Women In Wine: Spotlight on Brigitte Jeanjean

BrigitteJeanjeanInLanguedoc_02_2013 (2)
BrigitteJeanjeanInLanguedoc_02_2013 (2)

The adult beverage industry is made up of some of the most talented and interesting personalities around.  More often than not, those personalities are men. However, times are changing and while you can still find more men in leadership roles in distilleries, wineries, bars and brands, there are also some amazing women leading the pack. My goal: to seek out these women and highlight them, their brands and their stories.

The first of my “Women in…” series is Brigitte Jeanjean, director of Jeanjean Vineyards and proprietor and winemaker of the Devois des Agneaux estate in the Languedoc region of France. Even though she was born into a winemaking family (Maurice Jeanjean began the business in 1870), Brigitte did not immediately join the family business.  After working for years in the sports industry in Canada, Brigitte did not join the Jeanjean company until 1992. As the company changed and grew, acquiring other brands, Brigitte also grew within the company.  Today she now oversees the Jeanjean Vineyards and is the winemaker of the Devois des Agneaux estate. I had the chance to chat briefly with her while she was in town from France and learned a lot about her wine and her thoughts on being a woman in a male dominated field.

As director of the Jeanjean Vineyards, Brigitte is in charge of 5 sites which cover over 750 acres. However, as intimidating as her job may sound, Brigitte was one of the most approachable and engaging people I have met.  She was happy to sit down with me, walk me through her wine and tell me a little of her story. And when asked about what it’s like to be a woman in the industry, she didn’t scoff or brush off the question. In her experience, she said, 10-20 years ago it was hard to find a fellow woman in the winemaking business.  However, now there has definitely been a change, and one that she thinks benefits the business.  As we sipped some of her beautiful wine, Brigitte pointed out that in addition to being dedicated and hardworking, women are well equipped for jobs in wine because they bring a “feminine and elegant” quality, which matches the wine itself.  It was refreshing to hear Brigitte talk, not afraid of hiding the characteristics that make a woman, but embracing them and seeing them as an advantage in her career.

winemaker brigitte jeanjean
winemaker brigitte jeanjean

Now, on to the wine itself.  Having never tasted any wines from Vignobles Jeanjean, I was provided with 6 unique ones that showcased the diversity of the portfolio.

Domaine le Pive Rosé– A mixture of Grenache, Merlot and Cabernet franc, this rosé was a delight. With a balanced fruit sweetness, it went down easily and is highly drinkable, especially for the summer months.

Devois des Agneaux White – One that Brigitte produced herself. Grown in warm Mediterranean climates, and harvested at night, the grapes used in this blend - 70% Roussanne, 20% Vermentino, 10% Marsanne -  maintain a fresh, bright flavor. This is an ideal go-to white wine, with a smooth finish and a balance of flavors that would appeal to a wide array of wine drinkers.

Domaine de Fenouillet Combe Rouge – A very dark red with both a fruitiness and spiciness. This wine would have a place on the dinner table paired with a nice steak. What struck me was the great spicy finish that lingers long after you’ve sipped.

Devois des Agneaux Red – Another dark red, this wine would also be a beautiful choice paired with a nice steak dinner or grilled meats.  I was impressed with how smooth it was.  There’s a hint of spices, but that does not overshadow the almost velvety vanilla flavor also present. Like the white from Devois des Agneaux, its drinkability would make it a crowd pleaser at any dinner party.

Domain de Fenouillet Grande Reserve –  This wine, made from a selection of grapes from the oldest vines on the estate was a knockout. The intense purple color and the spicy licorice-like aroma drew me in. It was one of those wines you could just sit there and nose for hours. What surprised me was how the wine itself was equally as powerful on the palate.

Grand Devois – Another hit for me was this Syrah/Grenache noir from the Devois des Agneaux estate. The color, so red it almost appears black, was matched by the peppery aroma. Like the Domain de Fenouillet Grande Reserve, the aroma draws you in. The surprise is at first taste, as the wine is incredibly smooth and silky – not as powerful as the aroma itself. However, the finish is a nice lingering peppery tart one.