Lessons from a Winery Founder on How to Start a Winery

Jessica Julmy’s love affair with wine was born by chance. Growing up in the United States, the daughter of Swiss parents, she was already bilingual and decided to add another language to her repertoire by studying for an undergraduate degree in Mandarin. This brought her to China, where she spent several years working in real estate, before traveling to Argentina and then London for her MBA. That’s when an opportunity arose to work for a London-based fine wine company that planned to open an office in Hong Kong, where Julmy’s language skills would serve the brand well. She agreed, “and then, you know, I just fell in love with the industry,” she says.

She then studied for her WSET qualifications (the standard certification for those in the wine industry) and spent six years pursuing a successful career at Krug, where she immersed herself in the world of champagne. “I could have retired at Krug,” she says – but that was without counting on an offer she couldn’t refuse from LVMH, who wanted her to take the reins of Château Galoupet in Provence. The vineyards were in dire need of repairs, but Julmy had a unique vision: to set the standard for sustainability by restoring biodiversity to the estate and crafting organic rosé wines (in low-carbon packaging) that could match or exceed the quality of their competitors. .

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“Initially, I thought the estate only had 69 hectares of vines, but I realized that right behind us we also had 77 hectares of protected woods,” explains Julmy, who took over as general manager in July 2019. “I viewed this purely as an exercise in winemaking, but in fact we had this unique ecosystem that gave us the opportunity to start from scratch, to invest in truly sustainable viticulture.”

Three years later, the regeneration project is well underway and Julmy has assembled a trusted team that has helped launch two cuvées: Château Galoupet Cru Classé 2021 and Galoupet Nomade. Here, she reflects on the lessons she’s learned on her journey so far…

The three most important qualities of a good leader are…

First and foremost, the ability to have a vision, not just for the year ahead, but for the next 10, 20 or even 300 years – thinking long term is essential in the wine industry. On top of that, you need a strong sense of empathy and a set of authentic values.

The highest priority for my business is…

Persevering in the renovation of our cellar, with the 10-year objective of being net-zero, even net-positive.

I mitigate risk in my business by…

Knowing what risks we can and cannot control. With climate change, unpredictable weather phenomena are becoming more and more frequent – ​​we recently had a big frost and some of our neighboring vineyards were badly hit by wildfires – and unfortunately there is not much we can do on this subject. But in reality, the risks that I am much more aware of are those that we choose to take, such as deciding to package our wines in recycled plastic. Some risks are inherent in innovation, but if we don’t take risks, we will never create change.

I keep my team motivated by…

Constantly reassuring, which was not easy at first, when I was not yet sure myself where we were going. There were a few months of what I would call ‘floating’, because how do you navigate a ship when the crew is nervous and you’re not telling them where to go? It wasn’t the most comfortable. But once we had a clear vision, I was able to generate excitement around it and impress on the team how critical each of them was in achieving our ambitions. .

The worst mistake I’ve ever made as a leader was…

Anything that had a human element. Sure, there have been many financial or marketing mistakes over the years, but those are the ones that have affected the people that stick in my mind.

An effective leader will always be…

Communicate. To manage change, you need to talk to people all the time and be completely transparent about your vision. Where are we going? How are we going to get there? What is your contribution? You’re feeling good? These are all questions I have learned to ask my team.

An effective leader will never…

Take shortcuts. It can be tempting to try to save time and money, but I have a clear ambition for the quality of our wines and our impact on the environment.

The only advice I would give to a new chef is…

Stay true to yourself, but also be a kind of chameleon. Leadership is a matter of human relations, so you must adapt your behavior to the needs of each individual.


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