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Ask a sommelier: Gaëtan Lacoste, Le Clarence, Paris

Published:  21 August, 2019

Michelin-starred Parisian restaurant Le Clarence was established in 2015 by Domaine Clarence Dillon which owns a number of historical French wine estates including Bordeaux First Growth Château Haut-Brion, Château La Mission Haut-Brion and Saint-Émilion’s Château Quintus.

The restaurant is situated a stone’s throw from the iconic Champs Elysées and boasts a wine list of 2,400 wines. We catch up with sommelier Gaëtan Lacoste to get his views on seasonal drinking and how to deal with tricky customers.

What’s your go-to summer wine?

My summer wine is young white wines, in a sharp and slender style. Three wine regions come to my mind at the moment, wines from the Loire Valley made from Chenin Blanc, for example the wine Vouvray 2016 from Domaine Michel Autran, the wine ‘Esprit Libre’ from Thomas Batardière 2017 vintage and in Savoie area, the cuvée ‘Quartz’ from Domaine des Ardoisières 2017 vintage. Finally, I can’t forget Champagne for summer, for example the Cuvée ‘Alto-Grande Côte’ by the winegrower Emmanuel Lasagne, the 2012 vintage.

How do you persuade customers to change their wines seasonally?

The wines’ style on the wine menu evolves just like the produce in our chef's kitchen; our common wish is to stay linked to the product that nature gives us. But it is difficult to say there is a specific region for a specific season, there is such a diversity of taste and flavours. The goal is to have the widest choice of wines on the menu, to meet all the wine cravings, at any time of the year.

Which reds are good to drink in warm weather?

Personally, I prefer naturally infused styles rather than very extracted or wines with strong ageing. Grape varieties such as the Jurassian Poulsard, the Frappato in Sicily, the Pinot Noir in Burgundy of course, or Grenache from altitude or from sandy soils are some of the wines that I love drinking in summer.

Does your clientele change during the summer months?

We do not see a change of clients connected to the arrival of the summer, Paris is alive all year round and we are lucky to have a good proportion of Parisian and French clients, but also a good part of international clients.

What have you learnt recently from a customer?

I particularly like my work because I learn something new at each new table, each client has different expectation. I love to discuss with them about their wishes, but also their experiences in other restaurants in the world, they tell me about what they liked, disliked. We are lucky to have guests that are wine and food lovers, this allows us to exchange on new emerging areas, new cuvées or winegrowers, a new vintage. Mutual enrichment is almost indefinite.

What’s the best way of dealing with tricky customers?

I think the main solution is listening, quickly understanding their wishes; try to bring about a good solution with a lot of empathy, calm and mastery, without ever putting the customer in the wrong position. If a customer comes to our restaurant, we must be accommodating in all situations.