Eating Well Magazine – Nov/Dec 2017
Michele D’Aprix remembers the moment she started to understand wine. She was trailing winemaker Stéphane Derenoncourt around a vineyard in Bordeaux 13 years ago. Derenoncourt—a steel-worker’s son who started working in vineyards at the age of 19—put a grape in her mouth and told her to concentrate on the textures.
“The seeds were crunchy, like a hazelnut. The skin had a snap,” D’Aprix recalls. Even though she had a degree in Viticulture and Enology, D’Aprix quickly realized how much she didn’t know about wine as a product of dirt and bugs and intuition rather than refractometers and prix and pH balances. That bite showed her that she could identify when grapes were ripe and ready to be harvested using nothing but her own senses.
Since then, D’Aprix has become the only American woman making her own wine in Bordeaux. She bottles under her own label, Pentimento, at Château Beauséjour in Montagne-St-Émilion, where she also helps craft the house labels. All are made with organic methods. She also imports Bordeaux wine (her own and others’) to the United States.
She cites Derenoncourt, who is now 54, as her mentor and inspiration. From his point of view, even all these years later, she is just as impressive. “Winemaking was her dream,” he said. “My idea was to help her understand how important are the grapes.” From him, she learned that the best winemaking is done in the vineyard, not the blending room—that wine should be a little bit wild.
D’Aprix’s winemaking philosophy emphasizes the agricultural and the sensory over the technological. The result is an earthy, zingy, delicious wine that’s different every year but that’s always all about the fruit—and always moderately prices around $25. “I want to show that Bordeaux can be affordable, can be drunk young,” D’Aprix says.