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Interview with Frederique Perrin - Winemaker at Cape Mentelle

Frédérique Perrin – Winemaker, Cape Mentelle

Today we speak to Frédérique Perrin, Cape Mentelle Winemaker, to mark the release of her first vintage – 2015 – of the Langton’s Classified Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon. Frédérique came to Margaret River from Champagne Krug and has also worked at Domaine Chandon and Newton Vineyard in California’s Napa Valley and Terrazas De Los Andes in Mendoza, Argentina. She’s no stranger to Margaret River, having been a trainee at Leeuwin Estate in 1999.

Frédérique Perrin – Winemaker, Cape Mentelle

Frédérique Perrin – Winemaker, Cape Mentelle

How did you get into wine?

By tasting a lot, even when very young. There always was that aura of luxury, mystery and ultimate treat around the dusty Sunday bottle at my Grandma’s table… But if I had listened to my Burgundy mentor, Michel Juillot, who gave me my first wine job, I would have picked a different path! He always jokingly said that there was no good well-paying job in wine and that we should all be lawyers or doctors to be able to afford the good bottles! I have been very lucky to work in exciting places with inspiring people – that freedom is a great privilege. Wine is generous and congenial; I have never lacked mentors to look up to even if I am not from a winemaking family.

New world or old world? Tradition or innovation?

As they say at Mouton... ‘in wine, it’s only the first 200 years that are difficult’... I wish the old and the new world would take or reclaim the time for experimenting with wine.

Is winemaking science or art?

Both are certainly involved. It’s important to get the science down first – then we are free to explore the artistic side of the many things that are still unknown in winegrowing.

Is there a wine that changed your life?

There have been many, especially the ones that tell the loudest stories of places and people. My greatest pleasure is enjoying wine in good company; if I can debate their quality with their makers, that’s even better! Every year a group of California viticulturists and winemakers camp in the Sierra Nevada over the 4th of July weekend: needless to say, the most amazing bottles from our collections are enjoyed around the campfire or sitting in the freezing creek!

Which winemakers have inspired you?

I admire those who are most humble and acknowledge the strength of nature in winemaking rather than the power of their hand. I prefer the conversation of the farmers to that of the rockstars.

" My greatest pleasure is enjoying wine in good company; if I can debate their quality with their makers, that’s even better!  "
- Frédérique Perrin

Is winemaking a man’s game? How does it feel being a female winemaker?

This is a big question! I have been very lucky to get a great scientific education, be offered brilliant experiences in some revered houses and not be faced with challenges so big that I had to give in-depth thought to the question of my gender. I was actually tempted to answer your question with a frat-style joke! But now I think that in today’s context, it is interesting to claim an advantage in being a woman winegrower. Because good wine is about people, I find that it’s important to be sensitive to questions of equality, recognizing competence over appearance, fairness in balancing work demands, and so on.

What is your advice for young women wanting to get into wine?

Jump in!

Can (or does) Margaret River rival Burgundy, with Chardonnay, and Bordeaux, with Cabernet?

Margaret River is so special and very different from Burgundy and Bordeaux. I think with only about 50 years of commercial viticulture behind us, we are scratching the surface of the potential. This ancient piece of pristine land sticking out into the oceans is still full of the promises people like (Cape Mentelle founder) David Hohnen glimpsed in the ‘70s.

Is Cabernet at its best on its own, or blended?

I often find blends more complete and more exciting. But then again sometimes I come across a particular example that expresses Cabernet so uniquely it is captivating on its own…

Was it hard to leave Krug?

I don’t think I ever really leave a cellar. Years later, the smells are recognizable in the wines. The wine community is also such a tight bunch that we rarely lose contact. Krug is a very special place held together by winemakers with unwavering faith in pursuing the founder’s dreams… but Cape Mentelle has so much to offer, and I love a good Shiraz!

Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Cabernet Sauvignon,
Margaret River 2015

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Purchases of Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 count towards entries in Langton’s Classification VII Competition – Win an ‘Exceptional’ Cellar – and a 110 bottle Vintec Wine Cooling Cabinet to store it in – Total prize value $10,000. Full how to enter competition and terms & conditions here.

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ABN: 77 159 767 843. New South Wales: Liquor Act 2007. No Alcohol can be sold or supplied to anyone under 18. It's against the law. License Number: LIQP770010303 Victoria: WARNING - Under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, it is an offence: To supply alcohol to a person under the age of 18 years [Penalty exceeds $19,000]; For a person under the age of 18 years to purchase or receive liquor [Penalty exceeds $800]. License Number: 32055289