Anne Malassagne, a life of balance in Champagne.
Anne Malassagne CEO of AR Lenoble is the perfect illustration of how a woman’s place in the wine business has and continues to change. Here Anne shares how she maintains a healthy and balanced approach to wellness in both her professional and personal life.
Anne, could you introduce yourself and your role in the wine industry please? I was born in 1965 in Reims. I attended the Université Paris-Dauphine and worked as an international auditor for L’Oréal before being appointed International Head of Finance for Helena Rubinstein prior to taking over the family business in 1993. Although I find myself in Champagne almost every day, I live in Paris with my two children, Arthur (13 years old) and Marie (11).
AR Lenoble is one of the rare houses in Champagne that is still 100% family-owned and still 100% independent. AR Lenoble was founded by my great-grandfather Armand-Raphael Graser in 1920 and today, my brother Antoine and I are the fourth generation to manage the affairs of house. Next year in 2020 we will celebrate the one hundredth year anniversary of Champagne AR Lenoble – and we have never had one shareholder or outside investor involved in the business!
What brought you to the business and how long have you worked here? In 1993, at a time when most of the family-owned houses in Champagne were being swallowed up by large corporations and the economic context in Champagne was challenging to say the least, my father Jean-Marie Malassagne considering selling the house. I couldn’t let that happen and so I decided to leave my career as a financial director at L’Oréal in Paris in order to take over AR Lenoble from my father. I was only 28 years old at the time! My brother Antoine joined the house in 1996 (his very first vintage!) after completing advanced studies as a chemical engineer.
What do you love most about the business? I enjoy reminding people that in order to make the very best wines from Champagne, you have to start with the healthiest grapes.
When I took over AR Lenoble in 1993, I knew that lots of changes needed to be made, starting with our viticulture. Antoine and I immediately committed ourselves to a path of sustainable agriculture as part of a longstanding sustainable development philosophy. We are fortunate enough to own 18 hecatres of vineyards (10 hectares of chardonnay in the Grand Cru village of Chouilly, 6 hectares of pinot noir in the Premier Cru village of Bisseuil, and 2 hectares of meunier in Damery in the Marne Valley), all of which were accredited with the the highest level of Haute Valeur Environnementale certification in 2012. We believe in zero use of chemical fertiliser and zero use of weed-killer. We employ the most drastic limits on the use of phytosanitary inputs to control mildew and powdery mildew since my brother and I do not believe in using copper sulphite. Antoine and I pay particular attention to biodiversity in the vineyard.
The best wines of Champagne are not about « brands » or marketing gimmicks. The best wines from the Champagne region are those made by producers who put a focus on sustainability, ethics, convictions and commitment.
What does the concept of Wellness mean to you? Wellness for me is about balance in life. It’s about feeling good in your head as well as in your body. It is also about creating a sense of harmony between one’s personal life and one’s professional life.
How many times do you drink each week and do you limit yourself to a certain quantity of alcohol? Consuming alcohol can add to the conviviality of a moment shared with friends and family. With the exception of my professional obligations, and there I made the decision to drastically limit my consumption many years ago, I consume alcohol 1 to 2 times a week – and I never more than 2 glasses on each occasion.
Has your attitude changed to drinking and wellness over the years? I have never been a heavy drinker and I started reducing my consumption even more when I became pregnant at age 40. Since then, I drink less but when I do drink, I am able to appreciate the pleasure of the complete sensorial experience even more.
Are there foods you consciously include in your diet? If so what and why? Are there foods you avoid? If so what and why? Do you take any supplements? Which ones? My parents taught me how to have a healthy lifestyle. As a child, I was taught about the importance of sports, from ballet to swimming to horseback riding. My mother, even though she worked a lot, made time to prepare healthy and balanced meals at home. It is therefore very natural that I continued to embrace both sports and healthy eating as an adult, even more so since these habits are simple and full of common sense.
On a personal note, I never liked sweets, pastries, sausages or red meat, and I almost never consume any of these today.
Both my professional activity and the education of my young children requires energy and mental strength that I obtain from sports and a healthy and balanced diet based mainly on vegetables, oilseeds and dried fruits. I eat white meat and fish a couple of times a week.
This varied and balanced diet does not require the taking of food supplements. On the other hand, I have unlimited consumption of fresh herbs and spices, including turmeric for both the pleasures of the flavors and their health benefits.
Do you exercise? I practice barre au sol and swim twice a week, and even more so on vacation. This has been my fitness plan for the last 45 years!
Does that fact you are a woman help, or is it a hindrance in this business or is it now irrelevant? Things were very different when I took over the business from my father in 1993. Back then, if women were running Champagne houses it was usually not their choice – they were forced to do it through circumstances. The first 10 years were really tough. While my job is a lot easier now, I know that I have had to prove myself every step of the way. I asked my brother Antoine to join me in the business in 1996. When we turned up to meetings together, most clients thought I was his assistant or wife, and at tastings people thought I was there just to open the bottles.
But things are moving in a positive direction. Women are now working together to support each other.
Margareth Henriquez of Krug and I co-founded LA TRANSMISSION three years ago. We are team of 9 women who run the champagne houses of today. Our aim was simple: to bring together a group of female decision makers from the Champagne region with shared values and a passion for collectively promoting the product to a new generation of drinkers. While the size of our respective houses wasn’t important, all members had to be modern in their approach and outward-looking in their thinking. The great thing about LA TRANSMISSION is that it’s not driven by ego – we’re all working together for the better of the group, and our brands stay in the background. We never compare figures when we get together; it’s all about sharing our experiences and collectively promoting Champagne in a more modern way to a younger audience to make it more accessible and less intimidating.
How to you cope with wellness pressures when you are travel, business and pleasure? It is always a question of making wellness your priority. If you take care of your mind and body, you are able to be more successful in business – and you are able to have a more enjoyable personal life.
If you had just one or two top tips for women in wine wanting to stay well what would they be? Drink less to allow yourself to drink only the best. Make sure to pay attention to your sleep patterns and aim for a minimum of 7 to 8 hours per night. Sleep makes you beautiful and energetic.
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