Jean Hoefliger – USA-California (Alpha Omega Winery)

May 8, 2018

Name: Jean Hoefliger

Country: USA-CA

Jean Hoefliger

Currently: Winemaker-GM at Alpha Omega Winery – Consultant Winemaker at Monteverro, Tuscany




Please, tell us about how you got into wine, the wine industry and how your career developed?

I was born and raised in Lausanne, Switzerland. All males in my family went to law school, so I decided to take the same path. After two years in law school I realized that the only thing that I truly learned was to play cards and taste wine. So, as any good Swiss, I decided to move on to wealth management. I spent a year and a half waiting for a day off to either go to a wine region or taste great wines. Even though Swiss people are slow, I got the recurring message that was sending a signal towards the wine industry. I went to visit my godfather Epesses and asked him if I could work at his winery (Fonjallaz). He said that he would take me for an internship, and on my first day, the winemaker asked me what I wanted to do, and I answered that he was the boss. He proposed that we taste together. So we tasted 62 lots, and at the time, I didn’t know that I was supposed to spit. So when I got home I was a happy man, and have not left the industry since. I have, of course, learned to spit, but then my career took me to Sonoma at Michel Schlumberger and Hartford Court, then to Meerlust in South Africa, and Chateaux Carbonnieux. Then I went back to Switzerland to complete my winemaking degree at the Swiss Federal School of Winemaking. Once I graduated, I went to Chateaux Lynch Bages, and then became the Winemaker of Newton Vineyard in 2001, and started with Alpha Omega in 2006.

What is your philosophy to making wine and viticulture?

Wine is one of the last tools society has to bring people back to human interaction, and socializing. Everything via email, text messages, Twitter and Facebook is limiting our ability to have time, and take time to interact with people face to face. I apply this philosophy to wine as well and am a big promoter of naturally fermented wines because the fermentation kinetics are not only much slower due to the lower concentration of yeast cells, but also due to the fact that nature provides you with six to eight different strains of yeast that interact at different times. When you inoculate it is only one strain. Is it the more brains the better?

Which cultivar is your favorite to work with and why?

I think today probably Cabernet Franc. It is not only the mother of Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is also a varietal where if you are not very precise in your farming practices, or miss the window by a little bit, it can either be vegetal and green on one side, or overripe and boring on the other. When Cabernet Franc reaches its fullest potential, it gives a beautiful depth, complexity and length to the wine.

How do you see the future of wine production and what are the challenges and the opportunities?

Where do you see the global wine market in 2025?

Over the last 20 years, tremendous progress has been made in chemistry, biochemistry and winemaking. I see the next big push in the vineyards with a better understanding of the vine’s physiology and chemistry. We are now using tools that measure the sap flow of plants live in order to regulate water use and therefore, make better decisions. Such tools are more and more technologically advanced. As far as the future of the wine industry, China declared recently that they want to become the largest wine producer in the world within the next five years. Considering that they are already in fourth position, that shouldn’t be too hard. The real challenge is one of two things, either world consumption of wine continues to grow, imagine today in China, the average is a half a glass of wine per year. If it increases to one glass per person, there wouldn’t be enough wine to support the market. On the darker side, wine consumption in all of western countries from Europe has declined over the last 25 years due to people spending much less time at the table, and wine becoming more of a celebratory product, than a day to day consumption product.

Jean Hoefliger


@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions –

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