Director General of Taillevent, the landmark Parisian Michelin-starred restaurant and legendary wine boutique with offshoots across the world, 30-something Antoine Pétrus has vision, talent and a rare open-mindedness for seeking out the best of wines all over the globe. Previously at sumptuous restaurants Lasserre and Le Clarence in Paris, he has won several awards including Best Sommelier of France. But what make his renown is that he is an ardent believer in diversity and in meeting as many wine-lovers, experts and makers as possible. In fact, he has visited over 500 vineyards and more than 120 Michelin starred restaurants to date. So we thought, who better else to ask for the ultimate rules to starting your own wine collection? An easy guide for beginners and connoisseurs alike.
Rule #1: Know your own taste in wine
The key is not to buy wine that you don’t enjoy, explains Antoine Pétrus. And to get to know what you like, you have to get out there and taste as many wines as possible. And you’ve got to meet as many people as possible by going to wine samplings, fairs, and meeting wine-makers as often as possible.
Rule #2: Buy all types of wines
Don’t just stick to one kind: reds, sweet whites, dry whites, rosé and bubbly wines… The variety of flavours is really important because it allows you to enjoy different tastes at different times, for different occasions – you might go for something simpler one evening, and want something more complex for a special occasion. I would start with a red Chateau Rayas, Châteauneuf du Pape to keep, and a white Sancerre Pinard to open right away.
Rule #3: The rule of thirds
Split your wine cellar into three sections. The first third should be for the wine you want to drink right away, the second for wine you can drink in up to five years’ time, and the third for wine that you think will age well beyond five years. There are several factors that affects how long a wine will last. It varies from bottle to bottle and it can even be a matter of individual taste. The best way of knowing is tasting as many wines as possible as you’ll develop a palate for picking out desirable characteristics.
Rule #4: Take an interest in wines from all over the world
It’s important to understand the diversity of flavour and texture that come from different soils and climates. That’s why it’s important not to limit your interest to French wines, but also take an interest in wines from the rest of Europe and around the globe. Aside from Taillevent of course, I love to explore the world’s wine boutiques including Antic Wine in Lyon and Hedonism in London, which is the most beautiful wine cellar in the world with over 7,500 references – it’s just absolutely incredible. I definitely recommend dropping in when next in town!
Rule #5: Buy magnums as often as possible
Always buy in large quantities, and try to buy magnums, especially when you want to keep the wine for a longer amount of time. Nowadays some wine magnums come at very reasonable prices (€10-15). These actually keep much better, thanks to a slower oxidation process. Basically, a magnum contains twice as much wine for the same volume of air, as in a traditional 750ml bottle. This means the evolution of the wine will be a lot slower in a magnum.
Rule #6: Always buy more than one bottle of wine you like
If there’s a wine you like, then buy one, three or six bottles. That way, it allows you to see how its taste, colour and texture evolve over time. It’s the best way to learn about a wine you like.
Rule #7: Always opt for a space with a constant temperature
It’s fundamental that your wine cellar remains at the same temperature all the time because fluctuations in temperature are very bad for wine, causing it to changes and even become undrinkable. Keep your cellar at 16°C and somewhere dark. The bottles mustn’t be subjected to direct sunlight.
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