Friday 12 April 2013

French Foodies in Ireland: Pascal Rossignol from Le Caveau Wine Imports and Shop, Kilkenny

Where in France are you from?
I was born in Gevrey-Chambertin, in the heart of Burgundy’s Cotes de Nuits wine district. I grew up and went to school there and left at age 25. I return about once or twice a year to visit my family, winegrowers and friends.
What brought you to Ireland?
In my early twenties I was passionate about the Celts; a book by Burgundy writer Henri Vincenot had me intrigued about the Celts, their culture, how they arrived in Europe, the influence they had, the traces they had left in contemporary France/Europe etc... I bought and read lots of books on the subject, every single one of them mentioned Ireland at some stage. That started my interest for this country, a few more books about Ireland and movies showing the wonderful landscapes of the West of Ireland later, I was hooked. Later, in the late eighties, when I was working in the hotel industry in London, I used to hang around a lot with Irish colleagues, French and Irish people tend to get on quite well, don’t they? Eventually, I met my wife-to-be, Geraldine who is from county Carlow and who was working in the same hotel, the rest, as they say, is history.
Tell me about your occupation?
Geraldine and I set up Le Caveau wine imports and shop in the summer of 1999 with the aim of bringing in wines that are true to their origins and made by artisan growers. We quickly added a wholesale side and a website to our retail operation. Today, I am managing Le Caveau, looking after the sourcing of the wines, the relations with the winegrowers, the wholesale side outside of Dublin (Claire O’Boyle-Gallagher and Gary Byrne are looking after our wholesale customers in the capital), and work a few days a week in our Kilkenny shop. Luckily we have a brilliant team of professionals who have a real passion for artisan wines working with us, so it makes the whole working side really interesting and enjoyable indeed.

What do you love about your job?
I feel quite lucky to do what I do, I travel a lot, visit fantastic regions, most of the time totally off the tourist track, and get to meet dedicated, passionate winegrowers who produce wines that truly reflect their regions. These growers are real characters, they produce their wines as naturally as possible, using environment friendly and sustainable methods in the vineyards. There’s a real sense of authenticity about both the wines and the people who make them. Once the wines are brought in, I talk about, explain and share them with customers and friends. These are the aspects I truly enjoy.

What qualification/experience do you have in the wine sector?
I grew up surrounded by vineyards, earned my first pocket money helping my cousins in their vineyards. My father’s cellar was always well stocked up with the most interesting Burgundy wines, most of them exchanged for services rendered to his friends who were winegrowers; so I got an early taste for wine. When I finished college, I worked as a vigneron full time for three years with Joseph Roty, a Gevrey-Chambertin wine producer and later I worked as a sommelier.
When did you start being interested in wine?
At a very early stage, we had these memorable Sunday lunches that would transform into early, even late dinners at home when I was young. My mother would cook for my brothers, sisters, father and herself – that was for 11 people – and we would have visitors almost every Sunday - I think mum’s cooking and dad’s cellar were quite popular amongst my uncles and aunties. My father and two brothers were shooting pheasants, wild pigeons, woodcocks, hare, wild boars etc… and my mother would prepare them. I can say I experienced first-hand how well Burgundy wines worked with game. My dad would always bring up some brilliant bottles and the wine would not only be served, but talked about at length, devised, revered almost… that’s when it all started for me I guess.

Which wines are the most popular products in your shop at the moment?
Due to the punishing level of excise duty here, the interest seem to have shifted towards better priced wines, that’s quite understandable in these difficult times.
However our artisan wines, made in small quantities, by passionate growers are proving very popular. These wines have real energy, balance and purity in them. They come from the Loire, Southern Burgundy, South-West France, the Rhone, Languedoc but also from Italy, Spain, Chile, New Zealand and Argentina. Simply mention low intervention, sustainable viticulture, no additives with no or low level of sulphites added and people get really interested. They are by far our best sellers today.

Do you have a favourite wine you couldn't live without?
Not a specific wine as such, but a region and it has to be Burgundy. One sniff of a glass and I am transported back to my homeland; they offer so much diversity, so much character, it is hard to believe that they’re all made with the same grape – Pinot Noir for the reds and Chardonnay for the whites – nowhere the influence of terroir is more obvious. They are brilliant with food, there’s always some kind of excitement when you open a bottle of Burgundy, they can reach such height, sometimes let you down somehow, but a bottle from a good grower will rarely leave you indifferent.

What is your favourite wine and food pairing?
I don’t think I have one in particular, but lots of memories of perfect matches – including a bone-dry, mineral and gun-flint scented Sancerre served with a plateau de fruits de mer, that was on a restaurant terrace in Lille in the early 1990’s, and I still remember it today.

*All pictures courtesy of Pascal

Merci Pascal for answering my email interview! 

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