Bubbles Which Are Gold

For some, wines are considered a drink from heaven, for others, an elixir. Therefore, it's only correct to choose yours carefully from the wide variety available! That's what Verger de la Madeleine promises...

By: Veronique Poles, Luxury & Fashion Consultant

Posted on: August 10, 2011

For some, wines are considered a drink from heaven, for others, an elixir. Therefore, it’s only correct to choose yours carefully from the wide variety available! That’s what Verger de la Madeleine promises…

Very often the birth of passion starts by a wine tasting event, hence you buy a couple of good wines and you are asked to wait 10, 20 maybe even 30 years to experience the richness within those bottles.

‘Grand cru’ means at least 10 years old - minimum? Who can wait? Better to go for a wine combining a domain’s reputation, a good choice of year, with a perfect storage condition, a wine that had already matured, hence ready to drink.

From exceptional wines, to mythical bottles of wine – if you have a substantial budget, you can target the crème de la crème of vintages. A Château Cheval Blanc, one the best ‘grands crus classés’ already has buyers for its 2009 ‘cuvée’ at 900€ per bottle!

Whether you are looking for a specific ‘Château’ or a particular year, better to get advice from a wine researcher, an expert. For those who love ‘luxury in a glass’, we interviewed for this August issue of Luxury Facts, Mr Olivier Madinier, who is in charge of  Au Verger de la Madeleine in Paris, one of the best wine stores since 1937!

This prestigious wine cellar includes many treasures to please you. The company is a specialist in rare, vintage and old French wines and cognacs. Over the years, the cellar has searched for and stocked an incredible selection of fine and rare wines and spirits. Their La Grande Cave, where private tasting sessions take place, has seen celebrities like Edith Piaf, Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, and Sir Winston Churchill!

Mr Madinier is as passionate about quality spirits as you could ever be. After all, combing through the vast variety available, and presenting only the most excellent is not a child’s play. He took out some precious time and answered our huge list of curious questions for the sophisticated readers of LuxuryFacts!

Veronique Poles: Olivier, how did you become a sommelier and how long does it take to become one?
Olivier Madinier: Actually, I studied in a business school in Paris. I am not a sommelier. Initially, I worked in finance and private wealth counselling. In fact, I was the co-leader of the Paris-Dauphine student tasting club. We organized many tasting sessions with the most famous producers such as Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Cheval Blanc, Egon Müller, Champagne Salon and more. Then, we won at events like the Pol Roger international blind tasting and the “20 sur vin” international blind tasting organized by La Commanderie du Bontemps for the most prestigious American, British and French business schools and universities. I met a lot of fascinating people during this period, especially Gilles Mony (the owner of Verger de la Madeleine), which drove me into the wine business.

VP: How do you like working at Verger de la Madeleine, which is located in the posh area of Madeleine?
OM: It is very interesting to work in Madeleine. It is a historical district of Paris close to Palais du Louvre (King’s Palace) and today a business district with a lot of banks, law firms, and also a fashionable district with the most luxurious shops in Paris!

VP: What is the most important thing being in charge of some mystical bottles and legendary vineyards?
OM: First, it is very important to store these bottles in perfect conditions, that is, good humidity and cool temperature, sheltered from light and no subway vibrations. Then, we only offer wines which are still drinkable with a good level, cork and label. We have to be very careful with fake bottles.

VP: Au verger de la Madeleine has been gathering vintage wines and spirits since 1937, pleasing customers with famous and old bottles, like the top-notch Armagnac. How many bottles do you have by category?
OM: We offer more than 800 kinds of French wines, around 100 vintages of Bas-Armagnac, about 30 vintage of Cognac, about 30 vintages of Calvados and around 20 vintages of Port.

VP: Which are the most expensive bottles and why? And which are the oldest?
OM: Romanée-Conti, the most famous Burgundy Grand Cru, is the most expensive wine, costing more than 5,000 € per bottle and only 4,000 bottles per year for the whole world. Also, a mythic vintage of Petrus, the most famous Bordeaux in Pomerol, can be worth more than 10,000€.

The oldest bottles available are Cognac, Bas-Armagnac, Port and Sauternes dating back to the 19th century. Red wines can date from the beginning of the 20th century.

VP: Can you speak about some rare bottles available in your store and the ones you are in particular proud about?
OM: Just now, we have Château Margaux 1934 – processed in the birth year of my grandfather - who made me discover wines! And also, Pétrus 1947, one of the 20th century’s best vintage.

VP: The store is just the visible side of the iceberg. How many cellars do you have and what are the specifics of each?
OM: We have a cellar for spirits, one for the champagne, one for the ageing and ‘La Grande Cave’ where private tasting sessions take place.

VP: Au Verger de la Madeleine selects only exclusive champagnes and liquors. Can you mention some of them?
OM: Particularly in Burgundy, wine estates are really small. Therefore the yield is very restricted. Sometimes there are only few hundred bottles. And we benefit mostly with wines from these prestigious estates such as Romanée Conti estate.

VP: Which is the top bottle in demand right now? And what is its price?
OM: Right now, Bordeaux’s first growth are in demand and some other estates such as Château Beychevelle in Saint Julien (2010 at 62 €) or Château Lafite Rothschild in Pauillac (2010 at 1020 €).

VP: Where do your best customers come from?
OM: Our best customers come from Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Japan), Brazil and Russia.

VP: Do you think that year after year there is an evolution in the location of customers?
There is an evolution in the location of customers because some countries didn’t know French wines till few years ago and now they are our best customers. And some countries still don’t know French wines so we will get new customers from a new location.

VP: Au Verger de la Madeline can find a specific rare bottle a customer is seeking for. For example, bottles of a particular year for someone's birthday, or that special gift for a wedding list. Are these wines better as a gift, investment, or just as a pleasurable drink?
OM: Our customers are fond of vintage wines to taste. They are not collectors or investors. Our wines are also bought for gifting purposes.

VP: Can you share with us some specific habits of your best clients?
OM: One of our best customers has a cellar with the greatest French wines only for his guests. He doesn’t drink wines!

VP: You and your wine experts comb the countryside with two objectives in mind: one, to discover the as yet undiscovered wines of France and, two, to assure that you have the most illustrious jewels in the crown of French wine. Your extensive networks allow you to fulfill that special quest. Can you share with us some specific quests you received?
OM: We often have to find vintage wines for a historical date. The last time it was 1945 for the end of World War II.

VP: What was the most difficult quest?
OM: The most difficult quest is birthday gift for a bad vintage. Bad vintage now means it should already have been drunk. So only a few bottles remain that we can find.

VP: You don’t sell online, but as long as a customer comes to visit you once, he becomes part of your client database - hence he can email you his quest: What is the process for ordering rare and vintage bottles?
OM: Thanks to our network we can quickly find the bottle ordered. Right after we receive the bank transfer, we send the order with specialized haulier to prevent wines from being spoiled.

VP: What is luxury for you?
OM: Luxury is simply beautiful and good thanks to nature and human excellence.

Véronique Polès is a freelance fashion and luxury consultant based in Mumbai, with more than 15 years of extensive experience with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Givenchy and Waterman/Gillette Pen Company just to mention a few. Bespoke creations, however, are her first love. For LuxuryFacts, she unveils some of the best-kept secrets in the sphere of ‘word of mouth landmarks’ for connoisseurs of products with substance. They are greatest creations, made by artisans of excellence and guardians of tradition, who work with passion for details and quality to make your dreams come true.

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