Uncorked: Mathieu Marchal

Mathieu Marchal is the head sommelier of Gourmet Dining Concept, which operates Michelin-starred French restaurant Epure along with Dalloyau, a French culinary brand in Hong Kong. Originally from Jura, famous for its ‘Vin Jaune’, Marchal worked in Mainson Lameloise, Gordon Ramsay au Trianon in Versailles and Four Seasons Hotel in Dubai prior to joining Gourmet Dining Concept. Here, the sommelier chats about the best advice he got from Edouard Oger MS, his Jura-related nickname ‘oxidé’ and a bottle of Grange des Pere 2010.

What vintage are you? 

My vintage is 1991. After such great vintages of 1989 and 1990, it’s difficult to find great wines from this year. Although recently I was lucky enough to try a few outstanding bottles such as Chambertin Rousseau 1991, which was one of the best wines of that vintage. So now I do feel that there is potential for this vintage as well.

What bottle sparked your love of wine? 

I started working for a few restaurants when I was a student at a culinary school. But when I was 17, I had a work placement in Burgundy. I will always remember how I got attracted by the wine. The sommelier at that restaurant gave me a chance to learn about the history of wine and we traveled to some vineyards together. The experience was so extraordinary and so amazing that I was captivated by the beauty and diversity of wine. I remember one of the first tastings I had was with the Association of Sommelier of Burgundy (L’Association de Sommelier de Bourgogne), and one of my favourites that really made me feel ‘wow’ was a bottle of Rully White Vincent Dureuil Janthial 2005. And one of my most prestigious bottles was a Jeroboam of Château Lafite Rothschild 1989, I will always remember how I struggle to open it but at the end that was worth it.

What would you be as a wine? 

Most of my friend and colleagues calls me the “oxidé”, meaning “oxidize” in English. The reason is because I am originally from Jura Region (North-East part of France, nor far from Burgundy) and one of our specialties is Vin Jaune (‘Yellow Wine’). This type of wine has strong nuts flavour, but it’s very special. This wine is aged for at least 6 years and 3 months. This is the reason why this wine has a special character of ‘oxidised’ taste. I believe that since it is aged for so long it gives the ambiance of stability and maturity. I can say that compared to my age, I am quite mature and stable.

Where are you happiest? 

I am the happiest when I am with my wife and family. Enjoying a nice bottle of wine or Champagne and just talking about our life, dreams, daily events make me happy and give me energy to continue to grow and work hard.  

What’s your greatest vice? 

One of my vices is that I love sweets. I always need to have a bit of sweetness or some chocolate during my day.

Best advice you ever got? 

I still receive good advice every day from people, but one of the first pieces of significant advice I remember was from my first head sommelier Edouard Oger MS, which was “the most important thing when you are a sommelier is to stay humble, the greatest people in this world are humble”. I witnessed it when I met some MSs and MWs and all of them were so simple and humble even with their great knowledge and experience. The best is to stay being yourself and keep yourself motivated at all times.

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

Very difficult question. Can I save them all? Well, if I can save only one, I will save a bottle of Grange des Pere white 2010. This is one of the wines that I appreciate a lot and I even enjoyed it so much when visiting the estate. I had the chance to try all his wines at that time and to be able to buy some white that I loved. So yes, I will save Grange des Pere white 2010 first.

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

The best thing when you are working in wine industry is that you never stop learning and trying new wines. It s really challenging but at the same time we have the chance to try some of the best wines of this world. The worst is when there is no more bottle.

What’s on your wine bucket list? 

I actually would love to buy few bottles of S de Salon 2004 and some bottles of Krug 2004.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? 

We will organise this with my wife and I will invite all my close friends. It will remind me of the day after our wedding in France when everyone was at my home and we opened so many wines and had such a great time. Sharing what I love with people I love is the most important thing for me.

Personal satisfaction (Parker points – out of 100)?

Let’s say 90. I am still young and I think I have still a potential to grow and learn a lot more but at the same time I am happy about what I made.

Which wine would you like to be served at your funeral?

I will say Champagne. I prefer to see people celebrating than crying, I will let them drink some Krug 1990. That was one of my favourite tastings and it’s such a great bottle. I would like for people to remember me as a person who they would like to celebrate with.

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