In Conversation: Domaines Ott’s Winemaker Jean-Francois

If you’ve been seeing the world through rosé colored glasses this summer, there’s a good chance you’ve been drinking some of Domaines Ott’s wine. Their rosé is a seasonal staple, especially at the MBH. The brand recently hosted the opening reception for The Kaplan Twins, our current artists in residence, and we had a chance to pick the brain of their master winemaker Jean-Francois Ott. Grab a glass and read on…

Domaines Ott

Photo By Will Weiss

How would you describe the Domaines Ott brand to people who aren’t familiar with your wines? Is there a signature or common thread approach that gives all of your wines a certain distinction?

Domaines OTT runs 3 estates in 2 appellations (Bandol and Côtes de Provence) and each with a unique culture and passion for wine. We spend 500 hours per hectare (2.5 acres) each year working in the vineyard. That’s the same as the top Châteaus in Bordeaux whose wines can go for thousands of dollars!

Please explain the “Heart of Grain” concept…

Cœur de Grain is about the way we press the  grapes. We press very delicately to get only the juice of the heart of the grapes…that juice is always the best and comes without any bitterness. Compared to the regular way of pressing that would use 130 kg of grapes to make 100 liters of juice, we use about 160 kg for 100 liters of juice. So we use more raw product to produce the same amount if juice, thereby improving the quality.

Besides the fact that winemaking was in your family, how did you get your start in it and at what point did you decide that this was the path for you?

It was in 2002, my father was about to retire and I thought it was a good time to get in. I wanted to take advantage of this great opportunity.

If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be doing?

I don’t know, I think I would grow vegetables or fruit.

Domaines Ott

Photo By Wil Weiss

What is your favorite part of the process?

The harvest – it’s the end of a year long process in the vineyard and that is when you can taste the juices coming out of the press.

What’s the hardest season/year you’ve ever experienced?

2002. It was my first vintage in Château de Selle and we had rain all of August. We ended up with a 40% drop compared to the previous year.

If you had to grow grapes/make wine outside of France, where would it be and why?

I think I would try to find a place where nobody has made Rose yet!

The Domaines Ott bottles have a such a unique and instantly recognizable shape – how did this design come about?

My grandfather designed it in the 30’s and it was inspired by an amphora. He wanted a special shape for all Provence wines since that Champaign, Bordeaux, and Burgundy each had one. It was more expensive to produce so the other producers decided not to use it and he decided to keep it for himself. Since then, nobody is allowed to use it besides us.

The brand is known primarily for its rosé – which of your other wines deserve more attention?

Our range is small. We produce 1 rosé on each of the 3 estates. Château de Selle and Clos Mireille in Côtes de Provence and Château Romassan in Bandol. We also produce 1 white at Clos Mireille and one red in Bandol at Château Romassan. The white was actually our first commercial success back in the 30’s – everyone that likes our rosés should try it!

Domaines Ott

Photo By Michelle McSwain

If you could only drink one of your wines for the rest of your life – which would it be?

Definitely Rosé.

Are there any wine faux pas you notice people making?

I would say there are no “wine faux pas” – drink the wine you like, the way you like it…trust your taste!

Lastly, is there anything about wine in general that you wish more people knew?

I would like people to understand that making wine and cooking are very close. You need to have the best ingredients to make the best wines. 80% of the job is done in the vineyard and not the winery – and rosé in particular needs that, it’s not only a blending thing. There are Rosés at all different quality levels. A great rosé takes the same time and effort to produce as a great red or a great white.

 Be sure to order a glass of Domaines Ott the next time you visit us and thank us later!