The new world of wine now has a winemaker with old world honours, as Severine Pinte received the 140 year old honour of being knighted to the Order of Agricultural Merit by the Consul General of France.
Pinte, winemaker at Le Vieux Pin Winery in Oliver has been in the Okanagan since 2010 and is a distinguished winemaker, with a masters degree in viticulture and oenology from the prestigious ENSAM (National School of Agronomy in Montpellier), a French National Diploma in oenology, 26 harvests of experience, and now knighted.
This rare honour was presented during a ceremony at Le Vieux Pin Winery on June 9, recognizing Pinte for her contribution to the wine industry, her ability to bring her “old-world” expertise to the Okanagan, and her vision for sustainable wines.
Nicolas Baudouin, the Consul General of France in Vancouver, was there on behalf of the French government “to recognize a great professional in the wine industry, driven by not only her passion but her vision for sustainable wine growing and her remarkable person, that has made Le Vieux Pin one of the best known wineries in the valley.”
The Order of Agricultural Merit is “the highest distinction given in France to the individuals, both French and foreign, who have made significant contributions in the fields of agriculture as well as in the food and wine industry,” the Consulate General’s Office said.
“It is a huge honour, and we don’t give many of them in BC, there are a bunch of French Chefs in Vancouver, but not many winemakers,” Baudouin explained.
After being presented with the award, Pinte tried to put the moment into perspective saying, “to be honest I think I am going to relax tonight when I put my head on the pillow,” but pointed out she still probably won’t realize what this really means. “It’s big. I am knighted,” she said, then let out a big laugh as she couldn’t believe it.
“It was really hard to come here, to change, to adapt . . . Now it has been 13 years, and I am part of the community and have all these people here that are my family, my work, my friends,” Pinte said, trying to contextualize the moment.
When asked what wine means to her, she paused and explained, “at the beginning when I started, it was a scientific process and it is still a scientific process, but coming here to Canada now I added the artistic side, and when I taste wine I can feel it in my gut, and I can see things, and I create the wines that way. I am working with nature, the terroir, who is the base and then creating something and I have a team around me, it feels like I am a maestro.
“Wine is not just this red juice you have in your glass, wine is so much more and that is why I love it.”
Pinte’s favorite wines that she makes are the Ava which is named after her daughter and the Syrah Cuvée Violette because it is “so elegant and feminine and charming, floral, it’s really my go to wine.”
Pinte is not only the winemaker for Le Vieux Pin, but also La Stella Winery and she is a board member of the BC Wine Grape Council, and member and chair of the Sustainable Winegrowing BC certification program. This program which launched in 2020 provides assistance to wineries in minimizing their environmental impact and fostering relationships in the community.
Her harvest experience, work with these organizations, along with her academic credentials, and now this honour solidifies her position as a world class winemaker in the South Okanagan.
She continued to explain that her driving force and one of the best things she does is when, at an event such as a winemaker’s dinner, “at the end of the night, I can see people having a big smile and leaving with a little bit of my passion, that’s my driving force. But along the way to take care of the environment.”
Her daughter Ava Kosaka commented that “I am really proud to have her as a mom and I really look up to her tremendously.” Her son, Achile Kosaka added that “she’s super managerial and puts up this leader pose in her business life, but in her personal life she’s a very caring person and mother, it’s a difficult balance but she has managed it.”
This multidimensional aspect of Pinte comes out when speaking with her and her friends and family. Jody Subotin, Vineyard Manager at Le Vieux Pin, has worked side by side with Pinte for 13 years.
He explained that something some people may not know is “her father taught her how to dance. Every party we have as soon as the music goes on and a couple glasses of wine, she is a fabulous dancer,” Subotin continued.
Baudouin explained the process of how someone is nominated for the award: “Our ministry of agriculture, we gather in full about the person we want to submit, then we send it to Paris, then there is a committee, which reviews all the applicants, and decides to nominate or not, in the order and then its a decision from the minister himself, who signs the decree which nominates all the recipients in France and abroad, so it can be foreigners, french nationals.”
The Order of Agricultural Merit is now 140 years old as it was established on July 7, 1883 by the then French Minister of Agriculture, Jules Méline.