#WinegrowerPortrait: Noémie TANNEAU
What is your role on the property?
I am a winemaker, owner and manager of Château St Ferdinand. I manage the vineyard, the tractor, the wine making, the wine tourism, the marketing and the management of the company as a whole.
How long have you been working in the wine industry?
I went back to school in 2012 with a BTS in viticulture and oenology and a diploma in agricultural engineering. I have been the winemaker at Château St Ferdinand, in Lussac, since 2020.
What studies did you undertake?
First of all, I studied to be a social worker, a BTS in social and family economy counselling. Then, at the age of 24, I went back to school with a BTS in viticulture and oenology in Blanquefort, and a diploma in agricultural engineering, with an option in Agricultural Business Management at Bordeaux Sciences Agro.
Why did you become a winegrower? What do you like about your job?
I was a social worker until 2012. I liked contact with others, but not having an agricultural role model in my family, I did not explore this direction when I was younger. It was when I became an adult and started working that I really asked myself what job I would like to do.
A job related to nature became obvious. I went back to school for 5 years and did a sandwich course. Wine has become a real passion. I love the exaltation of the senses that the profession of winegrower brings, and the richness of its encounters. Observation of nature, experimentation, sharing and challenge are the essential components of my passion for this profession. It is a job in which I am never bored. I am fully satisfied by its versatility, complexity and beauty.
Noémie's proudest achievement
"I am very proud to have succeeded in becoming a winegrower, to have taken over a vineyard of which I am the manager. It is not common for a woman winemaker, the only manager of a wine estate in the St Emilion region, not to be the daughter of winemakers! I am very proud to have brought Château St-Ferdinand back to life."
Do you think that the wine world remains predominantly male? Is the macho image of the Bordeaux vineyards true?
The wine world is still very male. Women have always been very present, but they were not in the spotlight. Today, the vineyard is much more mixed, and above all there are more and more women winegrowers at the head of the farms. Very often, they are daughters of winegrowers and have had to prove themselves.
I have the advantage of being the first generation of winegrowers in my family, which has given me a lot of freedom from the start of my adventure. My parents have always had confidence in me and have had a very benevolent attitude, which has given me the confidence to say to myself: I am capable. I have four brothers and I have always been considered their equal.
Since I started working, I have never felt any machismo from my peers. It is rather the opposite. I think they are rather admiring to see a woman taking over a vineyard on her own, driving a tractor, making her own place. Of course, I’m starting from scratch, I have to be seen! I decided to clearly display my femininity on the bottles. It breaks the codes and it has the merit of calling out.
Are women easily integrated by your teams?
My first employee was a woman. Today another employee has joined us. We are a very small team and the atmosphere is very good.
Has being a woman had an impact on your career path?
I realised that I had to create my own career path and my own opportunities when, despite being highly motivated, I had applied to more than 200 châteaux in the Bordeaux region after graduating in agronomy for positions as vineyard manager and cellar master, and none of them gave me a chance. I didn’t really understand why my friends found work and I didn’t.
I switched to a job advising winegrowers in a cooperative cellar, and I built up my career bit by bit. In the end, these recruitment failures were a real springboard for me afterwards. It pushed me to find incredible energy within myself to show that even if I didn’t come from the world of wine, I was capable of becoming a winemaker.
How do you manage to reconcile your professional and personal lives?
My husband and I decided to become parents during my studies. Today, I am a woman, a young mother and a winemaker all at the same time. This requires organisation in the work to be fulfilled in both my professional and personal life. It is very important for me to succeed in having a balance between the two.
My husband works in another sector and he helps me a lot. He gives me very good advice and helps me to take a step back from my business. So he is a big part of this family life balance.
Our daughters are 6 and 8 years old. I have unusual hours for a farmer, because my priority when I get up is our children. I don’t start work until 9 o’clock in the morning after putting them down at school. In the evening, I very often work again, in the office, only after they have gone to bed.
The balance is more over a year. There are much busier periods when the children know that you are there but you can’t necessarily take care of them.
What is difficult, sometimes, is to say stop working to devote time to your family. I have little time for myself. So I live my beautiful experiences of professional meetings as moments for me.
What advice would you give to young men and women who wish to become winegrowers in the Saint-Emilion area today?
First of all, I would advise them to train. Many things can be learned with experience, but initial training provides a foundation. It is important to learn about viticulture and wine-making techniques, but it is also very important to learn about business management and commerce.
Secondly, it is essential to surround yourself with people you can trust, and to have a family or friendship that is kind and supportive. In this type of adventure, you need to have support. It’s an exciting job, but it’s physically difficult, and sometimes morally difficult when you lose a crop, for example.
Finally, I advise young people to be curious, fearless, to listen to themselves, and not to listen to the fears of others. Trust yourself and don’t be afraid to go and discover the different professions that revolve around winegrowing. Don’t be in a hurry, be patient. Keep your objective in mind: you will get there.
What are the challenges of winegrowing today in your opinion?
The viticulture of tomorrow must be resolutely transparent, mixed and committed.
Winegrowing must be more open and accessible to the younger generations to meet the challenges of transferring ownership: the industry is ageing in Gironde, and it is important to train and welcome young people to our farms.
Our vineyards must be more and more respectful of the environment and this is the case for the majority of us.
Finally, winegrowing must be attractive and continue to fascinate neophytes and wine lovers alike with its quality wines and wine tourism.