September’s Collection Culinaire was, as I think I may have already mentioned once or twice, exquisite. But it wasn’t just the mustard ice cream and duck à l’orange which got my taste buds tingling; the French wines accompanying each course had me feeling like “God in France”, as they say over here. I wanted to find out more about the wine at Concorde, so this week Le Faubourg’s Alexander Flasdieck took me to La Cave de Bacchus, suppliers and advisers to the hotel, for a tasting session.
We turn left off the noisy Kurfürstendamm and onto the Westfälische Straße on our matching orange bikes, which, by the way, are available to all Concorde guests. Outside number 33, “La Cave de Bacchus” is spelled out in ornate wrought iron lettering above the red awning, a grapevine grows along the outside wall and a blackboard entices passersby with fresh French baguettes. We step inside and it is immediately obvious that if Bacchus, the Greek God of wine and intoxication, did indeed have a wine cellar in Berlin, this would be it.
Bottles occupy almost every available space; bottom-up in their racks, neatly arranged on floor to ceiling shelves or overflowing from rustic wooden crates. Old French advertising and jars of regional delicacies fill the remaining space and, on the far wall opposite the door, French cheeses are lit up in the glass display cabinet.
Set up in 1979 by Gérard Degouy, La Cave de Bacchus is the oldest French wine merchant in Berlin and boasts more than 500 different wines in total, not to mention spirits and Champagne. The latter has a special place here given that Gérard is originally from the Champagne region. The expertise of the team and close connections to the best wine-growers in France – they directly import much of the stock themselves and pay regular visits to the vineyards – have earned La Cave de Bacchus a reputation amongst wine enthusiasts in Berlin. They also work closely with some of the best restaurants in Berlin, including, of course, the Brasserie Le Faubourg.
We are greeted warmly by Gérard himself as well as Martin Schwegler from the Staatsweingut Weinsberg, who also happens to be paying a visit to La cave that day and invites us to join in the tasting of some of their award winning German wines – although the focus is on French wines at La Cave de Bacchus, these are complemented by a fine selection of wines from Italy, Spain and Germany. We work our way through the various types and price categories; Gérard explains that a range of price categories is important to him – great wine doesn’t have to cost the earth! Rilettes d’oie spread on crispy french baguettes and crumbly roquefort are brought out to accompany the wines.
The intimate atmosphere and friendly staff make this a great place to learn more about wine or sample new, unusual varieties. As we are leaving, I resolve to pay La Cave de Bacchus another visit soon, perhaps for one of their regular Beaujolais parties, which are something of an institution in the neighbourhood.