UHart Alumni Makes His Mark in the Wine World
From the vineyard to the cellars, Jean-Louis Chave ’90 watches over one of the world’s most legendary winemaking operations. This UHart alum is making a mark.
“The documented family history that we have dates back to 1481,” proudly reports Jean-Louis Chave ’90, who runs a Hermitage wine vineyard that produces some of the world’s finest and most sought-after reds and whites. “There is so much tradition here,” he says from his home in the town of Mauves, in southern France. “When you live with that kind of tradition your entire life, you don’t always appreciate it. So it’s good to leave, to go away for a while, and that’s how you start to realize just what you had back home.”
With that in mind, Chave asked his father if he could study business instead of wine, and his father agreed. It turned out to be one of the best decisions he could make. First, he studied at a university in France with which the University of Hartford had a credit-transfer agreement, and then he came to the UHart campus for his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After that, Chave went to the University of California, Davis, specifically to study winemaking. He made that choice because, by then, he fully realized the importance of the heritage he had back home. He also realized how the wine business had changed in recent years, what with advances in business finance, logistics, and communications—advancements that would help further fortify and enhance the family tradition.
Chave oversees several dozen employees at the vineyard in the Tournon countryside. “My father is retired now, so I take care of everything, from the vineyard to the cellars to the office,” he says. “The wine business is about a way of life. It’s a drink that tells you where it comes from. It leads to opportunities to meet amazing people.” With two young teenagers of his own, Chave still thinks a lot about heritage. Like his own father, he will give his children the freedom to make their own choices—but he also does hope that they’ll decide to go into the family business. “It’s more than a heritage,” he admits. “It’s a way of life. It’s a passion.”