On Monday, I found myself worming my way through a maze of staircases and wine cellars, trying to find my way to the party in what seemed to be the world’s deepest basement at New York Vintners in Downtown Manhattan. Many of the doors looked like they would lead to walk-in refrigerators, and I was convinced at any point that I was going to get arrested for trespassing.
Eventually, however, I entered a massive room with an archway made from stacked wine boxes, where wine, hip hop, and basketball enthusiasts chatted while drinking some of the world’s best champagne. I’d come for a live podcast recording of Wine & Hip Hop, the critically acclaimed podcast hosted by the “Wolf of Wine,” Jermaine Stone. Stone has hosted some of the biggest names in wine and hip hop on his show, but the guest that evening was Tony Parker, the French NBA player and Hall of Famer, who decided (in his retirement) to become a winemaker.
Now, I don’t know anything about basketball. But I’m fascinated by the ubiquity of celebrity-owned wine and spirits brands. The French wine industry is notoriously difficult to break into, even for a Frenchman with VIP status. I asked Parker if he ever felt there was backlash when he decided to venture into the vineyards, if people looked at him and said, “What does this guy know about wine?” He responded by explaining that that’s why he waited until his retirement to get into the wine business, so that he could throw his full weight behind the project and let people know that he was taking it seriously. If you want the Bordeaux wine world to remember you, he said, you have to go every year. You can’t miss the conferences or the networking opportunities. You need to put in the face time, or they’ll forget you in an instant.
This podcast episode isn’t out yet, but it was a great conversation and will be worth a listen when it’s released. Stone and Parker had some really cool things to say about accessibility in the wine industry, and Parker’s goal to offer more affordable high quality wines alongside the premium products at his two vineyards, Château la Mascaronne and Champagne Jeeper. (According to Parker, the latter got its unusual name from the Jeep gifted to the château’s owner by the American army during World War II.)
While I wish that I could afford to keep Jeeper’s Blanc de Blancs Grande Réserve, with its floral and brioche notes and citrusy finish, on hand all the time, I’ll have to save some for a special occasion. In the meantime, I have a collection of French (and French-style) wine recommendations for you.
And here are a few bonus recommendations for non-French wines I loved this year: From Argentina, we’ve got the Crios Torrontés 2022. From New Zealand, the Forrest Sauvignon Blanc 2022. And from California, the Picayune Albariño 2022.
Looking for more podcasts about wine? I’d recommend Wine School Dropout. Or maybe you’d like some tips on putting together a nice cheese course to go with that exciting new wine you’ve found. Prefer a cocktail? We’ve got a guide for building your own French cocktail bar at home.
Managing Editor, frenchly.us
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