1000 wines in a week

How many wines do most of us taste in a lifetime? More than a thousand? Olivier Poussier tried that many in just 10 days recently.

by: Nick Antonovics | 12 Dec 2007

In an interview, Poussier admitted it was an unusually heavy workload, even for someone whose day job is selecting wines for luxury French restaurant chain Lenotre.

"Normally it would be around 80 wines a week," he said. "When tasting, you can tell straight away with some wines they just don't make it... even without putting them in your mouth."

His exceptional week began with the task of tasting 800 wines for the Novotel and Mercure hotel chains. Then he spent a weekend on a panel judging 350 Bordeaux and other wines from 2001.

The 43-year-old, who won the title "Best Sommelier in the World" in 2000, is undaunted by the challenge of keeping his palate up to speed with the industry's latest offerings.

When he started work at Paris restaurant Tour d'Argent in 1982 tastes were very conservative.

He began experimenting with wines from around the world only when he went to work in Oxford and London between 1987 and 1989. He now travels and buys all over, with a major trip to Argentina planned during next year's harvest in March.

Riesling rules
Despite his global outlook, Poussier is sceptical about efforts to develop vineyards in the warm climates of China and South Korea, saying they will never be able to rival Europe in terms of variety and quality.

He has his favourite Bordeaux wines, such as Chateau Latour and the neighbouring Chateau Leoville-Las-Cases, but is not fixated on the region.

His favourite grape variety is Riesling, which dominates vineyards in the Rhine and Moselle river valleys connecting Germany, France and Luxembourg.

"The fear I have for the wine industry at the moment is the harmonisation of tastes, because today it only wants 10 varieties," he said, citing the omnipresence of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and other varieties on wine lists.

He said emerging vineyards in Eastern Europe from Croatia to the Crimea, which specialise in unusual varieties, offer the greatest wine potential in the coming years.

Over the past 20 years he has built up his own cellar of 3000 to 4000 bottles. Asked if he would ever have time to drink it, he said: "I don't know. I have three children. If I don't get around to drinking it, it will be for them."

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