So many wines, so little time.
You can see from the previous post that I’ve just returned from a trip to the wine lands of South Africa where the hospitably was wonderful – more of which later. To get there, I took a circuitous route via London and Hong Kong. I mentioned Hong Kong in a previous blog post but not London. London remains the centre of the international wine trade, a world wine hub. It is old and established and at the same time extraordinarily innovative and modern. You can find just about any type of beverage here, unlike the wine regions I’m usually visiting.
It is not surprising then that the Gardinier family have chosen London as the latest outpost for their food and wine empire.
I first met the family in Bordeaux where they have owned the beautiful, and in my opinion still underrated and undervalued, property Château Phelan Segur since 1985. This elegant château is at the heart of Saint Estèphe, the most northerly of the Medoc ‘Communal’ appellations. The 70ha are spread between classified neighbours such as Chateau Calon Segur, Château Lafon Rochet and Chateau Montrose, to whom they sold some of their vines in 2010.
It missed the 1855 classification and was a ‘Cru Bourgeois Exceptionel’ until 2003 when, under the new rules, the hierarchy within the Cru Bourgeois was eliminated.
One of the 3 brothers, Thierry Gardinier, is at the head of the estate alongside the director Veronique Dausse. As the director of the Alliance des Cru Bourgeois Thierry was pivotal in overseeing its development to its present form.
This elegant property has one of the most spectacular views from the plateau of Saint Estèphe across a majestic lawn, the vines and the Gironde Estuary. Upon appointment, you can enjoy the view as well as the wines. They will happily share verticals of recent vintages and their hospitality reaches as far as the family dining room. You can even participate with a cooking class in the kitchen with their in-house chef and then sample your hard work with the wines.
Their al fresco lunches on the lawn at harvest time are some of the best in Bordeaux, where you will rub shoulders with most of the Bordeaux wine trade.
It comes as no surprise then that the family has a very gastronomic background. Their home base is Champagne where their father, Xavier Gardinier, owned and ran both Lanson and Pommery Champagne houses since the 1970s including Le Domaine Les Crayères. Les Crayères remains in the family, a Relais Château Hotel and Michelin starred restaurant.
In 2011 they purchased the Taillevent group. The Taillevent restaurant opened in Paris in 1946 and is a French gastronomic legend, winning its first Michelin star in 1948, a second in 1954 and a third in 1973.
It is also famous for its wine selection; the cellar holds over 2000 listings of wines and spirits from 16 countries. Trading on this reputation, they opened a wine shop in 1987 ‘Les Caves de Taillevent’, originally as part the restaurant. From 1994 to 2013, Les Caves de Taillevent also opened in Japan, with five wine shops in Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka.
In 2012 the Gardiniers renamed the bistro Les 110 de Taillevent, after the 110 wines served there by the glass. From this selection different wines are suggested each day to match the menu. 4 for each dish: starter, main and dessert at 4 different price points. The wines are available by the glass in two sizes (7cl or 12.5) the wines are kept under argon gas system.
The London 110 de Taillevent Restaurant opened in October this year on Cavendish Square, just as I was passing through London. Serendipity. The by the glass selection is eclectic (and very international), the food delicious and varied and the portion sizes perfect, the atmosphere a happy blend of sophistication and fun (or was that just the girlfriends I was lunching with?) and the staff extremely friendly. The decor is classically elegant and it really is all about the wine, there are bottles everywhere.
They open for lunch, diner and breakfast (wine with breakfast? But of course!). Food and wine matching underlies the Gardinier philosophy and the range of wines on offer makes it a perfect venue. They should receive a very warm welcome from London wine and food lovers.
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