Uncorked: Martin Perino

The gregarious Parisian, Martin Perino is the founder and sommelier of French Flair,  his new venture in collaboration with the restaurant group, French Creations. French Flair is a private wine cellar in Sai Ying Pun which introduces ‘undiscovered’ wines from all over France to Hong Kong’s wine lovers. Perino moved to Hong Kong in March this year and speaks to db HK about drinking Bâtard-Montrachet and the best advice given to him by his father.

Martin PerinoWhat vintage are you? 

1987! A really underestimated vintage, who will reveal all its great qualities in… in… . No, it’s definitely a s**** vintage, haha. The good point is that if you want to give me a great birthday present by offering me a 1987 bottle the only “drinkable” wines are unfortunately, crus classés –  such as Haut-Brion or Romanée Conti. I give you the choice!

What bottle sparked your love of wine?

Hard to tell…  For wine, long is the path that leads to knowledge. You start your life with your childhood taste, full of sweetness and milk. Then, your first tasting is maybe a sweet wine … then less sweet … white … red… you have to go through all of that to find your favourite. Then, one day … God is touching your tiny little shoulder … and you realize “God! This is so powerful, meaningful, I am probably falling in love…with this wine!

I would say that Burgundy has the keys of my heart, mostly because they are not easy wines. You should deserve this sensation of simple elegance and you have to wait, to learn to appreciate them.

My first revelation took the shape of a simple bottle of Marsannay (near Gevrey-Chambertin). Then, a few years after, I had the opportunity to visit Le Domaine de la Romanée Conti, where I simply experienced the best white wine I ever had, maybe my best wine ever: Bâtard-Montrachet. Tasting in the DRC cellars was more than beautiful: it was amazing… The wine was more than great, it was inspiring … with classic white fruit notes, honeysuckle, not insignificant weight and fullness in the mouth. Apricots and strawberries notes, caramel freshness, combined with a subtle acidity unveiling the lovely sweetness of this amazing wine.

What would you be as a wine?

Wine is a path of knowledge and I like the idea to have an appointment with a very rare, difficult to find wine… in decades. Not because it would be expensive, but because if I were a wine, I would not be ready yet. I should still continue to read, learn, see, smell, dream and drink a lot before this very particular wine. To appreciate its real value and respect it… and it’s never been about money. This wine would make me a better man and I would like to be this bottle for one man or a woman.

Where are you happiest?

Answering your question, I am the happiest today, wherever I am! I experienced such magical moments doing my job here in Hong-Kong and in my family’s restaurant in France.

What’s your greatest vice?

Loving the pleasure of others.

Best advice you ever got?

From my father: “You’ll never learn enough… keep on learning!”

Most overused word? 

Parker?

Your cellar’s underwater, which bottle would you dive in and save?

Well at French Flair, I would calmly save the magnum of Saint Joseph Cuvée du Papy from Stephane Montez, a nice Meursault of Rodolphe Demougeot, a Pommard 1er cru Clos Les Bertins 2003 from my friend François Chaveriat at Domaine Lescure, a 2007  Minervois Liviniére 2007 Clos de Centeilles (because I was cooking a pressed duck for my fiancee), a Charmes Chambertin 2007 from Domaine des Beaumont (because we had a Truffle brie) and a Jeroboam of Gevrey Chambertin « Racine du Temps » 2005 from the winery René Bouvier…

Actually, I would probably drown at that moment because it would take too long rescuing them… Maybe this is the answer to your previous question about my greatest vice?  The fact I can’t choose!

What’s the best and worst thing about the wine business?

The worst is when this business is running by people who don’t give a s*** about wine.

The best? This is a little bit anecdotal but the continuity of the “allocataire” system in Burgundy is something amazing. In Burgundy, if your father is used to buy 36 bottles of Domaine de la Romanée Conti every year, you will inherit this allowance at the Domaine price, which is amazingly under the market price. So for example, a Meursault of Jean Francois Coche Dury can be sold at €40 at the winery while you can buy it at €400 on the internet, on the same day.

That means that the winemaker could decide to sell it at 10 times its price but does not. Do you know of any other trade where people accept to make 10 times less money just because they think that is an honest price?

What’s on your wine bucket list?

I’ve had the great honour to be invited to famous wineries such as Domaine de la Romanée Conti, Clos des Lambrays, Clos de Tart, Anne Gros, Bouvier, Francois Carillon, where I tasted legendary bottles. There are so many other great wines to discover and so here would be my top three: Henri Jayer Richebourg or Cros Parantoux, Montrachet from Domaine d’Auvenay and a good back vintage of Grange des Pères.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Yves Camdeborde (the founding father of bistronomy) because at the last minute I would tell him : “Dinner is not ready! Can you give me a hand Yves?”

Scorsese and De Niro because at 4am we’ll be hungry again and we’ll need “goodfellas” to prepare a huge plate of spaghetti and then all my winemaker’s buddies, with a jeroboam of their own favourite wines. I can’t forget all my friends and family who are wine drinkers … to drink the jeroboams as well. My father, because we love drinking together, philosophize about wine (and also because he is a great dishwasher!) My mom, because at 3am and after five bottles of Champagne, she’s still the best out of tune Beatles singer. And of course, my girlfriend because she is the greatest dancer and the only one!

Which wine would you like served at your funeral?

Some nice Champagne Ay Grand Cru MV from the house Henri Giraud and some old Silex from Dagueneau for the warm up, some magnums of Clos des Grives from Laurent Combier, few back vintages of Fonsalette (red) from Emmanuel Reynaud at Chateau Rayas to remember… and few rare bottles of Burgundy from La Grande Rue (Lamarche), some grand cru from Domaine Leroy and some nice bottles from the great Lucien Lemoine, for the mysteries…

Wine that would make people happy. So I suppose that’s a lot of bottles!

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