Matthieu Finot knows a lot about wine. He sees it as a combination of science and art. From watching the weather and checking the soil, to testing grapes for sugar levels and acidity and then deciding when to harvest, Finot says nature and winemaker must work together.
“So what I do is change grapes into wine. So, that's the easy part of it," he says. But my job is a blend of farming of science and arts because we need Mother Nature to ripen the grapes and to make grapes good to make good wine. So, that's the natural part.
I need science to understand all the fermentation part and the aging part and everything that happens to the wine. I need the artistic part that is what makes each wine maker unique and what brings the human factors into producing wine," he says. "And you know there's a sense of artistic feeling too into wine making that I really appreciate.”
Finot comes from a family of viticulturists and wine lovers. It was a natural for him to follow that path. He began his study early on his grandparents’ farm.
“I was very proud of my roots of being a farmer and that's what I wanted to be. So I’m coming from Northern Rhome area in France in Crozes Hermitage and the family farm was apricots, cherries, pear and vines. That's my roots," he says. "When I had to decide what I wanted to do for a living, I was passionate by wine. My father loves wine and when I was a kid my father make me try good wine and I really loved that.”
Finot knew studying wine making would be a good link between his love of wine, his love of dirt and his roots in farming.
“So, I've study viticulture and oenology and I went to Beaune in Burgundy to study that. It’s a school in Beaune that give you training and practice about how to take care of a vineyard and how to make wine out of it.”
After graduating in 1995, Finot worked in many different wine regions around France to learn all he could about wine.
“I've traveled a lot in France to go get into plenty of different wine regions. So I've been in the in the Burgundy area been in the Rhone area and been in Jura. I've been in Provence. I've been in Bordeaux area so I've been travelling a lot in France to learn different techniques of wine making," he says. "And for me traveling was a part of learning not only learning about wine making but you also learn a lot about yourself and that's the best part of traveling. And you learn that not everybody thinks the way you do and you learn to listen to people and it's not all about you. And that's a very good thing that I've learned.”
Finot has also worked in Italy and South Africa to learn about wine making and to gain international experience. In 2003, he came to the United States and he settled in Virginia.
“I wanted to go to New Zealand. But before going to New Zealand I wanted to come to the United States. And that was in 2003, I was planning to stay here for six months and then go to the southern hemisphere and go to New Zealand. It happened that I'm still here so ten years after. So, I guess I've been stuck here for some reason. When I first arrived here I didn't know where was Virginia on the map. To be honest I never been to United States before it was my first time here," he says. "I had to look where was Charlottesville on the map too. Never heard of it. I had no expectation. It turned out to be that I'm loving it here and it's a great place to live.”
Finot works at King Family Vineyards. He says wine making is new to the state of Virginia.
“So here in Virginia and the King Family vineyards, Virginia is a fairly new wine region. So, we are still working around experimenting to try to see what fits the best our climate. We are hot and humid climate. And so it's not the most ideal weather to ripen grapes. Grapes like usually more dry, dry weather. So we are still experimenting with what does well for us here.”
But at King family vineyards and in Central Virginia we do like to work with white wine, we do like to work with Vinay. We do like to work with Chardonnay and I think that works very well for us here," he says. "And when it comes to red, most of the grapes that grows in Bordeaux grows very well here also. So, that's what we do at King Family vineyards.”
Making wine is a process. Finot says the process for making red and white wine is different for each one.
“There are basic rules. I say that on a white wine the basic rule is you're going to price the grapes, get some juice and then ferment the juice in liquid form and that you're going to change grape juice into wine white," he says. "The reds you want to get some tannins and the color. And tannins and color are in the skin not in the pulp. So, you need the skin. So, what we do for the Reds we ferment the red with the whole berries. This fermentation process take two or three weeks and sometimes even more to get the color and the tannins out of the berries. So it's two different processes."
Finot says there is something important for all drinkers to remember about wine --- it is meant to be enjoyed.
“The purpose of wine is just to make you happy. So, at the end it's not something serious. I mean we can take it seriously and in some way it's serious for me, I make a living out of it. But wine it's not something serious it's just a way to enjoy life.