Retour en haut de la page
< Back to news

Jean-Paul Gomes, site manager at Tonnellerie Nadalié, interviewed by Stéphane Ebel

21 September 2023

Jean-Paul Gomes is someone with a quiet strength. He is one of those people who prefer to remain in the shadows rather than be in the limelight. So, when it comes to talking about himself, it is not easy for him. Here we are meeting a man who is passionate and curious in nature, in love with wood and his craft.


Look up Ludon-Medoc on the Internet and you might find “a town in south-western France known for its wine production, its horse breeding and its cooperage with its age-old know-how”. It was here that Jean-Paul landed in 1989 as a temporary worker at Tonnellerie Nadalié. And nothing could have predestined him for this career. After training as an assistant accountant, he left for Africa to do his military service. “After the army, I looked for work in my field. The problem was that even back then, you needed experience and I didn’t have much”. Jean-Paul turned to temporary work and joined Tonnellerie Nadalié. “I took what I could get”. It turned out to be the right move!


A line of work that’s not entirely unfamiliar.

“My grandfather was a cooper and boilermaker, so I knew a bit about the business”. Jean-Paul began working with Stéphane Nadalié. “He and I hit it off straight away. In the beginning, it was just the story of one man then it turned into a story of friendship. Tenacious, curious and eager to learn, the aspiring young cooper decided to train himself in the craft. He took a CAP (vocational training certificate) as an independent candidate, followed by a BTS (a higher vocational training qualification) under the VAE (validation of acquired experience) scheme. Going “back to school” wasn’t easy. “Getting my books out again after a day’s work meant a few late nights,” he says. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way!

At Nadalié, the young man from Bordeaux learnt his trade on a one-pass sawing machine and he learned fast. “21 days of attentive work then it becomes automatic”, explains Jean-Paul. He soon moved on to barrel-making. “I liked the job – I’m someone who likes to work with his hands – but what really made me want to stay with the company was the atmosphere in the workshop. He gradually made his way up the ladder rung by rung. He went from sector manager to workshop manager, then to production manager before becoming site manager 6 months ago.


It’s all about people and trust.

“I like a job well done, I like to learn, and I’ve always wanted to evolve while respecting the work and the people involved. Because without people, nothing gets done”. The advent of the Charlois Group did nothing to undermine Jean-Paul’s confidence, quite the contrary. “The human element is in the Group’s DNA, and that suits me well. Since Charlois took over the cooperage, a lot of little things have changed, enabling us to work better. We’ve become better structured, particularly in terms of work and staff organisation, with good communication, and that’s a good thing… all these elements combined help us to move forward and evolve together. It makes you want to keep going, to go even further. We’re free to take initiative, we feel involved and interested in the company and its future”.



Three questions to Jean-Paul:


You weren’t originally destined to become a cooper, so what made you decide to go down this path?

“Even though first and foremost it is because of the people, I do love to see the transformation of a piece of wood. Taking straight staves, heating them to give them a concave shape… assembling them (known as the ‘mise en rose’), and ensuring that they fit together to form an airtight barrel in which the world’s finest wines will be aged all over the planet. It’s an essential job, I don’t know if you realise that… It’s an amazing job and so are the men and women who do it. And we’re lucky enough to work in a unique setting, surrounded by vineyards, just 30 minutes from the ocean…


You mention the ocean and the environment… is environmentalism an important focus within the Charlois group?

Yes, and that’s just as well because it’s something close to my heart. I’m talking about true environmentalism, a responsible and sustainable environmentalism that preserves nature without entrapping human beings. I see environmentalism as our ancestors saw it. If you think about it, it’s just a question of common sense, optimisation and mutual sharing. If we’re talking about work, at Charlois, as we started with Nadalié, we optimise 100% of the raw material, the oak. There’s no waste because all the offcuts are recycled. It’s a virtuous circle. If we’re talking about everyday life, I’m also doing my bit, particularly in the garden, where I practise permaculture.


Is gardening a passion of yours?

It’s a passion, a way of unwinding after work, the pleasure of savouring good produce and doing your shopping at home, the pleasure of growing certain crops together, of getting your hands in the soil. It’s a passion that takes up a lot of time, like sport, in my case body-boarding, reading and cooking. As much as I love my job, I sometimes need to get away from it all, get physically active and travel…

Monthly Archive