The Journal / Breath

Careers: change is in the air

We’re sitting down with four people who have followed the winds of change through their career at Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite.

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No one is immune to change, not least in the world of wine. While previous generations might have spent an entire career in the same department within the same company, today a shift in career – if not several – is more common.

As a result, the lines between company departments are no longer as hermetic as they used to be. We set out to meet the men and women who keep our vineyards, land, and wines thriving, and hear how their careers have evolved over time. With hands in the soil, palates inspired, or minds fixed on our facts and figures, they’ve changed and grown in their own individual ways toward their goals.

Nicolas Quillet, data analyst, returns to his roots

You’ll find Nicolas at Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite, behind (several) closed doors, in the IT department. It was here that he applied for a job in the 2000s, shortly after training as a data analyst. But it was 23 years before he would set foot in the office for good. Until then, his life was punctuated by regular visits and tastings.

In the 2000s, Nicolas found his first job as a programmer-analyst, a  «very fashionable [job] at the time, because it offered so many opportunities.”  He enjoyed it, but after several years, health problems prevented him from continuing.  At an impasse, he sought a new direction. Having grown up among the vines in the Médoc, he applied to harvest the grapes at Château Lafite Rothschild.  «Everyone knows someone who works, or whose parents work, in the Châteaux.»  He entered the Château through the back door, unaware of all the other doors it would open for him.

He got along with the team well and was offered a job, first in the vineyards, then in the winery, where he stayed for a year and a half. With his knowledge of English and Spanish, he was then able to take up the job of Visits and Tastings Manager. He guided several visits each day, and learned more about viticulture in the field and online.  «It was a joyful time, even though it was very intense,» he recalls.

Nicolas in his work as Data Analyst

Nicolas loved the work, but never forgot his roots. When, in 2023, the Human Resources Department offered him a training course to become a Data Analyst in viticulture, he jumped at the chance.  «I could have done it earlier, but there was no need; it was really a question of timing. I was happy to think that my studies and experience in IT would be put to good use.»

Today, he works on a business software package used across all areas of DBR Lafite and can see the impact of his work on the strategic decisions taken daily. So, was it a case of retraining, or returning to his roots for Nicolas?  «A bit of both», he replies,  «by returning to IT, I took on new responsibilities in new areas and decided to leave behind a certain level of comfort!»

The 90° turn of Nelly Raimondi, Production Manager

Nothing predestined Nelly to manage wine production on an estate covering 550 hectares, including 180 hectares of vines, in Aussières. Her story began in a different region: Burgundy, also renowned for its wines.

When she was younger, she was looking for a multi-skilled job that combined technical, manual, and interpersonal skills. So she became an optician. She quickly became the manager of one optical store, and then a second. But to enjoy more of a family life, which was too difficult with such a busy schedule, she put her career on hold.

At the same time, Nelly and her family moved to the Languedoc region of France. She soon became involved in the administration of several associations, which confirmed her desire to return to work. But she wouldn’t go back to being an optician, she decided; it wasn’t right for her anymore. 

She began looking for an administrative job, and a strange coincidence led her to cross paths with DBR Lafite.  «One morning, I went to a recruitment forum being held that day in Narbonne, where, at the Domaine d’Aussières stand, I saw a parent I’d seen an hour earlier at the school gates. He told me that there was an administrative job available! This forum usually takes place over 60 kilometres away, so I would have never gone otherwise!»

Nelly spoke to the team, and picked up a business card. She applied, and her CV was impressive. Enthusiastic and motivated, she started as an administrative assistant at Domaine d’Aussières.

Nelly Raimondi as Production Manager

From accounting, to human resources, suppliers, and partner relations, Nelly became the orchestra conductor for the day-to-day running of Domaine d’Aussières. Very independent and organised, she quickly took on more and more responsibility. Three years later, she was promoted to Production Assistant and worked alongside the line manager. Domaine d’Aussières is the only one of the Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite in France to have a large on-site production line, which means it can monitor everything from bottling to packaging and dispatching orders. At the beginning of 2023, Nelly became Production Manager. She remembers:  «Getting into administration was a real springboard. It enabled me to understand how the business worked, and see the day-to-day life of the teams.

Nelly Raimondi on the Domaine d’Aussières production line

The change in career may have diverged from her previous path, but when she delves into memory, a link emerges.  «My grandfather oversaw the drinks department of a supermarket in Burgundy. When I was little, he took me to the factory of one of his suppliers. I was completely amazed! And now, I’m the one who brings my children to the winery.»
The story has come full circle.

