California Wine Country Gets Help from a France Native
Harvest season is just around the corner, which means working 12 hour days six days a week will become the norm. Days will start before the sun comes up and end after dusk, and wine will be the only topic of conversation for the months to follow. After these long days and endless hours spent in the fields, wine production becomes an exact science. Just one small misstep in the process could alter the wine entirely and cause distress to wineries around the world. This is where Eglantine Chauffour’s expertise comes to help.
Chauffour spends her life dedicated to identifying and understanding these small missteps by looking at the technicalities of winemaking. She focuses on the molecular level in an effort to help wineries identify and fix their production issues dealing with everything from sulfate monitoring to microbe control. After studying agronomic engineering at Montpellier SupAgro in France, Chauffour went on to become the technical winemaker at Enartis, a wine lab and consulting company based out of California.
Chauffour’s diverse knowledge took years to learn. She’s spent most of her time away from her home in France harvesting and making wine in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa before coming to the U.S. Chauffour explains that her experiences abroad helped her advance in her career by establishing a clear understanding of grape and wine varieties as well as various winemaking techniques.
“It’s not only the country but it’s the place and the grapes that are different,” says Chauffour. “In New Zealand, for example, it’s much more big volume with a really fast harvest. You don’t really have time to think about it. You just have to know exactly what you’re doing.”
With this new understanding of production variables, Chauffour learned to perfect the art of winemaking whether that be sparking champagne, pink rosé, dark cabernet or light pinot grigio. When talking with Chauffour, it is clear to see that she loves her job even if it means living thousands of miles away from her family. She is motivated by all she has yet to learn, all of those she has yet to help and all of those she meets along the way. Yet, she names her family as one of her major influencers because of their constant and undivided support.
Growing up in Provance, France, Chauffour was surrounded by the wine landscape. Although Provance spans several winemaking regions, her family was not involved in the wine industry whatsoever. In fact, Chauffour herself only joined the wine industry to explore her love for chemistry and biology. If not wine, she probably would have landed in perfume for the same reason, explained Chauffour. But this industry has taken her places near and far before settling down in the U.S.
“I think this is the first time she’s really been able to put roots down in awhile, and it happens to be a world away from where she’s from,” says friend and former coworker Owen Demke. “It’s interesting how separated she is from the people that she cares about but she still does a great job of keeping in touch with those people.”
While Chauffour notes the culture difference for her here in the U.S., she explains that being foreign in this country has been fairly easy. She calls her family often and manages to visit at least twice a year. Her boyfriend, who also works in the wine industry, is not originally from the U.S. either. In recent years, they’ve become each others support system when things get rough.
“Since [our families] are so far away I think it’s really important that we have each other,” says Chauffour.
When she has time outside of work, Chauffour is somewhat of a free spirit. Living in California she has lots of land to explore. In nice weather she’ll go on hikes and admire the landscape, and in snow, she’ll go skiing to enjoy the weekend before coming home to make dinner with friends. As a hyperactive individual, even on her days off Chauffour is always doing something.
“She’s a very inquisitive person and she’s not bubbly but she’s just very energetic, so I think starting to talk to her she starts to pull you in,” says Demke. “Anytime she’s met any of my friends outside of the wine industry, people are always completely captivated by her.”
It’s this energetic spirit combined with her immense knowledge that has given Chauffour success in her career. It stems from how personable she is, says friend and former coworker Eva Mayen. Mayen explains that although Chauffour is an extremely learned individual, she has the skills to talk to an average person in a normal manner can talk to the average person just as well as she can talk to a technical winemaker.
“I think anybody that she talks to respects the fact that she can talk on their level, like if she’s going to a conference where she needs to present on some new reagent thats used in winemaking or in lab testing, she can talk to those people just as well as she can talk to someone in a vineyard who’s doing vineyard cultivating,” says Demke.