Is winemaker a pejorative?

At least in some circles? I am far enough from the industry to really not know the answer. It’s something I started wondering after last year’s webex with Christophe Baron and Elizabeth Bourcier of Cayuse, when Christophe said something like - and I paraphrase with imperfect memory - that at one time believe it or not he was going to be a winemaker. From context I think he was referring to traveling consultants like Rolland/Cambie etc. I think he prefers the term vigneron. So question, especially to those ITB, if I refer to the folks whose wines I adore as “winemakers” am I unintentionally setting their teeth on edge or committing a faux pas?

If it helps, I owned a winery and was the winemaker.
I preferred and always introduced myself as winemaker. And was proud of it.
Best, Jim


If I am not mistaken, doesn’t “vigneron” refer to one who not only makes the wine but who also grows their grapes? And, thus, a “winemaker” would be one who makes the wine(s) from someone else’s grapes? If so, then “winemaker” wouldn’t seem pejorative at all

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Not at all pejorative unless someone decides to use it in a way that makes it so.

Easy to do with any profession if you phrase it properly/use a derisive tone.

I would never think of it as pejorative, as there is a high level of skill and insight necessary to make wine. Whether one farms the vineyard that produces the grapes is a different discussion about a different set of skills.


Thread drift. Does having a wine brand without the bricks and mortar of a production facility constitute owning a winery?

I suspect some of the salt of the earth folks in the US who grow grapes might find someone calling them a vigneron to be amusing. Or confusing. But I could be wrong in that.

This . . .

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There are certainly those who prefer to highlight their viticultural work more than the winemaking itself, and maybe Christophe preferring to use the term vigneron goes to that effect. I don’t think preferring to be referred to by one term, inherently demeans another. It just means that person has a preference for one term over another. There are plenty who are proud to refer to themselves as winemakers. As David noted, anything can sound positive or derisive depending on the tone and context used.

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Sounds to me like the guy was being a snobby asshat. He’s using the term as a pejorative to proclaim himself better than most. There’s plenty of room for philosophical and cultural perspectives without being like that guy.

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From what I’ve heard from him, I think he’d agree most of the magic happens in the vineyard. I think that from the work they put into it.

Would that be a “producer”? Should this include celebrity labels like Snoop Dog? Not ITB so I actually don’t know.

I didn’t sense any smugness or sense of superiority in his words. He is French. More than anything I got his unbridled enthusiasm and love for what he does. As far as I am concerned, count me a huge fan for his wine.

Vigneron is a a winemaker. Viticulteur farms the vines. Sometimes the second term also implies the first. The owner is the proprietaire. Anyone who makes wine from someone else’s grapes may be referred to as a negociant, which can be a pejorative, though, properly that term should be reserved for someone who buys finished wine and bottles it under his or her label.


I think Christophe’s use of “vigneron” vs. “winemaker” says more about his knowledge of English than whether “winemaker” is pejorative in English. It isn’t.

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I could be wrong, but I think he just meant “flying winemaker”, which is not necessarily the same as a consultant. My understanding of the term is someone who travels around the world, making wine for one estate, then moving onto another one, perhaps in another country, before moving on again, etc etc.

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I think you are probably correct.

I also had Christophe make this distinction to me during a visit at Cayuse, but never heard it as a pejorative. He is a very particular person and I believe he preferred to be called a vigneron to establish that he was working and making decisions in the vineyard, as well as the cellar (it seemed like he also lived on site). He is also quick to point out his displeasure with the AVA title of “The Rocks” since he feels “The Stones” is more accurate. I never found any of this snobby, just particular and decidedly French haha. On the contrary he was very generous that day, with his wine, time and compliments for other wineries.

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But “vigneron” doesn’t make this distinction. It is just French for winemaker, although, as I said, it frequently implies one who works as both a grower and a winemaker. There is a term “maitre de chai,” which might translate as cellar-master, that can also be used for winemaker. I really do not see what this person might have meant, except to the extent that his mistook the term “winemaker” for oenologue, thus referring to people like Rolland and Cambie, though I assume the usual English for that is oenologist.

As you say it frequently implies someone who works the vineyard as well, I think he sees it as a vigneron is a winemaker as well, but not all winemakers are vignerons.

I don’t think vigneron really translates to winemaker, any more than terroir does to land.


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