Michel advises, assists and works on numerous wine estates around the world, where he produces wines from different grape varieties, different colors, different styles and different tastes. He is the one who is called the “flying winemaker”, because Michel spends most of his time on airplanes and travels: USA, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, India, China, Mexico, Switzerland, Turkey … But this is only one side of his professional activity, although it was she who brought him such fame.
Michel is primarily a winegrower, owner of several estates in Bordeaux (France) and in other countries of the world. Michel is a hereditary winemaker who was born and raised on the family estate Château Le Bon Pasteur (Pomerol), bought by his grandfather in 1920. Three years ago, Michel Rolland sold shares in the family estate, along with the Lalande de Pomerol and Saint-Emilion vineyards, to Sutong Pan, a Hong Konger, to pay a share to his brother, who decided to leave the family business. Michelle met the buyer in California, where he advised the wine estates of the multi-billionaire Sloan Estate. It was a very lucrative deal, according to Michel himself, who continues to produce wines there as before.
The Rollans have their own oenological laboratory near the city of Libourne, where Michel and his wife Dani, also an oenologist, carry out the most complex analyzes of their wines and the wines of numerous clients. It was with the laboratory that it all began, when young graduates of the Bordeaux Faculty of Oenology went to work there, and then became its owners.
When you don’t know Michel personally, you expect to see a strict, extremely busy, always in a hurry somewhere. And it is not surprising, because he has a contract with hundreds of wineries in dozens of countries around the world! Whoever saw the film by Jonathan Nossiter “Mondovino” in 2004, he remembers how the famous winemaker is presented: a kind of arrogant gentleman in a fashionable car, who does not take an expensive cigar out of his mouth. This is exactly what I expected to see him … But what was my surprise when I first met him! A little shy, I came to him for an interview, because he needed an interpreter to travel to Russia. Before me was a happy father of a family, a loving grandfather and an exceptionally pleasant companion. And that was a few years ago. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to repeatedly work with Michel, accompany him on various trips, translate his inexhaustible humor. I can say that Michel is exceptionally nice to people he likes and is extremely categorical with ignorant people. When he is invited to a restaurant, he can choose the most expensive one if the invitation comes from a wealthy person whom he will kindly allow to pay for himself, and the most beloved one if he likes the interlocutor for whom he will willingly pay. The same happens with contracts for his consulting services: their cost depends on the customer’s wallet. Although Michelle chooses her clients not by their bank account. Receiving about 20 requests for consulting a day, Michelle studies each one and chooses the one that interests him both as a winemaker and as a person. He loves challenge and communication. By the way, one of his wine is called Le Défi (French for “challenge”), and this is the rarest and most expensive table wine in the world, the result of Michel’s experiment in his vineyards in Fronsac. Not so long ago, Michel finally agreed to an autobiographical work entitled “Wine Guru”, in which he talks about his amazing career, about how difficult it was for him to convince the vineyard owners to change their approach, about his acquaintance and friendship with Robert Parker …
Despite his busy schedule, Michelle agreed to answer a few questions specifically for Noble Wine.
– Michelle, you advise in different parts of the world. Which country do you prefer to work in?
– In California. I started working there thirty years ago, and today I advise 21 Californian estates! I really love this region, because it is comfortable to work there!
– In which country do you most often visit and work the most?
– In France, of course, because I have about 200 clients here!
– Michel, we know that for many years you have been involved in the production of the world-famous Tuscan wines Ornellaia and Masseto. Do you advise any other Italian wineries in other regions?
– Yes, I have been advising the Ornellaia farm since 1991 and, of course, Masseto, which is the very embodiment of the Merlot variety, which I love as much as you know. For the past few years, I have been working with my assistant Steve Ble on the beautiful estate of the Tolaini family near Siena. There we create wines such as Picconero and Valdisanti. These are exceptional wines! We have also recently started a wonderful project in the Monteverro estate in the south of Tuscany, not far from the lovely village of Capalbio. This wine estate has become a dream come true for a German family who have made every effort to produce great wines. The first wines we produced were exceptional and promising!
– What wine estates in Eastern Europe do you consult?
– My first experience in Eastern Europe is related to Hungary. It was in 1989 when I started advising the famous Tokaj wine producers. After Hungary, I was invited to Bulgaria, where I still produce exceptional, high-quality wines like Castra Rubra. It is also a lovely estate with excellent facilities and good natural conditions. There, the soil nourishes the vine and makes for excellent wines! In Russia, I cooperate with the Don winery “Elbuzd”. Not so long ago I started a new promising project near the city of Sochi, but the wines have not yet gone on sale. In Armenia, I work with Eduardo Eurnekian, with whom I already had a joint project in Argentina at the Fin del Mundo winery. In Armenia, we have an exceptional project Terras de Armenia, which requires large financial and human investments. Vineyards have already been planted on rocky soil, which, of course, was not easy. But the vine has taken root well and gives excellent results.
– Are you familiar with Latvian wines? If suddenly you are offered to go to Latvia to start a new project, will you agree?
– Unfortunately, I have never tasted Latvian wines, and I have never been to Latvia. But if such an opportunity presents itself, I will gladly go to get to know the country. And this will be the 54th country that I will visit. And if there is a professional project, then Latvia will become the 22nd country in which I will work as a consultant.
– Could you tell us about your new projects? What are your plans for the future?
– We are working simultaneously on several dozen projects. This, I confess, is not easy. First of all, it is desirable to bring them to the desired result. But in the next few months, I would like to create an oenological laboratory of the highest level, where it will be possible to carry out the most complex analyzes in order to understand how you can improve wines and, in particular, the quality of tannins. We need to keep up with the times and produce wines of the 21st century. And these wines must be flawless!
– How do you see the future of wines at the world level?
– It should be noted that wine production is increasing, and their quality is growing and growing. Competitive wines are produced all over the world and only the best can win! It’s not as easy as it sounds! I envision the future this way: the world will only have good wines with distinctive flavors that meet consumer expectations.
– Michel Rolland in the mirror? How do you see him?
– I see a person who regrets that life is so short, because it is so exciting! This year I will be harvesting my 44th crop in Bordeaux …
– What is your biggest professional success?
– My international success as a consultant. Through my consulting activities, I met interesting people who taught me a lot.
– Michel, could you talk about your mistakes or regrets?
“I’m sorry that sometimes it’s impossible to convince people to change their outlook on life. Some are convinced that tradition comes first and that all those who keep up with the times are wrong. I believe that movement is life! Because of this too conservative approach, you have to spend 20 years where only 10 would be enough!
– What wine impressed you the most in your life?
– Château De May de Certan 1947. This is the Pomerol wine that I tasted for my 18th birthday. And this was the first wine of my year of birth!
– Then the question naturally arises: at what age did you taste wine for the first time?
“It’s probably very early, but I don’t remember very well. I only remember that these were the remnants of wine, not drunk by adults … And this was, of course, without their knowledge!
– If you had to change your destiny, who would you like to be?
– Consultant oenologist!
My daughters are already working with me, and my grandchildren are still very young. If suddenly they choose this path, I hope they will not forget their grandfather!
– Michelle, you have achieved everything in life. Do you still have some kind of dream?
– Yes, I would like everything to go on as long as possible!
– We can say that you have created a kind of your own brand “Michel Rolland”. The style of your wines can be traced from one wine you create to another. Have you thought about continuity? Would you like one of your grandchildren to take up your case?
– My daughters are already working with me, and my grandchildren are still very young. If suddenly they choose this path, I hope they will not forget their grandfather!