The sommelier at New York City’s Le Bernardin regularly visits France to stock the restaurant and its new wine bar. “It’s important to bond with the winemakers and experience the culture,” he says. On a recent trip, he visited Burgundy, Provence, and the Rhône region. “It’s not a typical vacation,” he says. “I’m tasting at five wineries a day. If you don’t spit, you won’t survive lunch.” Here are Aldo’s highlights.
“Whenever I visit Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, I skip the Michelin-star restaurants and head to Ma Cuisine for classic Burgundian fare. The restaurant is housed in 15th- century stables and has a selection of old chartreuse liqueur.” Passage Saint- Hélène, 33/(0) 3-80-22-30-22
“At the 24-seat Caves Madeleine, left, diners eat in a wine cellar. Look for the signature lemon ravioli on the chalkboard menu.” 8 rue du Faubourg Madeleine, 33/(0) 3-80-22-93-30
Pedal to Your Picnic
“The best way to explore the grand cru vineyards of Burgundy is by bike. Pack a picnic and carry two wine glasses in your backpack.”
Spring in Provence
“You really smell the herbs and the Mediterranean Sea in the air in Provence. The area is so picturesque. It’s no wonder Van Gogh found inspiration there. I stayed at La Cabro d’Or in Les Baux-de-Provence and visited wineries in the Bandol area near the coast.” 13520 Les Baux-de-Provence, 33/(0) 4-90-54-33-21, lacabrodor.com
“Domaine de Trévallon is a bit hidden but makes incredible reds. You taste straight from the barrels at a table in the cellar.” 13103 Saint-Etienne-Du-Gres; 33/(0) 4-90-49-06-00, domainedetrevallon.com
Bordeaux’s Famous Red
“Domaine Tempier is the most famous producer in Provence’s Bandol region. I love their mourvèdre-dominant red blends.” 1082 Chemin des Fanges, 33/(0) 4-94-98-70-21, domainetempier.com
“Driving through Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhône Valley feels like visiting a museum. ‘Châteauneuf-du- Pape’ translates to ‘the pope’s new castle.’ The Avignon popes built a castle here as their summer residence in the 14th century. Today, you can still see the ruins, above. The popes enjoyed their wine, and the region is known for its full-bodied, spicy reds. Make an appointment at Château de Beaucastel, which makes a red blend of 13 grape varietals from the region.” Chemin de Beaucastel, 33/(0) 4-90-70-41-00, beaucastel.com
“Restaurant L’Oustalet is off the Rhône Valley tourist path in the villageof Gigondas. The wine list is superb, and if you visit during morel season in April, you’re in for a treat.” Place du Village, 33/(0) 4-90-65-85-30, restaurantoustalet.com
Discover more sommelier picks in France: Richard Betts on how to drink like a somm in Bordeaux.
Illustrations by Sam Kerr, photos by Bridget Murphy, Aldo Sohm, Rainer Jahns. This appeared in the May 2014 issue.