Born in 1966 in Beaune, the center of France’s Burgundy region, Laurent was the second son and third child of Françoise and Robert Drouhin, a man known around the world for his passionate devotion to the fine Burgundy wines produced by Maison Joseph Drouhin, the firm started by his grandfather in 1880. Laurent grew up in a house just across from the Drouhin offices both of which are built over kilometers of ancient cellars that belong to Drouhin where thousands of barrels of wine lie maturing.
Among his fond early memories are the intense but pleasant aromas of macerating must (the grape berries and juice that eventually ferment into wine). It was, he says, “the smell, texture, and slightly warm air” that appealed to him.
However, he did not intend to enter the family business. He was interested in international commerce. It was not until he was a student in Paris going out to restaurants with friends, as French students do, that he realized how proud he felt to see his family name on wine lists.
A graduate of Ecole Supérieure de Géstion (ESG) with a specialization in international commerce, Laurent joined Maison Joseph Drouhin in 1993 as sales manager responsible for Paris. “I wanted to see how difficult it is to sell wine,” he says, “even knowing how really good our wine is.”
In 1999 Laurent assumed responsibility for the United States and Caribbean markets. Then, in the summer of 2005, Laurent moved to the States for a three-year posting. His objective is to build sales in Drouhin’s number-one market. Part of his duties includes serving as the Drouhin ambassador, introducing Drouhin wines and educating the trade and general public.
Laurent has a deep connection to Burgundy that extends beyond the family and the business. Like each of his three siblings, he owns a part of the Drouhin estate (Domaine in French). Laurent’s vineyard is Les Procès, a Premier Cru (classified growth) parcel in Nuits-Saint-Georges that has belonged to him since 1996, which was his “first” vintage. Laurent gets a few cases of this rare red wine for the family, but because the production is so small and 70% of it goes to the U.K. and France, none is exported to the U.S.
With his outgoing charm and exuberant personality, Laurent is a natural ambassador for the Joseph Drouhin wines. To many people the wines of Burgundy are dauntingly complicated and complex, but to Laurent it is far simpler: “The more you know about wine, the closer you get to Burgundy, and the more you know about Burgundy, the closer you get to Maison Joseph Drouhin.” Within a short space of time, Laurent can convince the most nervous of neophytes that they “get” Burgundy.
Laurent, his wife Beatrice, and their two young children, Aurore, born in 1996, and Amaury, born in 2002, currently live in the suburbs of New York City. The children, Laurent notes, were born in stellar vintage years.