Most of you know Jean-Philippe Cros as The French Connoisseur, or Whine On The Rocks Resident Guru, Yogi, Sensei and Viticultural Expert. He is also the proud owner of Oenothiki La Caudalie, "an international wine trader which specializes in the purchase, wholesale and retail of fine French wines in Cyprus." As part of his vinous mission, Jean-Philippe travels once or twice a year to his motherland in search of unique wines produced by smallish estates, always to return stockpiled with wonderful gems previously unavailable to The Rock. Albeit limited, his current wine selection is of excellent quality thanks to a tasking and meticulous screening process, and Oenothiki La Caudalie aims to considerably expand its offerings and better cater to a growing Cypriot demand for fine wines.
Jean-Philippe took some time off from his arduous triathlon training regime to sit down and answer "A Case of Questions" for Whine On The Rocks. In the meantime, the Disney-Obsessed Man-Child and I train for our own "athletic" competition involving perfectly grilled lamb chops, beer steins topped to the rim with Weissbier and a Lord of The Rings/Harry Potter movie marathon.
WHOTRS: Why wine?
JPC: Firstly, because I was born in an area where wine cannot possibly be ignored even if you try hard. Secondly, the wine cellar at home has always been an inspiration. And finally, for the conviviality a bottle of wine conveys.
WHOTRS: First wine that really captured your attention? How old were you?
JPC: I can very well remember my first few glasses of Chateau Haut-Marbuzet. This is the day I definitely fell in the wine barrel. I am not sure about the vintage (early 80s); I drank it more than twenty years ago with close family and friends over a nice homemade dinner.
WHOTRS: All-time favorite bottle of wine?
JPC: There are a few candidates, all of them famous estates of the Bordeaux area. I cannot really choose between them: Chateau Latour 1985 drank four years ago, Chateau Palmer 1982 drank two years ago, [and] Chateau Cheval Blanc 1985 drank five years ago. Pretty much anyone who would have tasted any of these wines would have counted them as part of their all-time favorites. I was just lucky to drink them. I should also add that, in a less fortunate way, I was also more than once disappointed by wines this old or older from prestigious estates and vintages.
WHOTRS: Favorite wine-producing region? Why?
JPC: I very much like the vast Languedoc-Roussillon area. It is so diverse that a lifetime would not suffice to properly describe it. It is a fascinating experience to simply pick a direction and drive around to meet up with the winemakers who have completely turned around this area within less than thirty years.
WHOTRS: Favorite wine-and-food pairing?
JPC: For top of the top wines, I am of the opinion of this famous French chef when he was asked what dish he should pair up with a Lafite Rothschild 1982. His answer was: nothing, the wine should be enjoyed on its own. I however agree that wine and food can also be perfect partners. I personally like to match white wines with cheeses.
WHOTRS: What is Cyprus missing when it comes to wine?
JPC: In my opinion, Cyprus does not lack anything to make simple yet very enjoyable reds. Beyond this level, I am not sure there is a terroir. My main concern is the extremely high temperatures and long drought over the summer months; it seems to me that it will always be an immense challenge to find the variety and the location that would [offer a] chance to produce anything [other] than a varietal wine or a stereotype of what many so-called "New World Wines" do already offer--a possibly pleasant wine [but] certainly without personality. But Cyprus counts [with] several talented winemakers who may--hopefully--prove me wrong. Who knows: a Maratheftiko from the highest villages in the Troodos region may one day bluff everyone.
WHOTRS: What do you foresee for Cyprus's wine industry?
JPC: I believe it will always be tough to compete for those who continue to produce purely varietal wines at a price three times above, for example, a Chilean wine or even a basic Bordeaux. However, with demand increasing worldwide, there is definitely a place [in] the market for many. If I was directly involved, I would however focus on what could be unique to Cyprus such as a properly made Commandaria [or] a red from the endemic variety Maratheftiko and then fight for recognition.
WHOTRS: What do you enjoy most about your work in the wine world?
JPC: Scouting for wines especially those little estates [that] keep themselves well away from guides and wine critics. Then, of course, opening a bottle from one of these estates and sharing it with friends.
WHOTRS: What is your "Five Year Plan" for your business?
JPC: Continuing to support our food and beverage industry clients; consolidating our wine list, [and]; bringing newly discovered wines to our private clients.
WHOTRS: Who is your favorite wine personality? Why?
JPC: The owner of the next small estate I will discover and then pay a visit to: I am sure my plan will be to stay there [for] not more than forty-five minutes but that, as [it] often [happens], I will not leave until dark, probably needing yet again a taxi...but full of unbelievable stories to tell.
WHOTRS: Any embarrassing episodes involving spilled wine, corkscrews, sommeliers or drunken behavior?
JPC: I cannot think of anything here. Editor's note: That's awfully lame.
WHOTRS: Of course, your all-time favorite ISLAND wine?
JPC: I would still vote Vlassides Shiraz as top although I have recently been disappointed in the context of a Cyprus Shiraz blind tasting... it may have been a bad bottle... or maybe it was my host trying to poison me...