This month we’re exploring the stories of Éric Taillet and Françoise Roumieux. These two are unalike as individuals, but both are neoterics in their regions. Françoise, President of Femmes Vignes Rhone, “works to promote women’s role within the traditionally masculine environment of wine by promoting cooperation as opposed to competition.” Éric, Founder of the Meunier Institute, dedicates himself to the promotion of Pinot Meunier by “discovering terroirs, exchanging production methods, and sharing vintages with as many people as possible.” Their leadership changes tastes, shepherds healthier farming, and makes winemaking better.
This edition contains:
If You Don’t Work, You’ll Get Nothing – The Phoenix that is Champagne Éric Taillet
American Passport or American Rootstock – An intimate interview with Françoise Roumieux that details her family’s emergence from the phylloxera epidemic into ceaseless leadership in Châteauneuf-du-Pape


My grandfather, Hamilton Phillip Fox, had a horse farm. He boarded, trained, and spoke to horses. The sounds he made were uncanny. He could embody their spirit and had a communication with them that transcended species. All of us perhaps know of people like this. I had never assumed that such a relationship might apply to vines.

Listening to Éric Taillet talk about Pinot Meunier, you would be forgiven for being unsure whether he’s talking about the vine or himself—hardy, rebellious, and difficult to tame.

“My grandfather used to make me taste Meunier wines at the end of fermentation. In the 60’s, it was very acidic and hard. The fruit wasn’t very present, and you had to be sitting down to drink it. But always in a good mood! These are all good memories that have stayed with me—those particular aromas, that lively, enrapturing white flesh. Even though I was very young at the time, my internal hard drive was already boiling!”

Éric Taillet was born to two traditional winemaking families in the Marne valley in the 1960’s. Éric’s father, Daniel Taillet, worked with his father-in-law, René Regnier, who imbued both father and son with passion and know-how. More than 75 years ago, René was making 100% Meunier champagnes. He was a man ahead of his time. René’s passion for Meunier was a seed planted in Éric that took naturally and ardently.

More than 75 years ago, René was making 100% Meunier champagnes. He was a man ahead of his time.

Éric worked behind his father’s boots and peppered him with questions. The work was manual. Tractors were financially out of reach. “If you don’t work, you’ll get nothing,” was his father’s mantra. This idea penetrated deeply into Éric as it defined their family’s ethos. There is a single vacation in his childhood memory—taking his grandfather’s car to the mountains. His parents’ 2-cylinder Citroen would never have made the trek. He was sent to winemaking school at the age of 13 and unsurprisingly, he earned top marks.

The 80’s were terrible years. Éric’s sister died in a tragic accident, and it broke his parents. Without the energy that had defined his father’s work to that point, difficulties mounted, and Daniel Taillet could not keep up. When Éric took over, one year before his father’s death in 1995, he was restarting a domaine from negative territory. Éric put everything aside to breathe new life into the house.

Éric started where all great winemakers start—in the vines. He started working the soil, eliminating herbicides, and making the changes which would eventually be the base of his conversion to organic farming. In the cellar he began altering the cuvees to highlight Meunier once again. Collectors started showing up at the domaine. The importers followed. Soon the estate’s feet were back underneath. This foundation became the launching pad from which Éric would take his fetish grape and turn it into the star it has become.

In 2015 Éric founded the Meunier Institute. It’s a group of growers, passionate about Meunier with a mission to showcase the grape’s greatness—how this grape transmits terroir and to share that potential with the world. It’s no coincidence its establishment coincides with the global explosion in Meunier interest.

Maybe it’s Éric’s contagious passion or maybe it really is the vine itself, but the Meunier grape has enchanting particularities. Translated, Meunier means “miller” as in “one who mills flour.” The vine produces tiny hairs which appear as flour-like dust; the new growth is covered in what appears to be a fine powder. The vine has a history as the preferred grape in Champagne, before the fashion of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Admittedly, this could be due to Meunier’s vigorous production and natural defense against frost (it flowers late). Meunier is naturally selective with the pollen it allows to propagate it, which is both a natural defense against inbreeding as well as a grape prone to genetic adventures (hybridization). It’s not surprising that its adaptability has made it the most successful of the three principal champenoise varieties in the face of climate change. Today nearly half of Champagne is planted to Meunier.

