Friday, August 6, 2010

Wine Tourism: O Chateau Wine Tasting

In what they term the Tour de France of Wine, O Chateau takes students through a two-hour, sommelier-led tasting tour of various French wine regions.  It was a fun and interesting diversion from the battering that my wallet was experiencing on Rue du Faubourg St Honoré

The wine tasting venue is located at the O Chateau headquarters at 52 Rue de l'Arbre Sec, approximately 2 minutes away from the Louvre.  According to the selling brochure, the tasting room had been the cellar of Louis XVs sommelier and that, in and of itself, lent some curiousity value to the tasting.  When I arrived at the location, I stepped down into an igloo-shaped concrete structure with seating against the walls in a long, u-shaped orientation and with a map of the French wine regions on an easel at the open end of the U.

It was awesome.  They were still clearing up from an earlier class but asked me to pay and then return 10 minutes before the stated start time (Reservations are required.  The fee is 50 Euros with a 10% reduction if the brochure is presented at the time of payment.).

When I came back, I noted that individual chairs were set behind rectangular tables and, on each table there were settings for two consisting of one champagne flute, one red wine glass, one white wine glass, one bottle of wine, and a spittoon.  A basket of sliced French bread was resident on each table.

On the day that I attended, the class had 23 students, all couples with the exception of moi.  The attendees were all American, with the exception of one couple, and were mostly from either California or Florida.  By some weird coincidence, the Californians and Floridians ended up seated on opposite sides of the room.

The class was called to order by our sommelier-teacher -- his name was Lionel and he was an oenologist in Bordeaux and Burgundy -- who handed out a listing of the wines that we would be tasting that day.  The list, reproduced below, is not of the highest quality but is broadly representative of the major French wine regions.  Lionel apologized for having to substitute for the champagne on the card and then proceeded to walk us through the wines on the card in the order listed.  He began by introducing us to the region and its characteristics and then led us in a tasting of that region's representative wine.

Lionel had spent some time in the US and his English was excellent.  He was extremely knowledgeable about the regions and the wines and did an excellent job of explaining to the students what the wines were saying to him; all the while throwing in interesting tidbits on wine, wine tasting, wine making, and anything else that he felt was necessary to keep the students engaged.  He was witty and funny and responded to questions clearly and directly, regardless of how daft the question was.

At the end of the lecture Lionel gave us a cheat sheet which covered wine tasting techniques, French wine regions (with map), reading a French wine label, likely location of varietals in France, and such like.  All-in-all it was a fun afternoon.  You will not leave the tasting a French wine expert but you will have had fun, learned something, and met new people with similar interests.

No comments:

Post a Comment