At age seven, Laurent Gruet’s earliest memories of wine were of being alongside his father, Gilbert Gruet, at Gruet et Fils winery in Bethon, France. He could be found cleaning tanks, pumping wines and helping on the bottling line. Age seven was also the first year he recalls his family letting him taste wine.
Years of harvest work continued. Laurent made his first champagne in 1981, a Blanc de Blancs at Gruet et Fils. Mentored primarily by his father, with supplemental studies at Lycee Viticole de la Champagne in Avize, France, Laurent was also impressed by winemaker Clement Novack, who worked with the family.
In 1983, in pursuit of expansion and affordable vineyards, Gilbert Gruet toured the U.S., set up a vineyard and moved the family to a town called Engle, New Mexico in 1983. Laurent and his sister Nathalie would take the lead of what soon became the American endeavor, Gruet Winery. The first official wine release from the Albuquerque-based winery was in 1989.
Like his father, quality is Laurent’s top priority and it underscores his winemaking passion today. In 2011 Wine Spectator named his Gruet NV Blanc de Noirs a Top 100 wine of the world, a crowning jewel of acclaim for any winemaker and nearly unprecedented for a sparkling wine under $20.
His favorite sparkling wine to make is the Gruet Grande Reserve, a Blanc de Blancs that is as true to Old World champagne as possible in America: rich, complex and long-finishing. It is barrel-fermented like the old style, and some of the best champagne houses still use this method today. The style reminds Laurent of his childhood.
Bubbles aren’t Laurent’s only specialty; his favorite still wine to make is Pinot Noir. “I have always called this variety the king of the grapes,” he says. “Still Pinot Noir is the most sophisticated wine and very versatile with food. It is my favorite wine to drink, with a very feminine and delicate character.”
With more than 30 years as a resident of New Mexico, Laurent tirelessly supports local and regional events through the winery, such as Vintage Albuquerque and Santa Fe Wine and Chile, benefiting the New Mexico Youth Symphony Orchestra. When he’s not making wine, you’ll find him playing tennis, skiing and cooking.