SECRETS OF A WINESELLER'S CELLAR
French wine connoisseur Jérôme Peter shares a few of his favorites.
Written by Claire Williams
While he doesn't have a flickering cigarette sticking out of his mouth and isn't sporting a marinière, (the classic French striped shirt), Jérôme Peter does embody the essence of a true Frenchman and wine aficionado. With family hailing from Corsica and Alsace, Jerome's upbringing educated his palette with tastings from acidic Rieslings to crisp Rosés. In his 20s, an internship in the wine industry with his stepfather in the mid-90s allowed Peter to take a deep dive into wines of the world, meeting winemakers and discovering varietals from South America to China. In the process, he found a new love and passion for wine. Peter equates the feeling of finding a wine you love to "clicking" with a newfound love interest, saying, "When you know, you know that there's an instant chemistry."
After his stepfather's passing just a few years later, Peter decided to honor the man who introduced him to his newfound amour by embarking on what would turn out to be a lengthy career in the wine world.
Like a faithful partner, he has spent over 20 years working in the wine industry for Carrefour, the eighth-largest retailer in the world by revenue, following trends and selecting wine for its outlets year after year. Peter says his tenure is long enough that he was there when premium bag-in-box wine was a foreign concept and continues with him navigating the current biodynamic revolution. Peter's longevity in the French wine trade has made his name uttered in the same breath as renowned stars of the industry he frequents, such as winemaker Gérard Bertrand (well known for his collaboration on Hampton Water Rosé with Bon Jovi) and sommelier Gérard Margeon. Over the past two decades, Peter has encountered specific wines that have stood the test of time to remain among his favorites in a market where tastes, flavors, and trends evolve more rapidly than we realize.
Peter says that for him, tasting wine is a spiritual experience, something he calls "tasting the blood of the land," with each bottle bringing out a different emotion while telling the story of the winemaker and the terroir. Peter says Salvador Dali said it best with his maxim, "The connoisseur does not drink wine but tastes its secrets." Peter will take hours to make sure his roti de porc is the perfect complement to his bottle, not the other way around (and if there's no wine on the table, he says it's not a meal).
As a youthful wine drinker, Peter gravitated towards bold and fruity wines and still enjoys them today. Gérard Bertrand's Cigalus wine from Pays d'Oc (the southern coast of France) is a wine he says everyone likes. It comes from a region with plenty of sunshine, and the wine boasts a balance of ripe black fruit such as blackberries, black cherries, and plums with grilled spice and toasted oak, imparting flavor that even the most stubborn wine drinker will enjoy.
Made from Gamay grapes, Henry Marionnet's Tourraine Gamay 1ère Vendange (hailing from the Loire Valley region) is a lesser-known variety that is the cousin of pinot noir and with whom it shares similar tasting notes. Peter says he opens a bottle almost every evening at dinner with his wife, and it's worth noting the wine contains no sulfites, which, according to some reports, should give you less of a hangover and headaches after drinking, hence the easy drinking quality of the wine.
For those more inclined to white wines, Peter enjoys Domaine Grist's Cotes d'Auxerre Chardonnay, sharing the taste of Burgundy without breaking the bank. It's a toasty wine with ripe fruits that pairs well with chicken and seafood, and if you're feeling like embracing the art de vivre of the French, foie gras. “A tremendous value for the price, finishing with pleasure and soul,” remarks Peter.
If you're lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle, one of Peter's favorite big, sunny, and fruity wines is from critically acclaimed Domaine Peyre Rose. Marlène Soria founded the estate in the late 1990s in the village of Saint-Pargoire in the south of France, where her plan to make wine for herself and friends resulted in international success and even attention from Robert Parker. Peter says the small size of their operation means they only produce around 30,000 bottles a year, and they age them for up to a decade to let each bottle reach its full potential before they're sold. Peter still has a bottle of 2003 in his cellar, and he describes the flavor as "bold and balsamic."
For those looking for something other than a fruit-forward wine, Peter recommends Chateau Rayas, started by the godfather of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Jacques Reynaud; their wines are some of the most sought-after in the region. The wines are aromatic and complex, and Peter singles out their herbaceous character.
Moving outside of France, Peter gravitates to Italian wines. Among his favorites is an expressive Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino that's intense with ripe red fruit combined with more complex notes of licorice and pipe tobacco.
To finish his evening on a sweet note, Peter enjoys the awardwinning Château la Varière's Bonnezeaux, Les Melleresses, a sweet wine that combines citrus fruits, sweet spices and tropical fruits. And when it comes to bubbly, Peter says you can't go wrong with the classics: Krug champagne delivers rich and layered baked bread and brioche notes, while one of his other favorites, Taittinger Champagne, has ripe fruit, honey, and brioche aromas but is rich and creamy on the palate.
During his career, Peter has been lucky enough to drink all the terroirs of France and even some of the rarest, such as Romanée Conti, which he says you should not pass up if given the opportunity to taste it. Not averse to change, Peter constantly discovers new wines to add to his favorites list. As the climate, trends, and even our palates evolve, there's a never-ending list of wines to choose from, and there are always new gems to unearth.
Jérôme’s Cellar Standouts
Gerard Bertrand Cigalus Pays d’Oc
Henry Marionnet’s Tourraine Gamay Première Vendange
Goisot Côtes d'Auxerre
Domaine Peyre Rosè Languedoc Roussillon
Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Sauternes Château d'Yquem 1989
Grange des Péres Languedoc Aniane Vin de Pays
Domaine LeFlaive Puligny-Montrachet
Domaine Jean-François Ganevat, Jura
Château la Varière Bonnezeaux Les Melleresses
Brunello di Montalcino Castello Banf