Wine shop Nicolas on the Maccarani street in Nice’s Carré d’Or is a lovely and friendly place. Pierre and Ludovic have been managing this wine shop for 4 years now. Ludovic worked in another wine shop in Nice, while Pierre came to discover a new region. I talked to Pierre about the store, his work, wine and learned a lot of interesting things.
It turned out that he was familiar with the world of wine since childhood as his grandfather was the director of a wine cooperative in Languedoc. As his future profession, Pierre first chose trade, but then returned to the world of wine, which was always interesting to him, and completed his master’s degree in Bordeaux with a profile in Wine Trade. He made an internship at the famous Château Pape Clement near Bordeaux and returned to Languedoc to work for a merchant house. It was a purely commercial job, which Pierre liked much less than working in a wine shop now since here he is engaged not only in the commercial part of the wine trade but also works directly with clients.
Why do you enjoy working directly with customers more than in pure distribution?
This is a completely different approach. There I had to focus more on negotiations and the profitability of the deal than on the product itself, terroir, winemaking. I wanted to sell just good wine and tell people about it. Also here in the store, I like autonomy, there is no direct guidance above us, we manage the store the way we want. This is a nice neighborhood with pleasant people. We have done a lot in the store, changed the décor, refurbished it to our taste, but there is still a lot of work and it inspires us. It is interesting to work more with foreign clients. We cooperate a lot with hotels.
Who are your clients?
These are largely residents of the quarter. But there are also many foreigners here, especially from March to November. 80% of our clients during this period are foreigners. The life of the quarter does not standstill. It is a dynamic place, it creates new opportunities.
What makes you different from other stores?
We try to do a lot of in-store tastings to let customers know about the product. Before the pandemic, we organized such events every Friday. It is also a way to meet clients and exchange opinions. Sometimes we invite wine producers with whom we work. We have another project in partnership with restaurants. It is a tasting of our wines in their establishments.
Continue the phrase “When I drink wine, I ..”
There is so much in a glass of wine. A glass of wine for me is the union of the terroir and the grower, how much the latter manages to enlarge the terroir, the land in which his vines grow. And this is incredible. Wine makes you travel. After all, each terroir is special. Even within the same appellation. Winemakers can produce different wines at a distance of 1 km from each other. Each wine is a discovery. We can always learn something by tasting wine. This is what I love about wine – being able to travel with your glass. And of course, pleasure. Wine is much more than just alcohol.
Which wine regions would you closely follow in the future?
I would like to tell you about my region – Languedoc. For a long time, it had a bad reputation, but recently a new generation of winemakers has appeared there, for whom the quality of the product has become more than the quantity. The fact is that land in Bordeaux or Burgundy is very expensive. It is almost impossible to acquire a vineyard there. And the terroir of Languedoc is much more accessible. But the wine styles of the region are very diverse: they are sweet wine, red wine, fortified wine, muscat, sparkling wine. There are AOC and IGP levels. The variety of palettes and styles is very interesting. I really like southern wines, which are quite expressive, with character.
Languedoc is a large region. Where exactly would you advise to pay attention?
One of the most famous appellations is the Pic Saint-Loup north of Montpellier, which produces mostly red wines. This is Syrah, Grenache, also a lot of Mourvedre. The wines retain their freshness. The second appellation, which is interesting and produces exclusively red wines, is Terrasses du Larzac. It is a terroir that produces very high-quality wines of the Languedoc. There are legendary producers (Mas de Daumas Gassac and Mas Jullien). There are also many young winemakers. It is an excellent red wine, also with good freshness. A lot of sun, but the winds from the plateau du Larzac refresh the microclimate.
For white wine, my favourite region is the Loire. I love their minerality. My best wine memory concerns Australian wine. Domaine Torbreck. It was Syrah with a bit of Viognier. I tasted this wine at an exhibition in London. It was a wine that evokes very strong emotions that cannot be forgotten.
What advice can you give young wine merchants?
The first is to know your product well. This is the foundation. I regret a little that I didn’t get technical education. I read a lot but never got involved in the production process. It would be great to spend 1-2 months learning how wine is made. Then you need to be passionate. Trading today is not the easiest thing to do. There are always problems, but you must not lose heart, because there is always a solution. We try to set goals. It doesn’t matter what happens around, but the goal set motivates me to move towards it.
Are there any books or films that have inspired you professionally?
I don’t remember particular books, as for films, the first I would call Mondovino. So just about the Mas de Daumas Gassac, which I mentioned. There are many interesting documentaries.
Moderate alcohol consumption. What are your recommendations?
Wine is a discovery and a journey. And it is not a drink that is drunk quickly and easily. It’s a difficult question. I’m a caviste, but that doesn’t mean I drink every day. I have to taste, this is normal, it is my profession. I think the main problem with wine is overconsumption. And this problem also comes from poor quality products, cheap supermarket wines.