CODE meets Caroline Latrive, Champagne Ayala

Published 16 April 2020

Champagne Ayala’s cellar master Caroline Latrive admits her career path may have previously seemed unusual for a woman. Yet with her determination and passion, combined with the fact oenology runs in the family, Latrive is a success story paving the way for women in the industry. Harriet Prior and Chloë Hamilton sat down to discuss her route into the industry, the recently launched Le Blanc de Blanc 2013 and the decision to sponsor the 2019 female chef of the year awards.

You told us that your career path may seem unusual for a woman. How did you become interested in the industry?

My family has always been established in Champagne, and my father worked in the industry. He was a passionate and devoted man and gave me some direction, but I wanted to express myself differently. I was young and known as my father’s daughter, so in this traditional industry sometimes it was difficult. I think my father taught me patience, but I didn’t want to be his carbon copy, I want to take my own
route and leave my mark on the wine world.

Champagne is part of my heritage. I first tasted it when I was very young – it’s a tradition in the region to put a drop of Champagne on the baby’s lips when they are born. I even have a picture of me as a small child with my nose in the glass. When I turned 15 I was curious to learn more, and that was around the time I was supposed to decide what I wanted to do in the future.

I studied biochemistry after my bachelor’s degree and undertook as many internships as possible in different Champagne houses to be confident I’d made the right career choice.

And evidently you did! Would you say the house style has evolved under your reign as chef de cave?

I think we have a drier style, and we have a more precise expression of the chardonnay. We are about freshness, elegance, purity and precision- these are the key words for the expression of chardonnay at Champagne Ayala.

Is there anything you’ve changed your mindset on?

Initially, I didn’t think it was necessary for me to be present in the market and exchange with people about the wines, but now I think it is so important to do that and to explain more face-to-face about the philosophy and specificities of Champagne Ayala, and to share our passion. It’s important to see how people feel about the Champagne and to understand their experiences.

Could you tell us about your recently launched Le Blanc De Blanc 2013?

I am a lover of chardonnay, and I wanted to improve more with Le Blanc de Blanc 2013. This is a vintage, made from grapes sourced exclusively from the Côte de Blancs, where the best chardonnay grapes with a lot of potential to make great Champagnes are grown.

With this wine, I wanted a good balance and silky finish – It’s a very elegant evolution. It’s my favourite because it’s chardonnay, chardonnay, chardonnay!

You sponsored the Ayala/ SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year Awards in 2019. Why did you want to be involved?

The event seemed like a natural fit for Champagne Ayala and we are proud to support the awards. I can imagine that in a male-dominated industry, like in Champagne, sometimes it can be difficult to nd your path. There are so many links between their job and mine: a lot of patience is needed, and you need to be curious and willing to experiment – it’s a blending process and about finding a marriage with di erent ingredients.

Part of the prize for the winner (Skye Gyngell) is
to go out with some of the team to Champagne Ayala to feel the experience – it’s the perfect moment to exchange and share, so it was natural to support this event. These types of events give women the inspiration and courage to carry on in the industry.

Do you have any advice for women starting out in the industry?

Dedication. Do everything with conviction and always strive for the best. Today there are quite a few female winemakers, it has changed a lot in a short period of time. When I did my diploma, there were only five women and 20 men, whereas now it is much more balanced. I think women have become more confident and curious – there has been a change in mindset.

Are you still learning after so long in the industry?

Life is an incredible journey and you can keep learning constantly. I’m so inquisitive and I want to keep questioning everything.

This article was first published in Issue 22 of the CODE Quarterly magazine. To read the digital version, please click here

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