Ô Chateau is France’s #1 Wine School, and its founder turned author, Olivier Magny is the creative genius behind the concept of educating and inspiring novice to seasoned wine drinkers about all things wine. I have become a fan of Olivier’s take on where wine production is headed and where it should be headed – the biodynamic approach. His latest book entitled Into Wine: An Invitation to Pleasure is an interesting, quick read for those who love wine and those who want to love wine MORE!
Olivier readily agreed to a “no holds barred” interview with me. In this two-part interview I asked 13 questions (very lucky) and I think you will love his answers. Friday I posted the first seven questions and answers and today I am posting below the other six questions and answers. Please enjoy!
Weekend In Paris: You mention some winemakers still stomp the grapes with their feet. I laughed when I read this, but then thought, “Well, that’s how some of them taste.” Are there any places in France that do? I would LOVE to try it Lucy and Ethel style (reference to an old beloved comedy show episode of I Love Lucy.)
Olivier Magny: Well, it has grown to become a very rare instance of course. But many wineries will save a batch for the kids to stomp with their feet, to keep the tradition and the ancestral gestures alive in a way. But Priscilla, if you ask nicely, I’m sure they’ll let you give it a try too…
Weekend In Paris: I can relate to your assessment of oak in the barrels which store the wine, “…oak for wine like make up for women. Sometimes, it’s not needed; used sparingly, it can be quite lovely; when it’s the first thing you notice, it’s rarely a sign of elegance.” I gave up Chardonnay because I felt like many of them were too “oaky” for me and heavy on the sugar. But what do I know? Do you think the trend away from Chardonnay and now into Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc is here to stay?
Olivier Magny: Well, trends come and go. California is slowly but surely moving away from big oaky Chardonnays. Now the new buzz is unoaked Chardonnays. But hey… at the end of the day, those are the two flip sides of the same medal. Meaning that the idea behind these wines – whether they come with a lot of oak, or with none at all – is to make wine according to what’s in fashion, according to what the market wants. It’s quite the 180 from the logic of terroir, which is one where you try to express what this very place has to reveal and hope that there are enough people interested. So at the end of the day, the question is: does the market come first, or does it come second? Now another thing that is true is that our tastes evolve through our lifetime, and we always go towards more refinement. Meaning, no matter what, at some point, most wine drinkers will come to terroir wines.
Lionel and some of the Gal Pals after our wine tasting.
Weekend In Paris: I attended a fantastic wine tasting by Lionel at the old Ô Chateau and learned a great deal. The approach is very different, using young sommeliers who demystify the whole tasting process and make people feel at ease asking dumb questions. Any thoughts to doing a “road show” in the US? I am volunteering to host you in Texas or Rhode Island!
Olivier Magny: Well – merci; your compliments mean a lot, as Ô Chateau is indeed quite the unique place for anyone with an interest in wine. We want our wine tastings to be both informative and fun, and hiring the right people is absolutely essential to pass on the passion and the enthusiasm we feel for wine. To celebrate the release of INTO WINE, we are planning a book tour. New York, El Paso, New Orleans, and DC are already confirmed. I’m also launching a great new wine blog, with heaps of great HD video content and really neat articles. That’ll be a great place for everyone to keep learning about wine and have fun at the same time. The address is: www.misterwinetasting.com
Weekend In Paris: You were recently married. What wine/s did you have at the wedding and were you the one to choose them?
Olivier Magny: I was married on a beach in Bretagne! It was a very small wedding: our idea was to keep it as genuine and meaningful as possible. So when it comes to wine, instead of having one Champagne, one white and one red, we decided to serve a selection of our favorite wines. So I brought a few cases, each filled with 12 different bottles. The drinking was super low key: it was just about enjoying the pleasure of terrific wines, and the joy of seeing our guests getting tipsy on them! And best part about it all… the next day, I wouldn’t say we were on our A games, but given the number of bottles we had, I’d give us a B+!
Weekend In Paris: What restaurant in Paris do you feel has the best wine list – mix of all types and prices and which one has the best tasting table wines (i.e. the best value?)
The simple pleasure – wine and some petit snacks.
Olivier Magny: The most impressive wine list I ever saw in Paris was at La Tour d’Argent. Their wine list was thicker than a phone book! Now of course, that’s a super expensive meal. So in the more affordable price range, I’d say that we’re working hard to make Ô Chateau a part of that elite group in Paris, while keeping prices super reasonable. Plus I love that we offer 40 wines by the glass – makes drinking and exploring even more fun and interesting for our clients. Value for money, I would say that La Biche au Bois is probably my favorite, they serve really good food too, which doesn’t hurt. And maybe one last one, where both food and wine and really affordable: Le Domaine de Lintillac. That one’s especially good for duck fans!
Weekend In Paris: In Paris I recently had the best dinner of my life in Paris at Laurent. The sommelier was quite lovely. He brought over the “big book” and then discreetly asked me what type and what price range I would like to stay within. I answered and he chose perfectly. You mention in the book this is of great value, how can people figure this out when a sommelier is not available or is it just one giant guessing game?
Olivier seated at a table at Ô Chateau.
Olivier Magny: I would say try to engage at a personal level with your server, put him on your team. And then ask him. He might not have tasted all the wines on the wine list, but he probably has one or two favorites. It’s just a matter of the server recommending the bottles he truly likes as opposed to those his boss wants him to push. Otherwise, a lot of people ask me to set up a 1-800-OLIVIER, but I’m not sure my wife would love that idea!
Get your copy of Oliver Magny’s fantastic new book at Amazon.com by clicking on this link: Into Wine
Want to know more about Olivier or Ô Chateau? Click on one of these links:
All photos property of Weekend In Paris or Olivier Magny. Must obtain permission before use.