Continuing our indie writing competition, Ari Danielsson, native Icelander, sends in his story of a move to Luxembourg that changed his life in more ways than one.
Some say that the people you encounter during your first days and weeks after relocating to a new country, or starting a new job, will have the greatest impact on your stay. I don't know if that is true in general, but in my case I was fortunate enough to meet French sommelier Gildas Royer of In Vino Gildas during my very first weeks after expatriating from my home country Iceland to Luxembourg, little over six years ago. Coming from a country where wine is still sold through a government-run monopoly, fine wine culture is very limited and my wine experiences were for a long time limited to the likes of Mateus Rosé and Blue Nun whites. Landing in Luxembourg, a stone's throw away from some of the world's greatest wine regions, was a real eye opener and a game changer for my already growing interest in anything related to food and wine.
What attracted me to Gildas, as a sommelier and wine retailer, is his endless passion for sharing, both his deep knowledge and understanding of wine, but also the sharing of his network and contacts, with other like-minded customers, as well as with wine producers. In short, Gildas makes connecting people just as big a part of his business as actually selling wines.
The true test of whether a certain wine retailer (or wine critic, for that matter) is someone to follow is whether or not their palate is aligned with yours. In the case of Gildas, I have come to appreciate, as my own palate evolves, his taste and preference for well balanced, fresh and feminine style wines that are true to their origin and terroir. Wines that are not trying to be anything else than they were meant to be. The collection of his shop reflects this taste and makes it therefore easy and safe to explore and randomly select new producers and regions, almost knowing for sure that they will be well appreciated when opened at home.
Naturally, as is the case for most wine retailers in the area, a big part of Gildas' business is related to the key French regions of Bordeaux, Bourgogne and the Rhône, but what I truly appreciate is his 'treasure-hunting' into less mainstream regions and smaller producers. This has led me to the wonderfully concentrated whites of the Suisse Valais, the exotic whites of Santorini and the incredibly fresh and soft 100% Mourvèdre he had Côtes Catatalanes producer Domaine Sainte-Jacqueline bottle specifically unblended after having tasted it in the vineyard. That bottling was made under the condition that it would only ship in magnum format and that In Vino Gildas would have to buy the full production. What a wonderful venture this was for us, the lucky few who stocked up on this little jewel.
If there is any one thing that can take the enjoyment of a good bottle of wine to the next level, of course in addition to enjoying it with good food and friends, it is if I am able to associate it with a producer's face, his philosophy, family heritage, views from the vineyard it originates from or the smells of the cellar it matured in. There is nothing that thrills me more or has impacted more my short journey into the world of fine wines than to actually go and visit wine regions and meet the wine makers. In this aspect Gildas has been a true door opener, in the literal sense. Together with a wonderful group of like-minded wine enthusiasts we have, during the last few years, travelled to the key wine regions of Europe as well as meeting with wine makers when they visit his shop in Luxembourg. These journeys have led me to dining rooms with the likes of Albert Tesseron of Pontet-Canet and Jean-Michel Laporte of La Conseillante, barrel tastings at Petrus, Angélus and several other iconic Bordeaux estates, discussing wine making methods with the likes of Roberto Conterno in Piedmont and Etienne Grivot in Bourgogne and addressing the dilemmas of the En Primeur campaign with négociant Douglas Demichel in Bordeaux. Just to name a few.
Realising fully what a privilege this has been I can only accredit these wonderful experiences to Gildas Royer of In Vino Gildas.