Are you in Paris, afraid to try French wine but don’t know where to go to learn? Have I got a fun and informative solution to your dilemma!
O Chateau is a company in Paris that teaches the public all about French wine in a very enjoyable and fun way. O Chateau was started by Olivier Magny whose energy and knowledge is only surpassed by his canny sense of humor! As stated on their website, “. . . we hire our sommeliers based on their personality just as much as their wine knowledge.” If you want an indication of their sense of humor just take a look at their website!
Without further ado, Olivier Magny of O Chateau. . .
Tell me a little about you. Where are you from, how you got into the wine business?
What made you leap into this new venture?
Another clear moment of insanity. We were looking for a space of our own. We spent 18 months looking for a new home for O Chateau. And one day, my business partner, Nicolas Paradis, found this beautiful space 5 minutes from the Louvre, in Paris coolest neighborhood. We visited it. Thought it was too big for us, too pricey for us, too everything for us. And decided to go for it!! I completely blame it on that second bottle of wine.
We are in major debt.
Do you find that US wine palates and knowledge differ from other nationalities?
Clearly, there are many discrepancies within the US. Some people are more experienced than others. But if I were to give you a general line, I’d say that Americans tend to like bigger, fuller bodied reds, and fresh, fruity whites. When they come to a tasting at O Chateau, they all recognize how different French wine can be from the wines they’re used to drinking at home. In terms of knowledge, I’d say that most of our American clients tend to be more knowledgeable about wine than our French clients. The passion, the interest for wine in France is vastly MIA while it is and been booming in the States.
I noticed on your website that you have a very attractive staff and you bear an uncanny resemblance to Jude Law. Are you related? How did you decide to share that photograph with the world?
Well, actually, I am Jude Law. But acting is not filling enough a profession so I created this Olivier Magny persona. It’s working out so far. As per the rest of our staff, well, I was lucky enough that some of my Hollywood homies had an interest in wine.
In your opinion, what are the top 3 misconceptions US travelers have about French wine?
1 – That it’s expensive. The average amount of money spent of a bottle of wine in France is 3.61€. You can get great wine in France for 6 or 7€ a bottle. In many regions, even the great wines are super affordable.
2 – That it’s arrogant. That might have been true 20 years ago but not any more I feel. Any lack of accessibility is mostly due to bad marketing, which stems from the sociological identity of who is behind wine in France. Key difference with the US right there.
3 – That they should order the “house wine” at a restaurant. This strategy frequently works well in wine regions. In Paris, it’s a bit more tricky and you may end up with rather unexciting wine.
What is your favorite French wine region and why?
I’m a big Northern Rhône fan. Mostly because I love their wines: Ermitage being probably my favorite all.
Tell me 2 things customers should do after one of your wine tastings?
1 – They should hang at the bar. We have 40 different wines by the glass. Great French tapas food, cheeses, foie gras… Our wine selection changes daily too. Hanging at the bar is a great way to relax, use their new found knowledge and get to chat a bit with the staff and the other clients of the tasting. Our groups are great because you find people from all over the world and what they have in common is that they like to drink wine!
2 – They should buy a bottle of two. Most of the wines we serve at the tasting are not available overseas.
What is your favorite city/region in France to visit and why?
Wow – tricky one. I don’t know. France is a fabulous country for that. I guess it really depends on the time of year, and on my mood. South of France in the Spring is fantastic. Brittany in the fall I love, Alsace in the winter is enchanting, and good old Paris in the summer…
If you’re not drinking wine, what are you drinking?
Mostly sparkling water.
What is your favorite wine that isn’t French?
I fell in love with the wines of Clarendon Hills in Australia. The Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve of Robert Mondavi’s Winery are superb. So is Insignia by Joseph Phelps… I don’t know, I could go on and on…
When you’re not at O’Chateau, where will we find you?
These days, in bed mostly.
“O Chateau is a place that is open to everyone. To people who like wine, who love it, who are intrigued by it, who have no clue about it… “
Make your next stop O Chateau!
You can find more information about wine tastings with O Chateau at www.o-chateau.com
Full disclosure: A few years ago I was in Paris as a guest of the French Government Tourist Office which included the opportunity to take part in a wine tasting at O Chateau.
All photographs are courtesy of O Chateau.