Meet the maker | Anita Kuhnel

Vinomofo
By Vinomofo
24 days ago
6 min read

Originally from Bressane, Anita began working in Beaujolais in 1996. Formally a professional cyclist, she brought that same energy and enthusiasm to her work with the vines and in 2016 established her eponymous operation, focusing on high quality terroir in Moulin à Vent, Morgon, Chénas, Fleurie, Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages. And that quality terroir carries through in her considered, minimal intervention winemaking; you’ll frequently see her wines scored in the upper 90s by critics in-the-know. Case in point - the 2021 & 2022 vintages of her Moulin-à-Vent Cœur de Vigneronne received a fabled, perfect 100pt score from James Suckling.

"The fabulous thing is to shape from the vine to the wine what we're going to 'offer' to our customers! It's magical!”

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Did you always want to be a winemaker? “No, when I was young I devoted myself 100% to cycling.”

When I first fell in love with wine: “It was when I arrived in Beaujolais that I discovered the profession as a worker, but the real passion and investment really began when I bought my first vines. There was an incredible attachment to the vineyard. Then I met Guy, who passed on to me his exacting standards for wine. He also made me aware of the incredible potential of our vineyard. Since then, my passion has gone way beyond my job. The fabulous thing is to shape from the vine to the wine what we're going to 'offer' to our customers! It's magical!”

The reason I chose to make wine here: “It was by chance and the magic of meeting people. But I did choose to take over the business I was working for. I wasn't expecting so many difficulties and so many rewards! You really have to work hard to achieve these results. You get used to it.”

Everything was falling apart. On the other hand, I had my vines, my customers, I surrounded myself with people who believed in the project and then everything came together.

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What winemaking means to me: “There's something mysterious about winegrowing. Starting with the plots, treading these granite soils.... you wonder how vines can grow here... it's so arid. It's going to draw from far and wide what it's going to offer us. That's why we have to do everything we can for them. I have vines that are a hundred years old.... that have been handed down through 5 generations. You can't get that anywhere else!”

My biggest wins & setbacks: “My proudest achievements are winning the World Championship with the French cycling team in Slovenia in 1996. It was the culmination of a goal I'd had in mind for 2-3 years. The road was full of pitfalls, but through sheer effort and pugnacity I got there. Wearing the jersey of the French national team and representing my country is a thrill I'll never forget. The second is the fulfilment that my life offers me in vineyards and wine. Grapes and wine are the culmination of a lot of hard work!  It's a source of overall satisfaction, pleasing those who taste my wines and who are happy! You pass on happiness, you bring people together around a glass, a table, a counter, there's an exchange of ideas. That's a great satisfaction that encourages me to do even better! 

My biggest setback was when I first set up in 2015. Nobody believed in me here. Some guys gave me lousy advice, my bank let me down and there was a big hailstorm in 2016 .... I was desperate. Everything was falling apart. On the other hand, I had my vines, my customers, I surrounded myself with people who believed in the project and then everything came together. Guy was THE support, the key person by my side. If you overcome these trials, you're bulletproof!”

You mustn't be the heiress of a particular way of doing things, you have to make your own wine that goes beyond your region. People have to come to you for you!

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Who I look up to in the wine industry: “The vine and wine making process... the development of the vine is quite fascinating. When you see all the elements that come into play, it's unimaginable. Vines are resilient! It's the same during the winemaking process. Billions of yeasts and bacteria… they can take over at any moment, making the wine incredible or faulty. That's why you have to be hyper-vigilant. No stage should be neglected. When you get to the end of the winemaking process, when it's at its most delicate, you mustn't forget that you've just spent a year working in your vines, so you have no right to make mistakes! You also need to be surrounded by people you can trust and not be afraid of outside opinions, which can sometimes be painful.”

The biggest barrier for women entering the wine industry: “It's a tough world! I'd tell a woman to believe in her project like hell, to stand up to all the detractors with proof. You need a project that you really want to achieve. It's your own personality that comes through in what you do.  So you have to work and work some more. When the results are there, there can be no more discussion! You have to be fulfilled. You mustn't be the heiress of a particular way of doing things, you have to make your own wine that goes beyond your region. People have to come to you for you! I'm from Bresse, I do what I want here, it's total freedom and that's what I want to achieve!”

What I would like to see happen next for women in the wine industry: “I'd like to see more and more women winemakers! They have a unique approach and sensibility. Their determination is essential in this profession. I think that women need to make their work easier with the right tools, and not be afraid to invest in equipment. Labour has become scarce, and you also have to think about the physicality of the work."

Advice I would give to women wanting to enter the wine industry: “Be well surrounded! That's crucial. Have someone at your side who listens to you, who hears your anxieties, who answers your questions without influencing you too much. I'm lucky enough to have at my side a partner who knows the business like no-one else and who hears everything every day."

My wine of choice to relax on a Friday: “A dry Riesling from Alsace! I've got a few in my cellar from producer friends and it's a real treat. When you've done a great job or got some good news you've been waiting for, it's just too good!”

My current music jam: “I love Chi Mai and the music of Rondo Veneziano. They're not the music of the moment  but they're the ones I can't get enough of.”


You can check out our latest wines landed from Domaine Anita here.

We're committed to ALWAYS having wines available that are made by women. In an industry that’s still dominated by men, we believe in celebrating the incredible work women are doing. Here’s to our Women in Wine!

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