The obsessive Madiran producer on the rocky road to success
It’s not easy being Alain Brumont. Getting by on five hours sleep a night, for one thing – but that’s all this restless, hyperactive obsessive claims he needs.
Restless in the small hours a few years ago, he ventured out to chase a herd of marauding deer out of his young vines and across the fields alone in his 4×4, finding himself soon afterwards in the bottom of a ditch with eight broken ribs. ‘If I hadn’t had my mobile phone…’
Frosty relations with his own no-less-forceful father, Alban Brumont, can’t have been comfortable; nor can two broken marriages. ‘I’m not proud of having been married three times,’ he says. ‘I would prefer to have married just once.’ I recall talking to his second wife, Catherine, who told me Alain lived on ‘Planet Wine, not Planet Earth’. It was, she said, sometimes ‘difficult for terrestrial relationships’.
He admits he is ‘excessive in everything – every time I do something, I have to do it to the limit’. (He was a very successful downhill skier in his 20s – but made himself stop because he realised he was beginning to lose touch with the limits.)
He’s flirted with financial catastrophe; he’s had a long series of battles with France’s wine authorities; the family house at Bouscassé burned down in 1987; he’s seen an employee killed and another die of a heart attack.
But despite it all, he’s still enthusiastic, energetic, planning for the future – and producing, from 300 hectares of vineyards, what are, for me, France’s most undervalued fine wines.
Few wine producers anywhere in the world dominate their region like Brumont does Madiran. It’s an astonishing story for a man whose father insisted he terminate his education at 16 to replace an injured farm employee, and whose only formal wine training was a three-week tasting course he took in his 30s.