Charles Ballot, owner of the French estate Ballot – Millot, gave this interview to Dia1 during his first visit to Peru. The meeting point was Lima Wine, a Premium Brands cava that has been in operation for 18 years, and with which Ballot has been working since 2018.

—Their family business began in the 17th century.

Yes, my family bought the first land in 1680 and we have been making wine ever since. We bought some vineyards and different pieces of land. I am the seventeenth generation to make wine.

—Is it difficult to carry so much history on your shoulders?

Not really because I was born in the winery. It’s been a passion for a long time, probably since I was five years old. I started working very early. I worked in other countries, in the United States (California) and New Zealand. I lived abroad for a year and a half when my father decided to stop working and give me management of the farm. It was difficult for him to work with his father, and that is why he told me, “if you want to return, you take the farm and do what you want.” He was 21 years old and now I am 44. He also said that I should not worry about what might happen, neither about money nor about the business, he encouraged me to do my job and make good wine.

—How do you see the demand before and after the pandemic?

Just before the pandemic the market was very good. When the pandemic arrived, it was difficult to know what was going to happen, because everything stopped. All the restaurants closed and we didn’t know how long it would take (to get back to normal). But in reality, all the customers continued buying wine. Private customers continued drinking, but at home. And the most problematic thing today is the amount of wine we produce because we produce less and less. We had two very good harvests in 2022 and 2023. But 2021 was catastrophic, we lost 80% of production. And now, the overall production of Burgundy grapes is low because the temperature is completely different. We have less water.

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-Climate change?

Yes. So, I can’t say that the situation is better, but now our crops are of better quality, although smaller in quantity. In quantity, we probably lose between 40% and 50% of the harvest compared to what we produced before the pandemic. The vineyards are a little sick because we change, we adapt the techniques and the work on the wine. It is more problematic, many customers want to buy more and more wine, but production is lower.

—Do you foresee this situation changing?

We will not produce more wine than we do now, but the quality is going up and we work differently. We work more with biological techniques, we replant trees in the vineyards and we have a better balance with the environment. We are very close to nature.

—How many bottles do you produce per year?

A good year is about 50,000 bottles. In 2021 there were 10,000 bottles. And in 2022 there were 50,000 and a little more because we bought Bogoña grapes for Chardonnay.

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—How much did you invest in your business in 2023?

In 2023 we built a new warehouse for €400,000 (approximately US$437 thousand). We changed all the tanks, the entire floor of the warehouses, the entire heating system and cold tanks. We also changed the bottling machine, which cost €120,000 (approximately US$131,000). This machine adds an electronic device behind the label for traceability. This technology does not use a QR code, but you can scan the label with a phone and read the farm history and see where all the bottles we distribute are. With this technology we also know which was the first purchase of each importer.

—Did they build a new winery or remodel the old one?

We kept the old winery but changed the entire interior. We have to buy many things every year. Barrels, bottles, everything.

—When did the importation to Lima begin?

The first time we brought the product to Lima was in 2018.

—How much was this first import?

It was a small sale, probably €15,000 (approximately US$16,000). We try to understand the market a little, because it is a new one for us. We want to progress in Peru, it is a very good market. The United States and the United Kingdom are historic markets for the Burgundy grape, and for us too. But, it is very important to be in Brazil and Peru. Peru is a new market with a very interesting restaurant offering such as Central or Mil in Cusco. It’s fantastic. You also have Astrid & Gastón and Asian food. It is a wonderful experience. For me it was a dream to come to Peru.

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—In Peru, the wines from your estate are in the ‘fine dining’ sector. Do you expect this line of business to grow?

It is very positive for us to be in good restaurants. In fact, I only work with people I like. When it’s too complicated, you can’t say what you want or feel. Glenn Wong (Premium Brands CEO) came to the farm two years ago with a friend of mine. There was chemistry and we started working together.

—How much are you importing to Peru currently?

Approximately 400 bottles valued between €10,000 and €15,000 (between US$10 thousand and US$16 thousand, approximately). It depends on the year and the operation.

—How much do you think the business will grow in 2024?

It depends on the customers, but if we can drive business growth four or five times, that would be very good.

—What is the best bottle sold in our country?

The Meursault Perrier. We have three ‘Primer Cru’ (classification of wines from the Bordeaux region – France). As I said, Meursault Perrier, but also Charmes and Genevrieres.

The data

At Lima Wine you can find bottles between US$20 and US$50,000.

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