Q + A with Michel Tolmer, Paris

by Everyday Wine

We are super excited to be able to introduce the work by Michel Tolmer! If you've ever knocked back a glass at a wine bar in France, chances are you've seen Tolmer's work. He is ubiquitous within the world of natural wine, and has helped both celebrate and explain the ethos behind organic viticulture and 'sans soufre ajouté' winemaking. 

Tolmer, being the lovely guy that he is, let us bombard him with questions to understand the how's, why's, who's, where's and when's behind his infamous illustrations. We will let his answers, and his art speak for himself...

Everyday Wine: Michel, it is an absolute pleasure to bring your artwork to New Zealand. Can you please tell us a little about yourself before we get started?
Michel Tolmer: I've just turned 60, and for the last 30 years I have worked as an artist creating images surrounding the world of wine, on the greatest variety of media possible: wine labels, posters, logos, paintings and murals. I like to combine illustrations with words. Perhaps i'm not a pure artist but rather an advertiser, and my clients are those who's wines I love to drink!

EW: Amen to that. What came first? Your love of Art or Wine?
MT: I inherited the culture of images from my father and grandfather. I have always drawn, and have had the good fortune of being able to study graphic arts at university. The wine came after...

EW: Ok, so if the wine came after. Why Vin Nature?
MT: Maybe by chance encounters, maybe by instinct to seek out people and products that ring true, that have real value. 

EW: What was the inspiration behind your comic books 'Mimi, Fifi & Glouglou'? Are they based on real people or personal wine tasting experiences?
MT: I have always said that Mifi, Fifi & Glouglou are imaginary characters. They do not come directly from the real world, but from an unconscious transformation of memories. You could compare that to alcoholic fermentation: the end result must be more interesting and complex than the fruit that it came from. Anyway... I remember I made up the characters in five minutes.

EW: We are glad you did! You have a very unique style, have you explored other mediums or methods? 
MT: From my point of view, it is not unique, but I am in a bad position to judge. In any case, I do everything to vary my style and escape boredom. I have at times done abstract painting exercises, but it is still very anecdotal. 

EW: Do you collaborate with other artists or do you create all your own images and write your own play on words?
MT: I am very individualistic, but I think I am becoming more open. Many of Glougueule's posters are the result of ideas in common with Philippe Quesnot, my business partner and friend. It's also a lot of fun to edit and work on the layout for other Glougueule artists. I have a great bond with my cartoonist nephew Pierre Mortel, who is at the moment sending me little strip scripts that I am drawing, and have absolutely nothing to do with wine. 

EW: Do you have a favourite wine memory?
MT: Your favourite wine is in the moment, when you drink it. A very simple wine with people you love can bring great happiness and that is the main thing! But for the intensity of emotions, I would still quote a Nuits Saint-Georges 1er Cru 1999 from Prieuré-Roch shared by my friend Grégoire Hubau from Moulin Pey-Labrie in Fronsac, Bordeaux or from Anselme Selosse, a Substance cuvée which had a very old disgorging date. But I just contradicted myself on the simplicity!

EW: It can happen to the best of us! Have you ever made your own wine or helped during harvest somewhere?
MT: I have never worked in the vineyard, I'm ashamed of it but I am too lazy for that! I only cooked for the harvest for my friends Catherine and Pierre Breton in Bourgueil (Loire Valley). That was in 1998, but we are still talking about it!

EW: Sometimes it's best to leave it to the professionals... so what is your next project Michel?
MT: The third edition of Mimi, Fifi & Glouglou.

EW: We are looking forward to that, and hope it will be translated in english! So last question, what would you drink from our Everyday Wine portfolio?
MT: Most of the wines in your selection are unknown to me (except the French), so I would be very curious to discover all these cuvées with cheerful and modern labels. And I am interested in the categories that you have adopted. For example: Rosés & Light Reds together. It fits perfectly with my own way of looking for a wine, especially with global warming.

EW: Michel, thank you so much for your time! We will send you a couple of our favourite light reds for you to try! 

View the full collection of posters here. Limited prints of each design available. 

(Original interview was conducted in French, some translation errors may have occurred).