What struck me when I met Armand Heitz was the conviction with which he highlighted nature and not his know-how. The one with which he defended a philosophy of "non-action", in his construction of what has all the traits of a luxury brand.
A luxury brand?
Luxury brands highlight the nobility of their materials, the accuracy of their know-how and the very special bond they have with those who wear them.
They are also rooted in the long time, their origins often going back several generations, and posed as always current, by collaborating with creators and artists of today.
To communicate clearly on all these dimensions (history vs current events, material vs know-how vs customer relationship), they now highlight the craftsmen who make them.
Because they are the best guarantee of the authenticity of the product, giving it all the strength of its work and its history (Hermès is a good example).
Armand Heitz, consciously or not, proceeds differently.
It is not his know-how that he puts forward but his material: nature. And if he communicates about his work, it is to say how much effort he makes to “leave nature ever more quietly” with this material.
Transfiguration of the winegrower's approach
First put aside the “fight against” and test a “work for”.
The winegrower’s approach then comes down to “listening more to do better”.
In other words, instead of producing more, transforming his wine more to achieve the shifting ideal of consumer taste, Armand Heitz concentrates all his energy on building a coherent ecosystem, within which nature can fully express itself.
This paradigm shift places the perfection of nature at the center and we prefer to identify the work of man with that of a shepherd, who watches over the safety of his animals, rather than that of an agent of manufacture.
In doing so Armand Heitz restores its letters of nobility to agriculture and gives it a spiritual richness.
And by claiming this spiritual wealth, it offers him both: a direction, a roadmap, a selling point.
A coherent ecosystem
Starting with the diversification of the activity: 20ha of vines in Burgundy (from Beaune to Chassagne-Montrachet), 8ha in Beaujolais; 200 ha in polyculture/breeding (200 animals) and 60 ares in permaculture market gardening.
Culturally, this is a demonstration of what an "agriculture of non-action" can produce. The efforts of Armand and his teams focus on the creation of a complete ecosystem, which would maintain itself and produce its fruits while enriching its environment.
From a technical point of view, the experience of one of the poles makes it possible to gain experience on the other.
Economically, if one of the poles were to be in difficulty, the other two would support it.
As with culture, Armand's conception of management is that of an ecosystem where everyone has the space to be what they are.
Positions are thus shaped by the profiles of the collaborators, who bring what they are to the project and make it evolve.
In addition, the technical and commercial parts are internalized. Based on the principle that to implement a vision or to transmit it, you have to understand it, and to understand it, you have to live it.
An internal newsletter ensures the transmission to all of developments in the company and the products are offered at a reduced rate to employees.
From a commercial point of view, the production of high-quality vegetables and meat opened up starred restaurants for him, tables that were then interested in his wine And vice versa.
And Armand Heitz's vision contributed the quality of the products he offers: a sommelier will highlight the philosophy of the winemaker, and a chef will prefer to craft exceptional products.
The last point I will raise is that reception is one of the main investment items: with the creation of a point of sale in Pommard and the renovation of a building, to welcome visitors and share more about the estate and its philosophy.
The promise of wine, vegetables and meat
Armand Heitz seems to have understood three things:
1- Great ideas win, not good advertisements
2- A great idea does not exist without conviction
3- A great idea evolves in a coherent universe, then sustains itself and expands as it inspires.
Armand Heitz's vision is for his brand to simply bear witness to a space, to a healthy farming experience. Space in which we are invited to be part of, drinking our wine or eating our vegetables and meat.
As mentioned, Armand's claim to the spiritual richness of agriculture therefore implies a transformation of his practice, of his product, and ultimately of our mode of consumption.
Because the attitude that we will have vis-à-vis his wine cannot be neutral: we know that each time we open a particular bottle, produced with this requirement, in this state of mind.
We will therefore reserve it for special moments, or better, we too will choose to include it in a coherent daily life.
Ultimately, Armand's wish seems to be that more and more producers can adopt this agriculture and set up a coherent ecosystem.
Ultimately, the consequence would then be the gradual disappearance of the brand, in favor of the real star of this whole story: nature.
And I personally find this remarkable vision.
Article originally published on devenirvigneron, March 6, 2022.