview Gilles de Revel this month. He was my internship supervisor for 8 months, my teacher for 2 years.
Gilles de Revel, Dean of the Faculty of Oenology of Bordeaux / teacher and researcher, tells us about his career, his job. He takes us back to the origin of oenology, the profession of oenologist. Gilles tells us about the ISVV, this magnificent research institute dedicated to wine. He also explains why COVID has had a real impact on our business. Finally, it makes us realize that our business is facing new environmental issues…
I think this is the first interview where I remain quite stunned because I go back to school… – A big thank you to Gilles for this interview – Good listening :-)!
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Welcome to the MICRO of BacchusSubscribeHello everyone, I am delighted to meet you for this new episode at the MICRO of Bacchus where I go to meet personalities of the wine world
Today I am delighted to offer you an interview with Gilles de REVEL, Dean of the Faculty of Oenology of Bordeaux, my former internship supervisor. So it's a real honor to interview him today. Thank you very much Gilles for lending yourself to the game of this interview and for having accepted this interview.
We will start with the presentation of Monsieur de Revel…
Hello Pauline, so thank you for this interview
after that we will indeed lend ourselves to the game. So presentation who I am? Professor of oenology at the University of Bordeaux
Currently at the ISVV. We will talk a little about the history of the Bordeaux school in a little while.
So I am a teacher I am also a researcher that is to say that in the laboratory of young PhD students, trainees, masters, foreigners too, foreign academics come to do research on wine and I therefore lead a theme that can be a very oenological theme since it is in particular the malolactic fermentation that is to say the activity of lactic acid bacteria in wine
And your background? You have done the faculty of oenology of Bordeaux or not at all?
Not at all but I still did the University of Bordeaux since I came from what was called the DEUG, the license and the master and oenology and for me arrived a little later since it happened what is now called the master 2 that is to say the DEA of oenology carried out after my military service so here. Which allowed me to stay there to stay there for a long time since I am still there with a break for me very interesting, certainly a great moment of my life as a researcher but also of interest for oenology that is to say in Portugal in Porto so this break was structurally very very important for me
Now first question: how did the profession of oenologist come about? How was oenology born? Let's go back a bit…
The question is twofold. I think that on the one hand there is how the oenologist was born and how oenology was born.
Which I think oenology was of course born before the oenologist. The oenologist comes from a particularly French will but not only… to train scientists to work in wine, to master oenology, to contribute to the quality of wines and to the control of fermentations.
It is said that modern, scientific oenology was born (and this is what we are taught in our courses) with Pasteur, with this 19th century scientific and the first not of oenologists but of scientists and therefore of our ancestors we, teacher researchers, it is undoubtedly Louis Pasteur. After the diploma of oenologist was born therefore of a political will too. and in the 60s it was created the diploma of French oenologist national diploma so of oenology and which is taught in five centers in France: Bordeaux, being one of the centers and I still hope one of the prestigious centers of oenology training.
There is not a link with pharmacies at the time on the beginning of the history of oenology?
Yes, we know in France in any case, abroad, I do not know but in France, it is very clear,
pharmacists were also wine doctors. We went to the pharmacist to get answers to our worries, which were probably concerns…
related to the quality of the wine, changes, colors, shapes, clarity, precipitation so the pharmacist had the answer then what remained is that historically especially in Montpellier for example and that is very strong the faculty of pharmacy continued to be finally the place of training oenologists. This is a special case since in Bordeaux it was created a school of oenology quite quickly already a long time ago in the faculty of sciences so it is rather in connection with biologists chemists that was created the Bordeaux school but indeed the school of Montpellier was created on the faculty of pharmacy and it is still the faculty pharmacy which delivers the diploma of oenologist in Montpellier.
Very well, and here in Bordeaux now we have the Higher Institute of Vine and Wine so the ISVV. So today, we are at the ISVV and the ISVV, how long ago?
Why did you build this big campus in the end?
So the question is good… So it is the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences and not the Higher Institute there are many higher institutes although an Institute of Wine Vine Sciences. The Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences was born from a political will and an academic will to bring together, I think this is the word that suits me, to bring together all the living forces, scientists who worked on the vine and wine, but who also worked around wine, that is to say all the human sciences, the social sciences that could contribute to the quality of wine but to training and research on wine and therefore it is a desire already to bring people together.
After of course the academics love the walls and it was necessary to create an institute with walls, a building and it is not only the academics who like the walls. So are the policies. And so this ISVV is the symbol of this gathering.
It is located in Villenave d'Ornon. It is indeed on what is called the green campus with in particular all the research part of inRA and the ISVV was created the walls of the ISVV, it is 2009 so it is now a few years old. It is a story that is a little old but that lasts first because the building is beautiful, it is symbolic and then it will grow, so it will also receive even more researchers, it will contribute even more to obviously meet the requirement of professionals vis-à-vis the quality of the wines.
All right now, what do you think is the future of the oenologist profession? Does oenology have a future or not?