Éric’s evolution has been relentless. His cuvees are singular. One 100% Meunier tastes very little like another. Passion is his driver, and Éric hasn’t slowed down. He’s adding land to his domaine, he’s planted 100’s of trees throughout his vines, he’s brought on his children, and he’s implanted them with the same vigor. Dylan Taillet will take over in the not-too-distant future, and there will be new ideas, which will further the domaine and their movement. This month you can join us to savor a snapshot of a rising star in Champagne.

Your chances to meet Éric and taste for yourself:
March 11th-13th – Uva Imports, Trade Only | New York City, NY
March 13th – Francie | Brooklyn, NY
March 14th – Free Run Wine Merchants, Trade Only | Washington DC
March 14th – St Vincent’s Wine | Washington DC
March 15th – SommSelection, Trade Only | Miami, FL
March 18th-20th – Maverick, Trade Only | Houston and Dallas, TX
March 18th – CDV713 | Houston, TX
March 19th – Art of Cellaring | Houston, TX
March 20th – 55 Seventy | Dallas, TX


Françoise Roumieux is the matriarch of one of the most relevant domaines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, both historically and today. A calming force, Françoise commands a room the way she might sit before a vine—with quiet confidence and obvious intention. She lives as if the humility of hundreds of years of working with the earth has been distilled into a single person. The interview below details her family’s journey—a journey out of phylloxera, through World War II, through a business separation with brother and sister and back to the roots laid by her grandfather—which ultimately led to re-establishing Clos du Calvaire. Her children are in the process of taking over the domaine, and the wines may be the best they’ve ever been.

What do you know about your great-great-grandfather, who replanted the appellation after phylloxera? What was his life like? What was he like?

The vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape were affected and destroyed by phylloxera, as were almost all French vineyards from 1866 onwards. The economic and social consequences for winegrowing families were dramatic. On June 25, 1889, my great-grandfather Gratien Mayard, alias Père Pape, obtained his passport for America to make a new life for himself. But his love of the land was stronger, and he preferred to rebuild his vineyard and replant it vine by vine. Today, we still have a copy of his passport as a reminder of his tenacity and courage. Gratien came from a modest social class; he was a farmer and winemaker, making his own barrels to mature and market his wines.

For us, Clos du Calvaire symbolizes the annual work, toil, and care we put into tending the vines replanted by our ancestors. It echoes our peasant culture, our rural way of life, and our history.

Alphonse, his son born in 1900, founded Clos du Calvaire in 1923 with his wife, Marie Louise, who herself came from a family of winegrowers in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The two formed an alliance of heart and work. They were both pioneers in the bottling of their wines, and their correspondence books testify to the many French and foreign customers who bought their production. We carefully preserve the few remaining bottles of the 1923 vintage in our cellars, as well as the other vintages—1947,1949 (tasted with Jeb Dunnuck in 2017 – une pure merveille!!), 1954, and 1956.

What happened at the domaine during World War II?

The village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape was occupied by the Germans during WW2. The village and the Château, nestled high up in the valley, were of strategic interest during the war. The Château served as a stockpile of weapons, ammunition, and explosives, which they stored in the tower.

During this period, economic activity slowed down completely. Alphonse and Marie Louise continued to market their wines, but in bulk rather than bottled form—a bold choice to prevent bottles of wine from falling into enemy hands. These bulk barrels were sold to trusted wine merchants, to whom they also supplied empty bottles, labels, and wax, so that they could bottle and sell the wine themselves. We got this information from the correspondence register I inherited from my grandparents.

When the Germans withdrew from the lands of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, they blew up the Château. My father Maurice believes that if a section of the Château remains today, it’s because a German may have foiled some of the explosives to preserve the village he had liked.

