Conversation with Paul Chevalier VP of Château d’Esclans at Moët Hennessy
By Janice Carter Levitch Humphrey
Photos provided by Whispering Angel
Paul Chevalier was educated in winemaking and viticulture at the University of Reims and the University of Bordeaux. He went on to acquire his practical knowledge of wine, working for Château Margaux in Bordeaux and later with Louis Latour in Burgundy. He was the youngest member of the winemaking team at Champagne Veuve Clicquot in Reims and technical advisor for Cloudy Bay in New Zealand. He later worked in Bordeaux for the Barton & Guestier and the House of Calvet as Export Director.
Currently, Chevalier is responsible for the sales and marketing of the Château d’Esclans portfolio in North America, working with the Moët Hennessy group. He also works closely with Sacha Lichine, President of Château d’Esclans, in the global marketing strategy for his wines. Chevalier has lectured in over 80 countries and has been a leading figure in the wine world throughout his career. He was honored by the French government in 2013 and received the medal of “Chevalier du Mérite Agricole” for his role in the promotion of French wines in the United States.
As a wine enthusiast, I was absolutely thrilled to speak with Chevalier and learn about his knowledge of wine & pairings, especially since Whispering Angel is one of my favorite rosé wines from Provence, France.
Tell us about Whispering Angel’s name and its significance for this particular wine.
I think what’s important is that all of the rosé wines we produce are produced at our property called Château d’Esclans. At the chateau is a small chapel where the faces of two cherubs are above the altar, or you could call them angels. We were looking at these faces and thought wouldn’t this be an excellent name for a wine, especially a label, because everyone loves angels. If you look closely at the label, you will notice one of the angels is leaning toward the ear of the other angel and appears to be whispering. And that is where the name came from.
As VP of Château d’Esclans, what is your day-to-day schedule?
I think what’s interesting is that this brand is relatively new. We started in 2006, so it’s a little over 15 years old. Five people around the world actually run this business. My background is that I’m a winemaker and studied at the University of Champagne in Champagne, France. Part of my day is providing education in the United States about the qualities of rosé wine and what makes rosé from Provence a little different. The virtues of our style of rosé are very light, pale and contain zero sugar, so they are totally dry. My daily routine would be traveling because Whispering Angel is an aspirational wine. Over the last 15 or so years, we have hosted many events from polo to yachting to music to art basil and so forth. We have tried to focus on the fact that Whispering Angel is a great wine and that it’s fun and aspirational.
Can Whispering Angel be served at room temperature, or should it always be at a specific chilled temperature?
Rosé is chilled but not too cold. If the glass steams up, it’s too cold. The secret is that the correct temperature would be 45 degrees.
Is there a proper way to store Whispering Angel, and how long can it age?
In general, when the wine is released, it is ready to drink. Usually, the first year or two is about the right time to enjoy it with your favorite dish.
Do you recommend a particular wine glass for serving Whispering Angel?
We would suggest what we call a Bordeaux glass. A tulip-shaped or a regular white wine glass is also appropriate. We do not recommend chilling the glass or adding ice cubes.
We would like to hear your serving suggestions for pairing Whispering Angel with various cheeses.
I will say that Whispering Angel is probably one of the most versatile wines for food and wine pairings. Regarding cheeses, I would recommend more either hard cheeses or goat cheese. If you think about where we are from in Provence, which is the Mediterranean, it really goes well with what we call Mediterranean cuisines. Which would be salad niçoise, lighter foods, nothing too heavy. It goes very well with hummus and dried meats if you continue through the Middle East. It also pairs well with spicy Asian fusion, such as sushi. It is very versatile.
What seafood dishes do you recommend for pairing with Whispering Angel?
I would say because I’m a big fan of shrimp dishes, definitely shrimp. Scallops and most fish. Salmon for sure; it works perfectly whether it is fresh or smoked. What is excellent about this rosé Whispering Angel is all that casual cuisine like hummus or what we call a crudité platter: carrots, cauliflower, and other fresh vegetables that you can dip into a cream-based sauce or hummus. It is the perfect entertaining wine, what we call an apéritif. Where we all sit around the table before dinner and have a drink with something salty like peanuts or almonds. The beautiful pink color makes it the perfect entertaining wine. This is also a very approachable wine because it crosses many generations. We use grenache red grapes predominantly, so when you are tasting the wine, it starts as a white wine because the color is so light. Then it has more body than white wine and finishes similar to a red, making it a real crowd-pleaser.
How would you describe the flavor profile of Whispering Angel?
Because it is made from grenache, it has a flavor of red berry fruit like cherries, strawberries, raspberries and so forth. It is incredibly light, has zero sugar and most importantly, is not bitter or astringent. It doesn’t have a bite, so it’s smooth, in fact so smooth before you know it, you drink the whole bottle. Again, Whispering Angel is the perfect entertaining wine and pairs well with many seafood dishes and a variety of delicious cheeses.
For more information on Whispering Angel, visit esclans.com