In this article for the La Kav Wines blog, we interview Philippe Guillaumond, a French wine merchant and one of the founding partners of La Kav Wines. Philippe gives us insight into the beauty and diversity of French wine, and why it is some of the most admired in the world.
1. Can you introduce yourself to our readers in a few sentences?
For 25 years I’ve been developing my food and wine company. I source and buy wine to sell business to business, and business to customer. This is my favourite part. Let me explain… wine is not meant to just go straight to a cellar and be given a price. It’s really more than that. It’s about discovering a person (the grower), their spirit, their soul, their way of work and relationship with nature. I would like to share my wine buying experience with you.
2. How did you begin your career in the wine industry?
I was born in the city centre but I was unhappy there. What I wanted and needed was fresh air and green space. I decided to move to the countryside in Auvergne – Rhone Alpes around St Etienne and Lyon in France. I was young and didn’t have enough money to buy a domain (estate to grow wine). That’s why I created a wine buying and selling company instead. In the beginning, I also sourced French truffles as part of my business for customers in France and Japan.
3. What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy meeting people and sharing with them. I really like to discover a promising grower, a young winemaker who is unknown. My job and my goal is to promote the talented grower’s wines and values. That’s the job! I know that is a good job but there are high expectations.
4. What is your approach to selecting wines from winemakers?
Firstly it’s about quality and respecting nature. Then we could speak about price, service, the label, the market, everything… In my company we are looking for French wines with the real taste of the grapes. Not only wood taste, not a chemical taste. We want them to be as close as possible to nature, to the taste of the earth – “Le gout du terroir”. This essence of the earth from which the grape was grown and cultured has to be in our glass.
5. Why is France so famous around the world for wine?
When the French began to travel all around the world, most of them couldn’t leave the place without leaving a piece of France behind. Indeed, they planted native wine grapes from France everywhere. So the world wine taste is French: Cabernet and Merlot come from Bordeaux; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir come from Burgundy; Sauvignon and Chenin come from the Loire Valley; Syrah comes from the Rhone Valley, etc.
6. What is so special about the French approach to wine making?
It’s a long story. All French country people want to get the best and the most authentic product from the soil for our food and drink. The monks who worked in the monasteries in the Middle Ages built the French vineyards. Their work was so good and so beautiful that the Burgundy wine area is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are over 70,000 independent winemakers in France. It’s not a huge and industrial company with engineers; it’s many, many independent vineyards. They work very hard to innovate, to improve the wine every day and adapt their techniques to follow the new climate. The last reason for me is the French rules for making wine. It’s hard to respect them but they are good rules to improve the quality. You need to be very creative to innovate. A lot of very good French winemakers travel around the world to teach and share their knowledge.
7. What inspired you to get involved in the La Kav Wines project here in Ireland?
I was very surprised the first time I came to Ireland to watch a rugby match in the old Lansdowne Road! Most of the wines in the shops were coming from America, east Europe and South Africa. The closest wine producing country to you is France! We have expensive wine of course but cheap, good value product as well. Both are GOOD. So… I’ve taken the challenge! It’s a good job, a professional and pleasant job – I love it!
8. Can you select for us a few personal favourites from the La Kav Wines collection?
We only source the best wines but I especially appreciate two wines with fantastic balance between the price and the quality. The first is a red: Cote du Rhone, Cuvee des Figues. Every year I participle in making it with the wine grower. A very good man, Vincent Boyer. It’s a pleasure to drink it. It’s fruity and smooth… it smells like the South of France. This is excellent in the summer with your BBQ. The second is a Sauvignon Blanc from the domain Marcé. It’s ideal as an aperitif with some goat’s cheese on toasted bread. You can even put a small drop of olive oil on it. This wine is really refreshing and clear, perfect for when you smell the first notes of smoke from the BBQ.
9. What is the future of wine?
For me, the future of wine is about the link between what you drink and the person creating it. If it’s tasty, generous and just good, it means its creator is also. The wine tells us about the climate and the soil of the vineyard. This kind of wine is the opposite of industrial wine without soul. For example a Chardonnay with too much wood is impersonal because it’s impossible to know if it’s coming from Africa, America, etc. People will expect authentic and organic wine with the wine grower’s touch!
10. What is the best advice you have for anyone who wants to enjoy French wine at home in Ireland?
Wine is better if you drink it in a good atmosphere and in a good mood. To appreciate French wine you just need to chill with friends, family, anyone you love! You can just taste the wine and speak about it. Of course it’s very exciting to find the perfect wine pairing with your menu. There are some very classical pairings but you can explore your own taste! Use your imagination and explore what you like! The best way to keep your wine perfect is to store it in a fresh and humid place where the temperature doesn’t change. About the temperature to serve wine… not too fresh for the white because you won’t smell the real aroma. Around 10 degrees is fine and NEVER with ice, NEVER! For the red, not too hot, around 15 -18 degrees maximum. The fresher wines we can drink are the Rosé and Champagne at 8 degrees.
Thank you all for reading. If you want to know more about how I choose my wines, stop reading and start tasting them!
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