Wise up! Words of wisdom from sommelier Laura Vidal
I am from Montreal, a beautiful bilingual city.
I moved to Paris at 26 to be closer to the wine world and hopefully find a job as a sommelier to be able to travel in the wine country and learn more. I was lucky to meet Gregory Marchand from Frenchie who gave me the chance to develop my skills and learn so much.
I fell into the food and wine industry totally by chance.
I worked in a couple of restaurants when I was at university studying finance in Montreal and after hating it I then started working after graduation. I just went back to working on the floor and picked a great restaurant where the wine list was extraordinary and the people were really generous with their knowledge and time with respect to wine. The whole staff would do a blind tasting every Wednesday and talk about wine and what it could be. It was a revelation.
When I go to restaurants, I look for emotional intelligence in the service and for high quality products transformed just enough and with enough taste.
When a wine list has only big industrial names and little small growers, it frustrates me.
I imagine right away that if they aren’t giving thought to their wine sourcing, why should they to their products. When I see a fabulous wine list with plenty of small growers, some natural wine and a good variety, I am usually ready to abandon myself to the experience.
If you don’t know much about wine ask to speak to the sommelier and try to explain what you enjoy – sweet, acidic, bitter, rich, light, citrusy or more buttery?
It’s a hard task when there isn’t anyone around to offer help. I’d say stick with what you know and enjoy if you don’t want to take a risk.
Try to learn about wine in your own time.
Get to know basic varietals and wine regions you appreciate. Try to pinpoint a winemaker you like whose wines you enjoy. Look for that and try to remember what grapes you most enjoyed in the past.
My most memorable meal was at La Grenouillère in Montreuil-sur-Mer in France.
It was Harry’s 30th birthday, we weren’t rushed, we had the best meal, the most spectacular wines, incredible laid-back but professional service. I can’t stop raving about that meal and thought about it constantly for months after leaving. We even had lunch there the next day because we couldn’t get enough. It was just what I like: new-school dining with technique, purity, the right amount of transformation, laid-back, smart service and a great wine selection.
My most memorable bottle of wine was Hubert Lignier’s Clos de la Roche 1978.
Perfume. Tears of time in a bottle. The most epic wine I’ve ever had. I felt high.
We started Paris Pop-up by chance.
We did a first event in Paris “to see” and then we just kept going, people offered up their locations at times, at others we had to ask. But in the end, it was always about what worked out between us and the restaurants. We managed to make it a nomadic pop-up restaurant and are currently on our 16th pop-up in Fez, Morocco, at the gorgeous Restaurant Numero 7 designed by Stephen di Renza.
We plan on doing some pop-ups in Barcelona because we want to have our “base” there until we decide on a more definitive plan.
We love the Mediterranean lifestyle, the products are fantastic, you feel the effects of winter less. There is a lot of potential for exciting projects in Barcelona that we are excited to go forward with.
Persistance is key.
Make sure you have a good product, put your heart and soul into it and achieve high quality and high commitment. It’s not always easy. It seems insurmountable at times because so many things are out of your control. But we have learned to release control, to let things happen as they should. And in the end, we are thrilled! Live and learn!
Laura’s top five haunts in Girona and the Costa Brava:
El Doll: Not the artisanal beer joint you’d expect but really the best place to grab a beer on tap directly at your table. Buy a card, slap it on the card reader and you can serve yourself your own tap beer around a barrel in the tiny bar in front of a square.
Plaça del Vi in Girona: Great natural wine selection, good vibes, great and simple food.
La Villa Mas: They don’t specialise in Catalan wines but the owner, Carlos, is a fan of Burgundy and the prices are out of control – half of what you’d pay anywhere else in the world and for some of the best Burgundy wines I’ve tasted!
Vinomi: Amazing food. Great Catalan only wine list and a really modern, bare design. It’s a little outside of Girona’s centre but totally worth the detour!
(Obviously I have to include) Can Roca (the parents’ restaurant): It was our other home – where we were fed, consoled, taken care of. Anyone can rock in and have a really cheap lunch for about €10. And the parents are still in the kitchen pottering around!