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The Proust Q&A: Olivier Bourdet-Pees

Olivier Bourdet-Pees, managing director and head winemaker at Plaimont Producteurs, opens up to the drinks business about his love of jazz, passion for diversity and why helping to revive a 150-year-old vineyard was his greatest achievement.

Olivier Bourdet-Pees (Photo credit: B. Dugros)

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is a bit like a great wine – the ingredients are easy enough to identify: on the one hand, all you need is a fantastic terroir; grape varieties that do the terroir justice; exemplary vineyard management and respectful wine-making and ageing techniques. And on the other, a harmonious family life; good health; a small circle of friends around you when things are both good and bad; a fulfilling job and just a little touch of zaniness to stop life becoming monotonous… but the real recipe, just like for wine, is to be found in balancing these essential elements. This perpetual search for balance runs, like a strong guiding thread, through our lives…

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is being bored…. monotony is kept at bay by the ups and downs of life, by hitches, by the unexpected! I loathe the smooth faces and uniform bodies of models. I hate boring, oaky, sweet wines produced from Merlot, Chardonnay or goodness knows what cloned-to-death-the-world-over grape variety! Taking the rough with the smooth, the lows with the highs is when I feel most alive.

Who do you most admire?

André Dubosc, who created the Plaimont project – he’s the man who gave the region its pride back… he’s a person who makes you want to follow him, someone who shook us out of apathy, who got people to react simply by setting the example and sharing his dreams.

What is your greatest extravagance?

My greatest extravagance? The one I am most often reproached for is having chosen the path of cooperation to quench my thirst for creating great wines – totally unacceptable!

What is your current state of mind?

My state of mind is currently extremely positive. I am seeing a whole new, younger generation that is more respectful of, and more attentive to, all that is good and beautiful in their lives. And this is mainly based on real, true values. It’s the generation that needs to impose its needs and desires now!

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Elegance … from elegance is born the small element of fascination which provokes man’s desire.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Diversity, biodiversity… Every year hundreds and hundreds of animals, plants, local languages and traditions of all kinds, which make our world so rich, varied, and passionate, are allowed to disappear. We must resist. We must preserve, protect and promote our exceptional heritage. And so I repeat: DIVERSITY!

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

The love of my life…. A little pain in the neck I met when I was 10 or 11 and with whom I went through secondary school. She was bright, a bit temperamental; pretty without being beautiful… in fact, I don’t really know why I was so fascinated by her. I suppose that is the nature of a crush, it’s not based on reason.

When and where were you happiest?

My entire childhood was my “happiest moment”. I don’t want to remove anything from that period – just simple times, protected by parents who did everything in their power to allow me my carefree years.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I never had the slightest musical education but I am fascinated by musicians. Every year, in early August, I marvel at the Marciac Jazz Festival where the greatest jazzmen in the world have been gathering for over three decades. In particular, I love the virtuosity and agility of the pianists and the double bassists – somewhat superhuman!

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

My hair – which I lost very young! Luckily for me I live in a region where I can avoid getting a cold head by wearing a beret!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

To have participated in the regeneration of a forgotten vineyard which was planted in 1871 before the phylloxera blight and protected by talented winemakers for generations so that, nearly 150 years later, we could make an exceptional red Saint Mont cuvée which is a perfect reflection of the very best our region has to offer.

Where would you most like to live?

In another life, I don’t know… Today, Southwest France is so beautiful and life is so good that I feel as though I am in absolutely the right place!

What is your most treasured possession?

My family of course, it’s also for them that I want to build a little piece of paradise.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I’ve never been good at doing things by myself. From team sports to my commitment to the cooperative, I only really know how to use my talents fully when I know that I can also count on the talents of others.

Who are your favourite writers?

Louis-Ferdinand CELINE. Raw talent. Sharp, streamlined writing whose strength lies in never deviating from the essential.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Candide de Voltaire, a resolutely optimistic and naïve man who allows himself be influenced by his world, always believing it to be better than it really is.

What is it that you most dislike?

Boring people who only have one subject of conversation. I can always spot them at table: generally they either don’t drink wine or they always drink the same wine!

What is your greatest regret?

To know nothing of Oceania and never to have made wine there…

What is your motto?

The greatest traveller is he who has travelled to his inner self. (Confucius)

Who would be your ideal dinner party guests and what wines would you serve them?

Vegas ROBAINA, who recently passed away. A great Cuban producer of Havana cigars who tirelessly defended his land until he managed to share it with the rest of the world! I would have introduced him to the diversity and richness of our wines here in Southwest France and to their original grape varieties…. Gascony , Saint-Mont, Madiran or Pacherenc … he would have loved it!

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