At the head of the family-owned A.R. Lenoble house since 1993, Anne Malassagne has managed to impose herself in a man’s world. Empowered by her experience, she has founded an organization, ‘La Transmission-Femmes en Champagne,’ in order to promote diversity in the Champagne region and business.
In 1993, when her father asked her to help him turn things around for the family business, which had been hard-hit by the recession, Anne Malassagne, then 28, quit her job as an international comptroller for a subsidiary of L’Oréal and embarked on the adventure.
But after a sudden onset of illness, her father retired from the company from one day to the next, leaving the young woman, who had no professional training in the world of wine, to run the Lenoble champagne house.
“When it comes to wine, all of my training is empirical. My father’s unexpected departure prevented me from getting traditional training in wine-growing and making,” the mother of two recounts.
“Empowered by firmly rooted beliefs, I drew on the wealth of discussions I had had with my father and was able to count on a few people who mentored me. I have also had a very wide-ranging and constructive collaboration with my brother, whose background is more technical.”
As a woman – and a young and inexperienced one at that – Anne Malassagne had to demonstrate both courage and dogged tenacity to make a name for herself in the male-dominated world of champagne.
“I had to fight for many years, work tirelessly and stay humble in order to acquire the necessary knowledge and experience that gradually allowed me to acquire my legitimacy,” she reminisces
After 15 years of effort, she has established her reputation. Enjoyed both in France and internationally, the house exports about half of its production.
- Promoting diversity –
Inspired by her experience, she decided to found a women’s collective called “La Transmission-Femmes en Champagne,” which has brought nine women in positions of authority together. The goal is both to promote diversity and to share their experience during technical training sessions. It’s a chance for these nine women who run champagne houses and domains to debate their points of view on key contemporary issues, such as environmental protection, which is particularly dear to Anne Malassagne’s heart.
“After the harsh winters of the 1950s, the main issue for my parents’ generation was productivity,” she explains. “For my brother and I, who arrived in the midst of the crisis in the 90s, we focused on maturity, by lowering productivity and establishing a ‘virtuous circle’ of enriching the soil.” The approach was officially certified when the house received the “High Environmental Value” label back in 2012. The main issue she is currently dealing with is soil acidity. Fortunately, it’s an evolving problem that this forward-thinking woman has been anticipating for over a decade, leading her to continue to work both the soil and the vines in the most natural way possible.
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