Conoisseur speak: This Parisian tastes 400 wines a week!
Alexandre Barré gets paid to drink on the job. The wine ambassador for the Pernod Ricard Winemakers Group who was in the city yesterday for an immersive wine tasting of Jacob’s Creek at the Hyatt Regency Chennai had us more than a little envious when he told us this — “If I am in a wine region I can taste over 400 wines a week.”
The Parisian who has travelled to as far as Canada, Switzerland and Spain — all the while giving enthusiasts a taste of the subject he is most passionate about — tells us his story and why India is a potential goldmine for the wine business.
We heard that you had your first experience in hospitality at the age of 15. We’re guessing this didn’t involve a bottle of Jacob’s Creek (laughs)
Actually, I first started working at the age of 15 in a famous skate shop in Switzerland. When I was 19, I started doing a few internships in five-star hotels and worked in every possible department from the front desk to the stressful environment of a one-star Michelin kitchen. By this time I had learned everything about hotels and hospitality so I started making a book, listing all the best hotels around the world. It is quite useful when I travel now.
Reminiscing: do you remember your first sip of wine?
Of course I do, that is mostly the reason I work in wine now. The first sip is the one that made me fall in love with the product. I do recall the wine and funnily enough it was actually Jacob’s Creek Shiraz. Each time I was invited to a house party I would go straight to my father and ask him if I could take a bottle as a gift. My first choice was always a bottle of Jacob’s Creek. It just sounded exotic and mysterious and I knew it was good, as dad was drinking it.
Tell us about India’s potential as a new wine market.
I need to agree on the fact that India has potential in many different aspects of the wine business — both consumption and production. With regard to consumption, I can see the category growing due to the strong interest of new drinkers in the product. Youngsters who want to discover new things in life try and experience different moments of conviviality with wine. Wine, despite being extremely complex, is a great option when considering something lighter in alcohol strength. It offers different styles, all unique, that suit any occasion. When it comes to food, there is no better pairing than wine.
I believe India has the potential to have some premium wine regions and wines. When I look at the ambitious mindset of wine brands such as Nine Hills, I understand that quality is king. Nowadays, many world famous winemakers and viticulturists (person who cultivate grapes) go to Nashik to help them achieve the best.
Globetrotting as a wine ambassador for Pernod Ricard, how may wines would you say you taste a week on average?
Numbers will vary depending on where you are. If I am in a wine region, I can taste over 400 wines a week. I have tasted 340 wines a day, including ferment tastings. This is, of course, one of those big tasting days.
One thing you want to do whilst on your trip to India that doesn’t involve food or drink. While in India, I want to explore the different landscapes and cultures this rich country has to offer. If these adventures can be mixed with extreme sports with a high dose of adrenaline, I will be the happiest man on earth.
The comparison game:
If you want to compare, compare intelligently. I have seen may people giving a bad feedback about some wines and when I ask them to what they are comparing it too. It is mostly going to be two different varietals, regions or price points.
Mistake one: Bordeaux is cabernet sauvignon and merlot blends mostly it is not Shiraz.
Mistake two: One is French old world the other one new world Australia.
Mistake three: One is Rs 3,000 the other one is Rs 35,000.