By Laurent Probst, 20th December, 2015
The man is imposing both by his stature and by his calm. After observing him for a moment it clearly appears that the slogan “the quiet force” was written for him.
Native of La Côte, he defines himself as a "winemaker at heart." He tells us that at the age of twelve, he already wanted to become a winemaker. He has even become a master winemaker. When we mention the respect his peers have for him, he replies modestly "it’s easier to win a rally when you have a good car."
How does one arrive at the Château Maison-Blanche in Yvorne, when you come from the village of Féchy or St-Cergue?
“While working for the Schenk group as chief of culture I was offered to move in 1986. My future wife and I visited the place shortly before the harvest. The history (Château Maison-Blanche celebrated its four hundred years in 2009), the beauty of the landscape, the castle, and of course a winery with an area of 8 hectares, with the possibility to actually produce wine... the decision was easy to make. "
Ten years later, Jean-Daniel Suardet also took over the management of the neighbouring vineyards of Clos du Rocher, which belong to Obrist (a member of the same Schenk group) he now works the whole estate with his team of five men around the year.
The total surface of the combined estates is twenty hectares, a respectable size, which allows him to consider work from a different angle. While the two domains are close, the soils and the sun exposure are very different.
The vines at Château Maison-Blanche have not changed much during this period. Chasselas dominates while the Savagnin blanc, planted in 2003 and which produces wine since 2008, is a symbol of this development. However the production remains small with just two thousand bottles per year.
In terms of viticulture, one vineyard is cultivated biodynamically since 2009. However, the decision to "flip" the whole estate to this cultivation method has not yet been taken. Today, the winemaker sees it as a "laboratory".
The wines are sold for a large part (80%) through the powerful Schenk group, but 20% of the production is sold on the estate, to wine lovers who come to the Château Maison-Blanche.
The homogeneity of the region and its various plots is remarkable. For the winemaker, the giant 1584 landslide of the Corbeyrier hamlet is the main cause. The soil is made up of clay and gravel up to fifteen meters on top of the rock.
For the winemaker, the terroir of Château Maison-Blanche acts as an absorber providing regularity through the vintages. Meaning, its qualities greatly regulate the excesses and vagaries of the weather. This is why the crop produces only one main wine.
The winemaker and the oenologist Thierry Ciampi get along well, Jean-Daniel Suardet’s only regret, from a general point of view, is that “modern oenology and processes tend to reinvent the wheel when it is not necessary". But he tempers immediately: "Wine is a demanding mistress."
With the year-end approaching, Jean-Daniel Suardet is looking forward to his ski tours. Our contemplative winemaker is a mountain lover and it is very much his secret garden.