How To Drink Better Wine In 2019 – Q&A With Celian R.
This month we were pleased to speak with Celian, whose service on Almost Essential helps wine lovers discover, enjoy and learn more about some of the best french wines, that are normally very hard to come by at local supermarkets and bottle shops. Thank you Celian for sharing your wine advice and an insight into your story.
AE: Welcome Celian, let me ask you the most important question. What are the top three things to look for when you’re looking for a good wine?
Firstly, who do you get it from? It’s always better to buy a wine from a place you trust and when you know they have selected it because it’s good, not because it’s cheap!
Secondly, do not to be influenced by the label. We all tend to find that a wine tastes as good as the label looks, but I can guarantee that it’s not true! It’s more important to read what’s on the label but don’t be afraid of a wine if the label is not fancy.
Thirdly, I like to know that the wine has its own character and not that it’s made to taste the same every year, so a key question to ask is “who made it?” Is it from a specific Domaine/Chateau or is it a brand. A Domaine wine means production has been carefully managed by the winemaker from A to Z, whereas most branded wines are made in huge volumes, with grapes sourced from different places and it’s less likely to have an authentic identity.
AE: Is there ever a case for buying supermarket wine?
For cooking only! More seriously, the problem with supermarket wines is that the quality can really differ from one wine to another, and you won’t get much advice or help from the staff to chose. However, if you know a wine and there’s a good deal in a supermarket then it would be a shame not to go for it. But only if you know the wine!
AE: Where can you buy quality wine, if you don’t have a good bottle shop near you?
Well, there’s the online service that I manage of course. My services can’t complete with supermarket prices but we definitely excel on quality and value for money.
AE: Tell us a bit more about how your business works then.
We offer french wines that are produced in small quantities, and for me that’s often the difference between drinking something that is truly authentic and something mass-produced and has little characteristic. Customers visit our website and join our wine club, membership is free, and you only pay when you order wine!
Because we mostly source from small production winemakers, who we know and have taken care of the whole wine making process, from vine growing to bottling – we are able to offer our customers the opportunity to discover quality authentic french wines! We don’t take the same levels of margin on our bottles as the supermarkets do on theirs, so if you’re spending at least £8 in a supermarket then I’m certain we represent far superior value against that category.
We’ve also launched a subscription box, where our sommelier becomes your sommelier, selecting 3 different bottles each month for your to discover. Each month is based around a certain theme and comes with their own setting of tasting notes and cards for you to keep on file.
AE: This sounds an exciting business to be involved in. What made you start it in the beginning?
I had been living in the UK for over 10 years and was frustrated about the lack of quality french wine in the supermarkets.The idea was to share our experience of finding hidden gems to those who had less time and knowledge to do so. We then used our network in France to find more and more great wines, mostly from small family vineyards and start bringing them to the UK. The idea of the monthly subscription came after a few years as we had many of our members asking for it. It’s a great way to discover new wines and learn more about them. The subscription has been on for less then a year and it’s already a smashing success!
AE: What makes it so affordable yet great quality?
As we import all our wines ourselves directly from the vineyards, there are no other intermediary, which enables us to keep our prices as low as possible. As for the quality, we taste every single bottle we sell and only pick the ones we would be happy to buy for ourselves. No compromise here, we would never pick a wine only because we can make great margin, it has to be good no matter what – and I know it’s not always the case with wines sold in the UK!
AE: How much do subscribers save?
For our Monthly Box subscribers, they automatically save 20% on every wine they want to re-order, they get 3 bottles to try every months and can then order more of their favourites. Otherwise in our weekly offers, it always depends on the deal we can make with the producers but on average our wines are 15% to 20% cheaper than our competitors.
AE: What are the most popular reds , whites, roses and sparkling you can recommend to Almost Essential subscribers right now?
It not easy to say as people have very different taste but I would say that Bordeaux and Côtes du Rhône are among the most popular French red wines.
For white, Saint Véran is south Burgundy (100% Chardonnay) and Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley
Rosé, definitely Côtes de Provence!
And for sparkling, obviously Champagne remains the top one but we’ve seen increasing interest for other sparkling like Crémant d’Alsace recently.
Interested in discovering some new and authentic French wines? Recommended to all wine lovers and connoisseurs on Almost Essential, you can join the club and select your first bottles here. (Almost Essential subscribers get 10% off on their first order with code YS-10-OFF).