My father Maurice believes that if a section of the Château remains today, it’s because a German may have foiled some of the explosives to preserve the village he had liked.

Who taught you about wine? When did you know it was your passion? Why did you begin to cultivate the land as you do now (organic, regenerative)?

I began to be lulled by the smells of our fermenting wines at the age of 11, when my father Maurice inherited half the family estate—7 hectares which he vinified in the family cellar.

His primary job at the time was as a wine broker, and his business connections helped him to buy more plots and expand the estate to 16 hectares. At the time, we were involved in more intensive viticulture/production. Despite the surrounding woods and biodiversity, we didn’t really have an understanding of the needs of the vines as our ancestors did. Peu à peu nous avons voulu améliorer nos pratiques culturales vers un équilibre plus vertueux pour la vigne. Little by little, we wanted to improve our farming practices towards a more harmonious balance for the vines. Day after day, we try to understand our plants and bring more life back into the soil. It’s this challenge that drives us and has become our core objective.

Olive trees and fruit trees are planted in the vineyards, and ploughing is limited to preserve the soil. Each element is an integral part of the biodiversity we strive to preserve—insects, birds, trees, shrubs, and more broadly, fauna, flora, and above all, the vines. The diversity is shaped over time. It’s the fruit of the work of the last generations, and it enriches our wines—creating the balance that will make the great wines of tomorrow.

The harvest is carefully controlled so that the wine can fully express our terroir. All the work is done by hand. The grapes are harvested in small crates, sorting is done on the plot and in the winery, and vatting is done by gravity. We respect the fruit, and our generational know-how contributes to the production of exceptional wines.

Tell me a little about the succession and dissolution of Vignobles Mayard. Was it difficult?

We wanted to divide the estate, my brother, sister, and I, so that each of us could move forward with our own projects in line with our objectives. Sharing the estate took more than 10 years. The transfer of a wine estate is so complex, but we reached an equitable agreement.

Sharing the estate over the last few years has been an obvious choice, but as with any separation, it has always been a little painful. Each brother and sister now has the opportunity to grow and develop as they see fit—at their own pace and according to their own convictions.

Arthur, my nephew, vinified the estate’s wines from 2017 to 2021. Since 2022, my son and daughter, Nicolas and Coline, have been making the wines. Le style des vins se voit modernisé, on privilégie la finesse et le fruit mais en gardant toujours les méthodes et le savoir-faire des générations précédentes. The style of the wines has been modernized, with an emphasis on finesse and fruit, while retaining the methods and know-how of previous generations.

What are you guys doing now to prepare for the future? How have your ideas, cuvees, and agriculture evolved?

We’re currently finalizing the construction of a tasting cellar right in the center of the vines. It’s a sort of showcase for our practices. We want to welcome visitors from France, but also from abroad and the USA, to showcase our growing methods and the richness of our terroir. Our winery is located in the southern part of the appellation, an area that is fairly sensitive to drought. We want to prepare for climate change, and every year we carry out trials to improve the microclimate of our plots—planting trees in the middle of the vines and cover crops in the rows to increase the coolness and humidity in our soils.

We think it’s important for customers and visitors to see these techniques in action. Ensuite tout part de là, si les raisins sont équilibrés et sains, le travail en cave se fait plus facilement, nous avons des vins équilibrés, avec du fruit et de la finesse. If the grapes are well-balanced and healthy, it’s easier to work on them in the cellar, and we end up with well-balanced wines with fruit and finesse.

Your chances to meet Françoise and Coline to taste for yourself:
March 18th-20th – Maverick, Trade Only | Houston and Dallas, TX
March 18th – CDV713 | Houston, TX
March 19th – Art of Cellaring | Houston, TX
March 20th – 55 Seventy | Dallas, TX
March 21st-22nd – Swirl Wine Brokers, Trade Only | San Francisco, CA
March 25th-27th – Uva Imports, Trade Only | New York City, NY