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Michel Rolland (born December 24, 1947 in Libourne, France) is an influential Bordeaux-based oenologist, with hundreds of clients across 13 countries and influencing wine style around the world. "It is his consultancies outside France that have set him apart from all but a handful of his countrymen." It is frequently addressed that his signature style, which he helps wineries achieve, is fruit-heavy and oak-influenced, a preference shared by influential critic Robert Parker.
Rolland owns several properties in Bordeaux, including Château Le Bon Pasteur, Château Bertineau Saint-Vincent in Lalande de Pomerol, Château Rolland-Maillet in Saint-Émilion, Château Fontenil in Fronsac, and Château La Grande Clotte in Lussac-Saint-Émilion as well as joint venture partnerships with Bonne Nouvelle in South Africa, Val de Flores in Argentina, Campo Eliseo in Spain and Yacochuya (Salta) and Clos de los Siete in Argentina.
Education and early career
Born into a wine making family, Rolland grew up on the family's estate Château Le Bon Pasteur in Pomerol. After high school, Rolland enrolled at Tour Blanche Viticultural and Oenology school in Bordeaux with his father's encouragement. Excelling in his studies, he was one of five student chosen by director Jean-Pierre Navarre to evaluate the program's quality against that of the prestigious Bordeaux Oenology Institute. Rolland later enrolled in the Institute, where he met his wife and fellow oenologist, Dany Rolland, and graduated as part of the class of 1972.
At the Institute, Michel Rolland studied under the tutelage of renowned oenologists Pierre Sudraud, Pascal Ribéreau-Gayon, Jean Ribéreau-Gayon, and Émile Peynaud. Rolland has said these men were a great influence upon him and considers them the "Fathers of Modern Oenology."
In 1973, Rolland and his wife bought into an oenology lab on the Right Bank of Bordeaux in the town of Libourne. They took over full control of the lab in 1976 and expanded it to include tasting rooms. By 2006 the Rolland's lab employed 8 full-time technicians, analyzing samples from nearly 800 wine estates in France each year. Rolland's two daughters, Stéphanie & Marie, also work at the lab.
Michel Rolland's first clients included the Bordeaux Châteaux Troplong Mondot, Angélus, and Beau-Séjour Bécot. An early setback was the loss of two Saint-Émilion first growths, Château Canon and Château La Gaffelière, due to conflict in style with the owners and Rolland. According the Rolland, the loss "calmed him down" and brought him out of an awkward stage in his early career. Twenty years later, the two chateaux returned to be part of the more than 100 wineries who employ Michel Rolland as their consultant.
In his book Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution, William Echikson writes that before Michel Rolland became consultant to Château Lascombes, it "produced about 500,000 bottles of mediocre wine, about half of which was sold not as Lascombes itself, but as the inferior Chevalier de Lascombes." Today, Echikson contends, that even the Chevalier (the second wine of the estate) is better than the old full-fledged Lascombes.
Rolland features prominently in the critical 2004 documentary Mondovino by Jonathan Nossiter as an agent of wine globalization. In Mondovino, Rolland is seen on several occasions advising his clients to microoxygenate their wines, including a scene at Château Le Gay in Bordeaux. Since the film, Rolland has said that he is "not a fan of microoxygenation. The film suggests I am. Some of my clients inquire about it. It can help in special conditions — if the tannins are fierce or hard, micro-oxygenation can make them softer and rounder. In certain countries with certain terroir, like Chile or Argentina, I may use it." James Suckling, formerly of Wine Spectator, notes in an article about Rolland that "He is not a proponent of micro-oxidation in wine-making as some suggest, and never has been".
Michel Rolland is also a wine making consultant for the Amphorae Winery in Israel (marketed as Makura in the United States) and has started signing his name to their premium Makura series. He visits Amphorae and their vineyards once a year and has his assistants throughout the year help implement his practices adopted by Amphorae's wine making team at the winery and in their vineyards.
From his consulting work and media presence, Michel Rolland has influenced many aspects of both the French and global wine industry. Among the prominent wine personalities that have been influenced by Rolland is the Rhone wine producer Jean-Luc Colombo.
