On Valentine’s Day in 2011 I posted an article, Fearless Wine Tasting in Paris, based upon my experience wine and cheese tasting at Paris’ hottest wine bar and restaurant Ô Chateau. It was started in 2004 by a young and crazy (their words, not mine) sommelier. 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 about his latest book Into Wine. In this two-part interview I asked 13 questions (very lucky) and I think you will love his answers. Today I am posting the first seven questions and answers and on Monday the other six questions and answers will be posted. Please enjoy!
Vineyard’s in Burgundy in the winter time. Note how different the grapes must be when on flat terroir verses the hills in the background.
Weekend In Paris: It is clear from reading your book why we should all want, no – demand biodynamic wine. You gave us a nice list to use, but do you foresee a day when there is a marking or logo on the label which indicates to us which ones are biodynamic?
Olivier Magny: Some already exist: Biodyvin is one, Demeter is another one. But there are a couple of barriers to overcome before things become truly and broadly recognizable by the general public. One is the fact that these labels usually charge wineries to display their logo – which does not incite them to do so. The other is the fact that many of the people that farm their vineyard biodynamically deem that it is just the right thing to do, nothing to communicate or brag about. All the more so as many consumers still have a negative image of organic or biodynamic wines.
Weekend In Paris: We seem to have trouble (by we, I mean me and my husband) with Bordeaux’s in the US. Frequently we open up a bottle and find it is “corked.” Is this a function of transportation to the US, how it is stored once here or both? And, do you have any trouble with this is France?
Olivier Magny: Most Bordeaux wines are quite musty. It is a Bordeaux specificity that is easily mistakable for having a corked wine. My recommendation would be: try your wine, give it a few seconds and listen to what the aftertaste is trying to tell you. If the story it tells is pleasant, then no problem. If instead your wine stays on that musty note, then you probably have a problem!
Weekend In Paris: I sometimes get an instant bad reaction (typically an immediate headache) when drinking some reds, quite often Pinot Noir’s, and want to know if I am crazy or just super sensitive? I would like to think I am a super sommelier without knowing it and my powers are just too great for this wine world, but really…am I nuts?
Olivier Magny: Most likely, you are indeed a super sommelier. Make that wonder sommelier actually!! Seriously though: I see a lot of people who come to O Chateau and say “wow, I love this about France – I can drink a lot of wine and never get a headache”. Truth is: unless you drink really crappy wine, or really too much of it, wine should never give you a headache. Many American consumers have grown accustomed to having a slight headache when they drink wine. That is so wrong: wine is all about pleasure and fun, not about mild headaches. Those supposedly decent wines that give you a headache are not that decent at all and your reaction is usually the symptom that reveals sloppy viticulture or winemaking. Try wines made from some of the wineries in the book, and you should be in good shape! Wonder sommelier shape that is!
Weekend In Paris: I am definitely a “terroirist!” Emmanuel from Authentica Wine Tours beat that into me on a wine tasting trip to Burgundy. Regarding the rating of the terroirs, in Burgundy I saw rows of vines next to each other and one is grand cru and the other is not. How does one determine that with such preciseness and who is the person responsible for this? Is there a government agency to value terroir?
Olivier Magny: In France, we’re lucky that this mapping of our terroirs has been done of the course of centuries, mostly by monks in the case of Burgundy. They observed that the color of the leaves, the size of the berries, the wetness of the earth differed slightly from one area of the vineyard to the next. So they mapped out their vineyards with great precision, in order to best express all these lovely singularities. Today, with our modern tools and fancy technology, we obtain the same exact mapping the monks established centuries ago. Humble pie anyone?! The agency in charge of regulating all this in France is called the INAO. But overall, the French government is not in the business of valuing terroir. As I explain in the book, and this may come as a surprise to many of your readers, when it comes to terroir, the French government’s main undertaking is full-on destruction.
Weekend In Paris: I love how you describe how drinking wine from the proper glass is not essential but that when you do, it’s better. “Think beautiful girl in a trashy outfit, in a nice dress and on her wedding day.” You recommend having six different types of wine glasses for red and six more for white. If one cannot afford all these, but could pair it down to two for each, which ones are the “must have’s?”
Olivier Magny: Well, being a sommelier, I know what washing and drying out wine glasses means. So even though they’re not my favorite, there is something to be said about these stemless glasses, simply for the fact that they do fit in a dishwasher! Now, besides this, I would recommend having maybe 2 sets of wine glasses: maybe one of good quality but simple ones. Those will be ideal for a low key evening, a get-together with friends, a cook out, a crawfish broil, you name it. And maybe another set of nicer wine glasses when you feel like treating you and your guests with a bit more of an elegant moment, say sit down dinner, good bottle, birthday evenings, Christmas dinner, etc.
Weekend In Paris: There are loads of fun facts in the book. One being 45% of French women don’t drink wine at all. Why, diet? What do they drink instead?
Olivier Magny: Not sure… is Prozac liquid?! Weekend In Paris response: You’re going to take some heat for that answer! Good thing you are already married!
Weekend In Paris: The average budget spent on a bottle of red wine in France is $3.80? Oh Mon Dieu (Oh my God) where are these bottles? What are these wines? Are they any good?
Olivier Magny: You’ll find these bottles in any supermarket, throughout the country. Most supermarkets only carry single-digit bottles! And honestly, many of which will bring you a fair bit of pleasure – especially for the money!
Olivier seated at a table at Ô Chateau.
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:
Photos property of Weekend In Paris or Olivier Magny. Must obtain permission before use.