The world tour of Pierre-Antoine Richez, Deputy Technical Director

Pierre-Antoine Richez’s career path is difficult to summarise; there are many branches!

One summer, he set foot in the vineyards for the first time with the father of his best friend, who shared his passion. Intrigued, Pierre-Antoine started a Senior Technologist Certification and later an agricultural engineering degree. Food processing, livestock farming, plant nurseries… he tried out everything during his internships, which allowed him to confirm his initial desire: he wanted to work in wine,  «one of the few sectors that goes from the plant to the end product», he realised.

It was chance – or maybe fate – that brought him to DBR Lafite. The plan for his end-of-studies internship fell through, and he found a job advertised in China, at Domaine de Long Dai. He did not know the estate or a word of Mandarin, but he took the plunge.

Pierre-Antoine in plot 24 at Long Dai, summer 2021

«I stayed there for 9 months instead of 6. After a quick return to France to defend my thesis, I was asked at the beginning of 2020 to come back to China, when France was going into lockdown ».

Pierre-Antoine ended up staying on for two more years, as a vineyard technical assistant. He mainly worked on the segmentation of the vineyard and the installation of the  precision irrigation system.

As the end of his contract approached, Olivier Trégoat, Technical Director for all the estates (except Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Duhart-Milon), who had been following Pierre-Antoine’s career from the start, suggested that he should go to Viña Los Vascos in Chile. There, he discovered new wines and a new way of life, staying on for 3 months to oversee some work at the winery and broaden his experience.

In 2022, Pierre-Antoine returned to France for a new opportunity to assist the Operations Manager at Château L’Evangile.  «After 3 years abroad, I had to re-acclimate to French culture.» Soon after, he explored the Rieussec estate, where he discovered the processes involved in making white and sweet wines.

Looking back, he realises:  « I joined the different wineries as opportunities arose, and I made technical progress that I would not have been able to make elsewhere in just four years.» At this stage, Pierre-Antoine wants to settle down. At the beginning of 2023, he officially took up the position of Deputy Technical Manager and works with Domaine de Long Dai and Château L’Evangile, both of which he knows well; it’s a job that gives him a broader scope, which he enjoys.

Back in the winery in 2023: 6 years passed between his first internship at Long Dai and his position as Assistant Technical Manager.

Where did this tour of the wineries take him? He smiles and says:  « I went from being a player on a soccer team, to being a coach!»

Sylvie Parrot, Job-Explorer and Supply Manager

At the beginning of her career, Sylvie Parrot decided she preferred fixed-term contracts to permanent employment, allowing her greater flexibility. Becoming an accountant ensured she could find a job without being tied hand and foot to a company. After a vocational baccalaureate, a Senior Technologist Certification, and a preparatory diploma for accounting and financial studies, she entered the job market in 1997.

Over six years, she worked for several different firms. Although the world of wine had never intrigued her until then, this native of Castillon-la-Bataille had nonetheless rubbed shoulders with many wine producers. So when she got a temporary position in the accounts department of DBR Lafite, she jumped at the opportunity. The job lasted six months, but as soon as it was over she was offered a new position: sales assistant for the Primeurs. So she stepped out of her comfort zone and learned on the job. 

Primeurs complete, Sylvie was asked to stay on at DBR Lafite, but declined.  « Two months later, the team offered me a different job, as an IT assistant. Once again, I requested a limited period, and came back on a fixed-term contract.» Sylvie found her place perfectly in this new department.

In 2007, she returned to her first love when she joined a newly created department, whose aim was to manage the performance of the wineries: management control. This time, a fixed-term contract was not an option. And so Sylvie broke her rule. Four years after her debut at DBR Lafite, she finally accepted a permanent contract. She would remain there until 2014, when she received an offer to join the brand-new operations department. She trained to take charge of sales forecasts, and worked in tandem on planning, production, and stock control.

Sylvie in her role as Information Systems Coordinator. In 2024, it’s time to manage stocks and orders for Domaine William Fèvre, which has recently joined Domaines Barons de Rothschild.

In 2023, she became Purchasing Manager and Information System Coordinator. Managing a team of two people, working on the acquisition of the William Fèvre estate, collaborating with the accounting department to acquire stock and place purchase orders; everything she does now makes great use of her extensive experience working in different teams.

 «Looking at my career path, you might call it ‘retraining’, but I see it as a logical progression,» she says.  «I define myself as a Swiss Army knife, which allows me to evolve both humanly and professionally. And I’ve always kept the discipline that I got from accounting, my first profession.»

If Sylvie has now spent 20 years at DBR Lafite, she can pride herself on having kept her initial promise to keep moving: it may have been 20 years at once company, but in six different professions!

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