Price does not determine quality when it comes to the wines at Marcel’s— because if it’s on the list, it’s there for a good reason.
“If you arranged our wine list according to price, you’d find bottles ranging from $35 to $5,000,” explains Marcel’s Wine Director Moez Ben Achour. “Expensive wine does not automatically mean good wine; often there are other factors related to the price. It might be expensive because of small production, high demand, or really exorbitant real estate that the vineyard sits on.” But no matter the price, Achour’s approach to every bottle is that it be a great value: “Every wine we sell is a great wine from a different perspective, which we enjoy sharing with our guests tableside.”
Achour has been running the wine program at Marcel’s for more than six years, but he has worked there for much longer. His philosophy is grounded in service and arming his staff with confidence through knowledge. “We all taste the wines we are generally not exposed to. It’s important for everyone on the staff to understand the character of the wine, it’s history, why it’s made a certain way, and why it goes with specific dishes.” And then they take that knowledge and educate the guests in an easy, self-satisfying way. “We want to take the pressure off the guest,” he says. “I always ask the guest what wine would make them happy tonight, and then ask myself: What more can I do? At Marcel’s, the food and wine go hand in hand. “I taste every dish on the menu and pair them according to the flavor components, from the ingredients to the sauces.” To complement the spring and summer menus at Marcel’s, he recommends sauvignon blancs, especially from the Loire Valley, and Sancerres from Napa Valley. “These are elegant wines that go well with the dishes and balance each other without outshining the other.”
Although a French restaurant, Marcel’s wine list reflects a world of choices, earning a Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator. Well traveled, Achour enjoys visiting vineyards to educate himself and strengthen his bonds with winemakers. The more he knows, the more he can pass along at the table.
The Cuvée RW is in its second year of production. The first, a 2010 pinot noir, had a small yield of 25 cases. This year’s 2011 vintage exhibits the same characteristics that make it a match for Marcel’s. “We are well-known as a Burgundy house, and this wine was designed especially for our menu,” explains Achour. A medium- to full-bodied wine, it is low in tannins and acidity, with a not-too-dry mouthfeel and a silky finish. It pairs perfectly with the boudin blanc and the duck breast.