“Becoming a sommelier was a real challenge!” Totally devoted to his craft, