A glass with Pascaline Lepeltier

Is there a wine tourism region that is close to your heart or that you believe had a lot of development lately?

I’m from the Loire, so the Loire is still my region of choice. I’m lucky to travel a lot around the world, but I always come back in the Loire. It’s growing a lot.

Leaving the Loire, I quite admire what is done in a lot of countries where it’s getting organized more and more both for consumers and sommeliers. North america, Finger Lakes, Ontario, and I don’t say it because I’m here. I have a lot of admiration for everything that’s going on right now. For me, These are great future wine regions of the world. They’re already important but the potential is fantastic.

Also, all that is happening in Austria, and in Georgia. The Republic of Georgia has been a very important trip for me and I want to go back.

Did you visit recently?
I went 2 years ago, and it really had an impact on me. It made me think about my relationship to wine. I encourage people today, if they want to visit. It is a wine region that will probably change a lot in the coming years because of tourism development, not necessarily in a good way. You should go now.

What bottle sparked your journey through wine?

The wine that made me pass on the other side is an Yquem 1937. I had the opportunity to taste it during my internship at the end of my Master’s degree working for a caterer. I wanted to do the internship in cellars, but girls weren’t accepted. So, I did the internship in Staff’s service. The Maîtres D’ who organized the event, a wedding preparation for Bernard Arnaud’s daughter, who owns Château d’Yquem, were having a test meal and they had brought some bottles of 1937 to try with the desserts. They gave me the end of a bottle. I already knew there was wine, but I had never tasted anything that transcended everything. So, on this day I thought, if the wine can do that, put me in states like that… I was also getting acquainted with some winemakers and the human behind fascinated me. Yquem 1937 is still the great bottle of my life.

How would the 1728 Gonzales Byass, Tio Pancho Romano we had today compare?

The 1728, it was beautiful, it was great! It wasn’t necessarily in the right context, because you almost want to be alone, to take a few minutes. More than a tasting experience of a wine like that, what was beautiful was the fact that Guillermo Cruz made it happen, that the team of Gonzales Byass gave some of it to the Mugaritz team, who themselves shares it to their customers and that they decided to share it with 300 strangers. It’s even stronger. Yes, there is an emotional experience, we all had a moment of synergy together, in Montreal. We all had a magical moment that will mark us in our lives.
Isn’t it incredible!

I can’t leave without mentioning your recent honours, as the first woman ever to become one of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (M.O.F) in the sommelier category combined to the Best sommelier of France, I must properly congratulate you. Is there any further steps after such high qualifications?

We’ll see, we’ll wait a bit.
It was a great year, I didn’t think it would happen this year, but everything fell into place. I’ve been very lucky. I did it because I have a fantastic team at the restaurant, I was given the time to do it and I trained hard. I had lots of young trainee for the Court of Master Sommeliers, we all worked together. It was a cool face it.
If I want to continue further, I must have the same synergy, the same energy working with my teams. It’s something that can be done together, we can’t do it alone and I don’t want a group to help me, I want to do it with a group that all work together towards a goal . For me, it may be an international competition, it may be the MS or MW or anything else for them, but I need a work group otherwise I wouldn’t do it.

What is the main tip you give to your fellow trainee?
I would tell them to go in the vines. Wine as a finished product is nothing. Wine, you have to know where it comes from. I’ve sent guys for harvest in Long Island, or in Fingers Lakes, it’s not much to go see the vine, to talk with the person who makes the wine, barrel taste, do a little pairing, just like that The important thing is what is how it starts.

We must succeed in preserving this. Viticulture needs to consider being even more organic, even more equitable. For this to happen, people selling wines need to understand who are the men making the wines, and how they do it.

Go to the vineyard first, and learn to taste with the winegrowers not sommeliers. It’s the winemakers who teach you how to taste.