Sommelier Stories with Julien Tessier


Where are you from, Julien?
Pessac – which is 15 minutes from the city centre.  I was there until my 19th birthday when I went to work as a sommelier at an amazing two Michelin starred restaurant in Montrond-Les-Bains called La Poularde.  I came to London about two years ago and now you will find me every day chatting with my customers at New Street Wine Shop, by Liverpool Street Station.

What is the city of Bordeaux like?
Bordeaux is as beautiful as the historical centre of Paris.  It has a young heart and great atmosphere because there are lots of students.  There are also lots of festivals, art exhibitions, great restaurants and young passionate chefs.

What about the wines?
Bordeaux is one of the most famous wine regions in the world.  Perhaps some people think of it as being posh and expensive and that may be partly down to us sommeliers; but there are perhaps only 150 chateaux that produce these great and expensive wines.  As great as they are, there is so much more to look out for as well.

Such as?
A really up-coming appellation is Côtes de Blaye.  Even the people in Bordeaux don’t know this area as well as they could!  So there is a regular festival in the centre of the city to promote it.  There are other great appellations too like Sainte-Foy de Bordeaux, Côtes de Bourg – all of these three are part of the relatively new generic appellation called Côtes de Bordeaux.  Wines from these areas are very accessible in terms of price and are fantastic value.

Tell me something I don’t know
In Bordeaux we love our sparkling wine, Cremant de Bordeaux.  It’s a fresh style, easy-drinking, and citrusy as it’s made with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle.  When we’re celebrating at home, that’s what we open.

I’ve tried the reds, what about the whites?
Most people think of Bordeaux as just about red wines, but the whites are fantastic.  Sauvignon Blanc is so popular in the UK, so try something from Graves or Entre Deux Mers for a change.  With crustacea and oysters it is amazing.

The majority of our whites are blended with Semillon, which adds structure and complexity.  Most new world Sauvignons are not aged at all, but we age some of ours in oak barrels and it adds further aromatic complexity, which I love.

90% of the white wines from Bordeaux are fresh, easy-drinking, every day wines.  The top 10% are gastronomic wines with great elegance and structure and this is where it becomes all about Pessac-Léognan for me – those wines are incredible, perfect with veal in a cream sauce.

What do you miss about Bordeaux?
Other than my family? Living close to the vines, being able to touch the terroir and speak with winemakers every day.

Tell us your fondest memory of Bordeaux?
My grandmother invited me to eat lunch with her one day, so I popped in and she asked me to choose a couple of bottles from the fridge.  When I opened the door, I found two bottles of 1968 Chateau Haut-Brion in there.  I couldn’t believe it!  When I asked her about them, she said “oh they’re nothing, just open them. Your uncle did a harvest there once and they gave him a few bottles.  I just cook with them.”  I couldn’t believe it!  Just a £300-£400 bottle of wine that my grandmother was cooking with.  We definitely didn’t cook with those last two bottles!