Serious about Sipping

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Here is a way to try out some of those serious wines you’ve always wondered about but couldn’t afford.

Wine Lover Without Means? Tipple Rominée-Conti At This Serious About Sipping Boutique

If you’re a wine buff — and who isn’t when it comes to Rominée-Conti the world’s most exclusive demarcated wine — there is only one place to be: Aux Quatre Coins du Vin wine boutique in Bordeaux, where two French entrepreneurs allow you to savour France’s most expensive wines …. by the sip.

A glass or a a sip? That's the choice at Aux Quatre Coins du Vin wine boutique in Bordeaux  (Credit: Mike Alexander)

Their unique approach to wine marketing means that recently lucky customers were, with all the requisite reverence due, able to taste a 1999 Rominée-Conti Echezeaux – priced at around 1500 euros a bottle if you can find it — at a mere 35 euros per 3 cl sip.

This highly original twist in the wine business followed a surprising discovery during a working sojourn on a vineyard in Australia.

Ten years ago, armed with their degrees in wine and business management Benjamin Bouet and his partner Chloé Allano found work in the wine industry in Australia.

There they noted that like the French wine retailers, Australians had similar problems in that once a wine is opened it must be consumed before the inevitable oxidization occurs.

The Australians, however, had a solution. They were using a machine first manufactured by Italians, that injected inert argon gas into the bottle each time some of the wine was removed.  This system prevented the wine coming into contact with air and suddenly wines that would normally be unsaleable after a day or two could be kept for up to three weeks.

Benjamin and Chloé were quick to recognize a game changer when they saw one and soon they were back in France opening an upmarket wine boutique.

Their concept allows their clients to purchase wines by the sip, the half glass or the glass from machines that inject argon gas into the neck of the bottle as the wine is poured.

What this meant was that suddenly Bordeaux discovered a wine bar putting out very expensive wines but at affordable sip-inducing prices, and where the owners could be confident that they would not find themselves tipping a few hundred euros worth of left-overs (and their profits) down the sink a few days later.

Benjamin and Chloé’s first big name wine to be sold by the sip, was a 1999 Rominée-Conti Echezeaux which can go for anything up to 1500 euros per bottle.  Launching the sip concept with this wine was a big gamble but word soon spread and that bottle was sold within four days, even at 140 euros a glass or 35 euros for a 3cl sip.

The sip menu at the Aux Quatre Coins du Vin wine boutique (Credit: Mike Alexander)

The boutique now carries dozens of different wines and thankfully for wine lovers, not all of them are quite so painful on the pocket.

Although 70% of the wines they offer are French Benjamin and Chloé also offer a chance to try wines from different countries around the world.

Their recipe has had great success in Bordeaux and today the wine bar is often heaving. It is also frequently used as a venue for wine presentations by French vignerons.

Initially the couple shied away from selling food but they came to realise that many wine tasters like to nibble on something while sampling different wines. So somewhat reluctantly they added plates of local charcuterie to the mix and that has also proved popular. Such is the success of the concept that they now plan to open a venue in Miami Florida.

For many of the Francophiles who move to, or regularly visit France, wine is a big part of the magnet that draws them here. Wine is not just an enjoyable tipple sipped by locals – it is part and parcel of French culture, lifestyle and character,  a subject very close to the hearts of nearly every Frenchman.

Getting to grips with French wine is, however, no small undertaking. Understanding the different regions, appellations and production techniques is something which some devote a life time of study to and then still admit that there is an awful lot they don’t know.

The world famous Bordeaux region alone has nearly 10,000 wine producers, most of whom make several different wines and that is before we even touch on the subject of vintage or what constitutes a good year and what does not. There are 54 different appellations under the Bordeaux banner alone.

Though daunting, there are many enjoyable ways to get aboard the learning curve. Wine clubs abound throughout France and most wine producers welcome people dropping in for degustations where they will often proudly explain their wines and techniques used to produce them.

Another very enjoyable way to learn what wines most tickle your fancy is to visit wine bars which are to be found in all of the major cities. These tricks, unfortunately, will only take you so far.

For until now neither wine bars nor wine producers were willing to open those really expensive bottles for you to have just a glass or two and for the good reason explained above.

Thanks however to Aux Quatre Coins du Vin that seems set to change.

In certain circles, dropping into the conversation that you enjoyed a delightful Rominée-Conti or Lafitte Rothschild the previous evening brings much kudos.

So wine connoisseurs and wine snobs alike if its kudos you’re after flock to Aux Quatre Coins du Vin, the perfect rendezvous  … there is absolutely no need to mention that you could only afford a mouthwatering 3 cl sip and that subsequent fiscal management has forced you to eat tinned spaghetti for the rest of the week.

Story : Mike Alexander
Follow Mike on Twitter 

Mike Alexander, a garden professional, writes the Grumpy Gardener column for French News Online and contributes reguler nature and wildlife pieces to the paper.
Editors: For reporting assignments and features on French food, wine, nature and lifestyle contact Mike at the email above.  

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