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Harvesting Four Decades of Memories

Posted on 09/25/2017 by Jean Sexton

It is increasingly rare to spend four decades in the same business, but when it comes to winemaking, Bernard Delille is outstanding in his field—literally and figuratively!

Although Bernard plans to retire in July 2018, his legacy of handcrafting fine wines will continue under the direction of Biltmore winemaker Sharon Fenchak. Here are some exciting highlights from Bernard's career:

Bernard Delille in Biltmore's vineyard

Bernard talks to guests in the estate vineyard

A memorable milestone

The year 2017 represented a special milestone for Bernard as he celebrated his 40th harvest in the wine industry. A native of France, Bernard joined the Biltmore Wine Company as assistant winemaker in 1986, rising to the position of winemaker in 1991. His background included a master’s degree in Microbiology and Science of the Vines from the Faculty of Sciences in Lyon, France, and a French Winemaker Diploma from the Faculty of Dijon in Burgundy, France. Prior to Biltmore, Bernard was a winemaker in the Pyrenees Atlantiques region.

Bernard Delille in the Barrel Room at Biltmore's Winery

Bernard in the Barrel Room, ca. 2008

“When I first arrived at Biltmore, I thought the estate was breathtaking,” said Bernard, “and I was very excited in the sense that there was no real history of growing and making wine with vinifera grapes in North Carolina—no rigid and dated rules like in France—plus the opportunity to experiment and to play with grapes from different origins.”

Biltmore winemaker Bernard Delille with a glass of wine

Bernard at a wine release event at the Winery

Harvest of memories

For the past 32 years, Bernard has played an integral role in the production of Biltmore Wines—not just as winemaker, but also as an expert in growing and harvesting grapes here in Western North Carolina and with our distinguished west coast partner vineyards.

"Harvest for us winemakers is the most exciting time of the year, and also the most stressful," Bernard said. "You try to deal with Mother Nature, which is not always very nice and can spoil the hard work of the vineyard crew for an entire year, but you learn to deal with it. Winemaking has for me been the best school of patience and humility."

Biltmore winemakers Bernard Delille and Sharon Fenchak crafting wine
Biltmore winemakers Bernard Delille and Sharon Fenchak

Today’s philosophy (and favorites)
Together with winemaker Sharon Fenchak, Bernard has been committed to handcrafting Biltmore Wines with the philosophy of keeping each one true to varietal character and consistent from vintage to vintage. Bernard is especially fond of sparkling wines and enjoyed crafting them according to the traditional méthode champenoise, making Biltmore's Winery one of very few that produce both still and sparkling wines.

“Sparkling wines aren’t just for celebrations–they’re surprisingly food-friendly as well,” said Bernard. 

Though his favorite varietal is Sauvignon Blanc, when asked to name his favorite Biltmore Wine, Bernard always tells us, “The one I’m drinking right now!"

Featured blog image: Bernard Delille harvesting grapes in Biltmore's vineyard

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