Bordeaux vineyards under Rolland influence
Rolland holds decisive roles (such as owner, cellar master, oenologist, consultant) in a number of vineyards in Bordeaux. These include : Angélus, St-Emilion GC; Armens, St-Emilion GC; Ausone, St-Emilion GC; Beauregard, Pomerol; Bellefont-Belcier, St-Emilion GC; Bellevue Mondotte, St-Emilion GC; Blason de l'Evangile, Pomerol; le Bon Pasteur, Pomerol; Bonalgue, Pomerol; Branas Grand Poujeaux, Moulis; Brillette, Moulis; de Camensac, Haut-Médoc; Cap de Faugères, Côtes de Castillon; Certan de May de Certan, Pomerol; Chapelle d'Ausone, St-Emilion GC; Clarke, Listrac-Médoc; la Clémence, Pomerol; Clément-Pichon, Haut-Médoc; Clinet, Pomerol; Clos des Jacobins, St-Emilion GC; Clos du Clocher, Pomerol; Clos l'Eglise, Pomerol; Clos les Lunelles, Côtes de Castillon; Clos Saint-Martin, St-Emilion GC; la Commanderie de Mazeyres, Pomerol; Corbin, St-Emilion GC; Côte de Baleau, St-Emilion GC; la Couspaude, St-Emilion GC; le Crock, St-Estèphe; Croix de Labrie, St-Emilion GC; Destieux, St-Emilion GC; Destieux, St-Emilion GC; la Dominique, St-Emilion GC; l'Evangile, Pomerol; Faugères, St-Emilion GC; Faugères Cuvée Péby, St-Emilion GC; la Fleur de Boüard, Lalande de Pomerol; la Fleur de Gay, Pomerol; Fombrauge, St-Emilion GC; Fontenil, Fronsac; Franc-Mayne, St-Emilion GC; la Garde, Pessac-Léognan; le Gay, Pomerol; Giscours, Margaux; Grand Mayne, St-Emilion GC; Grand Ormeau, Lalande de Pomerol; Grand-Pontet, St-Emilion GC; les Grandes Murailles, St-Emilion GC; les Grands Chênes, Médoc; la Gravière, Lalande de Pomerol; Jean de Gué, Lalande de Pomerol; Kirwan, Margaux; Larmande, St-Emilion GC; Larrivet-Haut-Brion, Pessac-Léognan; Lascombes, Margaux; Latour-Martillac, Pessac-Léognan; Léoville-Poyferré, St-Julien; Loudenne, Médoc; Magrez-Fombrauge, St-Emilion GC; Malartic-Lagravière, Pessac-Léognan; Malescot-Saint-Exupéry, Margaux; Monbousquet, St-Emilion GC; Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan; Pavie, St-Emilion GC; Péby Faugères, St-Emilion GC; Petit Village, Pomerol; Phélan-Ségur, St-Estèphe; le Plus de la Fleur de Boüard, Lalande de Pomerol; Pontet-Canet, Pauillac; Ripeau, St-Emilion GC; Rochebelle, St-Emilion GC; Rouget, Pomerol; la Sérénité, Pessac-Léognan; Smith Haut Lafitte, Pessac-Léognan; la Tour-Carnet, Haut-Médoc; Troplong-Mondot, St-Emilion GC; de Valandraud, St-Emilion GC; la Violette, Pomerol; Virginie de Valandraud, St-Emilion GC;
- Echikson, William. Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution. NY: W.W.Norton, 2004.
- Robinson, Jancis (Editor) The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, second edition, 1999
- Asimov, Eric, New York Times (October 11, 2006). "Satan or Savior: Setting the Grape Standard". The New York Times.
- Suckling, James, Wine Spectator "Top Gun", June 30, 2006
- Kakaviatos, Panos, Decanter.com (October 12, 2010). Robert Parker 'honoured' by merciless cartoon satire
- Thunevin, Jean-Luc, thunevin.blogspot.com (October 11, 2010). Hilarious duo
- E. Arnold "Winemaker Talk: Jean-Luc Colombo" Wine Spectator April 26, 2007