“If you spill it, look at the leg of the wine – we’re in the Naughty Room, so sorry we’re talking about the leg again!” Exclaimed Prince Robert of Luxembourg, alluding to our naughty mood. We are tucked away in the jewelery room at 67 Pall Mall, a private wine club. Naughty corners, as they are called, decorated with erotic paintings and miniature statues of naked men are being played by us.
Even though the members had to be approved, it was unlikely that Prince Robert would be knocked out. His family owns the French wine house Chateau Haut-Brion, the oldest of a large Bordeaux factory. A single bottle can easily get a few hundred pounds back, and at dizzying heights in the price range, there’s a double magnum for the claws for 27,000 euros.
“A lot of people make good wine, but I think a good wine is harder to find,” said Prince Robert. “The variety and complexity of French wines, combined with the passion of French winemakers, inspired me from all over the world,” said Prince Francophile, whose maternal great-grandfather Clarence Dylan bought Chateau Haut-Brion in 1935.
Since then, the family business has grown to include the mansions of Bordeaux’s prestigious neighbors, Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Le Clarence, a Paris restaurant not far from the Champs-Elysees. “I was there when people ordered bottles worth thousands of euros, and sometimes I’m lucky people ask me if I want to try it,” said Prince Robert.
It’s easy to imagine that a restaurant is simply a means of brewing wine, but set in a luxurious second-rate mansion, entering Le Clarence is like entering a dangerous complex. With two Michelin stars and no menu, chef Christophe Pele cooks on his instinct. “I feel the atmosphere and energy on the table and I feel what you want,” Pele said excitedly as I was invited to enjoy wine combined with extraordinary Gallic gastronomy.
It may take time for one of us to make a normal trip to Paris, but a taste of fine French wine can only be a ticket to surviving the pandemic. Here’s Prince Robert’s advice for doing just that …
Silence is golden
I would raise my glass and say a cheer or chin or sante, which is very relevant for now, but when I try wine my first reaction is not to speak. I can converse well, but excellent wine will leave me speechless. This is the highest achievement for me. It’s like a beautiful sunset or a stunning picture – it’s just amazing and I have to focus on that special moment. Silence is often best because trying to put it into words is like trying to say what’s good for the Mona Lisa.
Don’t read the fine print
We used to have too much information on bottles and consumers got lost, especially in France. In recent years the market has tried to simplify this, but from a legislative perspective we are forced to include a lot of information. It is more than necessary and too complex, but difficult to confuse French names and regions. So when you look at the bottle, just look at the brand. Choose a fine luxury brand for the promise of top quality.
Live and learn
I was shortened a little because I believed in discovery and approached it with humility. I think anyone who is a wine lover is interested in finding out as much as possible about wine, either by reading a particular article or magazine or book, or by sharing it with other wine lovers and experts in the field. If you love wine, you love stories and I love chatting with the sommelier and the wine shop folks and getting advice from passionate people – like going to the library and talking to the librarian.
Use your senses
Look at the colors in the jar. Grapes evolve with age – whites tend to get darker and redder brighter, while feet give off a solid flavor. Fill and stick your nose in the glass. This gives you an indication of the depth and complexity of the wine, and if there is a problem, be it with a cork or some other technical problem, your nose will immediately notice. That’s why you smell wine before you try it and send it back to the sommelier. Only then will you try it.
Don’t break the bank
The great thing about wines today is that you can buy really good wines at very affordable prices. When people come to Le Clarence they can buy a bottle for 10,000 euros or they can buy a bottle for 100 euros and they enjoy it a lot because they party and I am human. When buying from a retailer, you should be able to find some really good wines in the £ 11-15 price range.