I think so, of course, and perhaps even more so than a few years ago. We were a bit of a routine, this oenologist diploma works relatively well. I think that oenologists are well placed so we then contribute with a training of excellence, we contribute to their employability but also to their professional life and life and their passion. But we are at a truly key moment a moment that is called between us of rupture.
We are in a real rupture which is a break related to environmental conditions, the choice of society and the oenologist will be in on at a key moment to respond to society. How the wines will still be able to be qualitative when the chosen company may be a different qualitative idea from a few years ago and so I think that the oenologist is obviously in the right place. He will be obliged to respond to this society and we, the trainers, will obviously be obliged to train oenologists who perhaps are also able to ask themselves the right questions.
Again, I often say, we do not train students who have a recipe but students who are well trained in their head to be able to meet the demand to be able to respond of course for example a consultant responds to a request from a professional, a cellar master who is an oenologist also meets the needs of the company. That it can also be a trading company or a sales company etc but there it is by its quality, its specialty, its reflection, the science that led it to this and I think that they indeed the oenologist has quite its weight and its role in the future and even I would say it will shake
So it's going to shake… Maybe it is finally also related to everything we see now we go back a little, we take amphorae, we put horses back in the vineyards finally all the scientific advances (since oenology is a fairly recent profession) all these scientific advances finally, are they not questioned a little or rather they must finally readapt to the zeitgeist?
yes there are both. There is a questioning of science and we see it, we know it and it is really transversal to the whole society and oenology is shaken by this questioning of science and at the same time we need science to meet the challenges: environmental challenges, the challenge of global warming, the challenges of course of diseases… so those are the challenges. Science can answer it. Don't throw everything away, the baby with the bathwater 🙂 Science will be needed. One can indeed criticize perhaps excesses. That's why not. In any case, the questioning is good for everyone including oenologists and therefore necessarily for trainers
Good and this COVID, has it had an impact on the profession of oenologist?
Yes then, in the generalities of the problems due to the virus we will not epilogue on this, I believe that like any profession, like any company, we can be affected.
What is important for the oenologist is obviously the problem of anosmia. A word that no one knew until some time ago when we were teaching it here in college. Anosmia has become a real problem and a problem in society, a family problem too. It's embarrassing in our lives every day
It means not feeling anything anymore, anosmia.
So I was probably going to define a little bit but anosmia is actually not to feel.
So after, we can also associate it with the loss of taste which is the agueusie so this loss due to the presence of the virus is obviously in a function for the oenologist who is tasting is a major problem and it is even claiming as a problem related to the profession and therefore a handicap difficulty for the oenologist.
Yes, we have done a lot of work on anosmia. I would say the help we could give to our students who could be affected by the virus and therefore suffer anosmia and when we are in oenology training it is still relatively embarrassing. We had to reassure them, we had to give them learning methods of relearning to smell and taste, accelerate their recovery because that's the problem for a professional, it's the recovery time until then otherwise he can't work, so it was true for our students, this is also true for professionals.
We helped the profession a lot or at least the professionals who were affected. We have on our website a whole methodology to help with recovery so yes it is a major problem. And it is a very complicated problem for the oenologist in place, it is to admit his disability and this is something that obviously we have understood and more generally the union of oenologists of France, the union that supports this profession has really worked very strongly with especially the ENT to try to better measure by a survey the assignment of professionals and professionals oenologists especially this year so yes it was a very strange moment but at the same time very interesting to talk about anosmia and especially to help the profession of oenologists on these problems of lack of smell or lack of taste.
Thank you now to the personal section! 🙂
So Gilles, if you were to be a wine region, which one would you be?
… unsurprisingly the port. The wine of the Douro, the Port wine, which is linked to the Douro, this fantastic valley, this heroic vineyard
is undoubtedly one of the symbols, for me, of the vine, the wine and the quality of a wine and many stories to tell…
And if you were music, what music would you be?
maybe by tradition and maybe by an ancient world maybe the Beatles
very well, ancient world… good ok
And then who is the oenologist you admire the most? (apart from me of course… 🙂
So I don't know if I know how to answer that question… I will quote maybe three people…
Emile Peynaud, who was not an oenologist but who created a lot of things in this Bordeaux school and who for us as a trainer, oenology trainer, tasting trainer, and certainly looking for a master to all in any case here in Bordeaux certainly and in all my reflections around training. It was for me a master but a master that I knew little and almost did not know. He wasn't my teacher so he's a master bookshop.
Of course I can not quote Alain Bertrand who was my master for the research that framed me, who left me I would also say his laboratory.
And I would like to make a small nod to perhaps a younger oenologist and that he is in full glory it is Eric Boissenot Eric Boissenot, oenologist of course in the Médoc but everywhere in many other places and who is for me a nice symbol of what knew how to make college as an oenologist with his modesty and precision. So maybe it was a little nod to Eric
In any case thank you very much Gilles for this interview. I hope you have learned a lot about the profession of oenologist, its evolution over the water and its future and I say see you very soon!
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