Salut! / Honored Vintner

Meet Naples Winter Wine Festival’s 2024 Honored Vintner

Véronique Boss-Drouhin carries the family legacy of Joseph Drouhin across two continents.

BY January 17, 2024
Véronique Boss-Drouhin
This year’s NWWF Honored Vintner leads the winemaking operations at Domaine Drouhin Oregon and at Maison Joseph Drouhin—one of the largest wine houses in Burgundy. (Courtesy Image)

When Véronique Boss-Drouhin was studying oenology in Dijon, France, in 1985, she was the only woman in her class. “At the time, women were not encouraged to work in a family [winery] or be seriously involved in winemaking,” says the fourth-generation winemaker at Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy, France, and Domaine Drouhin Oregon in Dayton.

Founded by Véronique’s great-grandfather in 1880, Maison Joseph Drouhin produces nearly 100 wines from across 90 Burgundian appellations. Véronique grew up among her family’s mosaic of vines and was a pioneer alongside her father, Robert, when he created Domaine Drouhin Oregon in 1987, in the Willamette Valley. The young winemaker had just graduated when she got the opportunity to bring Drouhin’s signature style of elegant pinot noirs to a new terroir. “The first 10 years were tough because no one knew much about Oregon—you had to travel and convince people this is serious wine,” she says. Since then, the community has helped promote and produce quality wine that helped put Oregon on the wine world map.

Véronique jokes that she feels like the monks in Burgundy in the Middle Ages, who experimented with viticulture techniques and defined the region’s winemaking style. “Oregon is not Burgundy, but the wine is pinot noir, so it has to taste like pinot noir,” she says, explaining how she showcases the similarity in style while expressing each region’s sense of place.

As the Honored Vintner at this year’s Naples Winter Wine Festival, Véronique combed through the family’s private cellar to pull out a few special magnums she’ll share, like the 2015 Musigny Grand Cru, a highly regarded vintage of a wine they only make 1,500 to 1,800 bottles of a year. “For me, it’s probably the most refined expression of pinot coming from these vineyards,” she says. She’ll also host a small vertical tasting of Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche Grand Cru and bring another important wine for the family—Clos des Mouches, made from one of the first vineyards the founder’s son, Véronique’s grandfather Maurice, acquired in the 1920s.

This year’s event marks Véronique’s ninth NWWF appearance. The festival’s fundraising through wine to help underprivileged and at-risk children has always appealed to her. Giving is part of her family’s history. Maurice—vice president of the Hospices de Beaune and a leading figure of the French Resistance during World War II—donated vineyards to the hospital, where nuns hid him for protection from the Gestapo, the Nazi’s secret police. The almshouse operated as a hospital until 1971 and is now a historical museum. Wine from the donated pinot noir vines makes the Cuvée Maurice Drouhin, which is sold at the annual onsite auction in November to raise money for the Hospice de Beaune’s projects and the town’s inhabitants (the event is said to be the oldest wine auction in the world).

Véronique has remained undeterred in her pursuit to take up her family’s mantle—to the benefit of the Drouhins and the charitable causes they support. “There has always been a member of the family deeply involved in the winemaking, and I think that’s how you keep [a signature style],” says Véronique, adding that her oldest daughter, Laurène, is the next generation of the Drouhins to join the team, and is working on climate change initiatives and contributing to the weekly tastings. “Any family company in the world, whether it’s wine or perfume, if there is continuity in the involvement, you pass on the history and savoir-faire.” 

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