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Winter warmers (from This City Paris)

Mark Tungate

Genial bar-owner Tim Johnston recommends wines (and other tipples) to ward off the chill. Mark Tungate listens in.

In his wine bar a stone's throw away from the Palais Royale, Tim Johnston is holding court. The roguish Scotsman clearly loves good drink and good conversation, and he has strong opinions on everything - from Princess Diana (assassinated, for sure) to globalization (it's destroying the French lifestyle) to Bordeaux (it's nothing but a marketing gimmick).

The latter is the most appropriate subject, because we're here to talk about wine. Winter wine, specifically - and as Johnston has been running his popular restaurant/bar Juveniles for 16 years, he can speak on the subject with some authority.

"This is a Côtes du Rhône, a classic winter wine," he says, pouring me a glass of the ruby-hued liquid. "But it's a special version, a sort of junior Cornas."

It's like no other Côtes du Rhône I've tasted - rich and spicy, with a hefty kick of fruit. Then we move onto its big brother, the Cornas itself. Even my untrained palate rejoices at the mélange of ripe fruit flavors. "This is the 2000, a great vintage."

But Johnston does not only recommend French wines. In fact, he sees it as part of his job to turn customers on to great wines from abroad. He says: "Winter is all about mushrooms, truffles, neaps, parsnips, and dishes like beef cheek - chunky, earthy food. With that kind of stuff you want big, red, full-bodied wines. I'd go for Californian Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz, Montsant from Tarragona in Spain , and wines from Piedmont in Northern Italy ."

He does not hold with the French habit of drinking Sauternes with foie gras. "I don't want a sweet wine with something soft and delicate like foie gras. I'd go for a red - perhaps a ten-year-old Pessac-Léognan with soft tannins and subtle fruit. The only white wine you shouldn't avoid during the winter is Jurançon."

© 2011 Mark Tungate
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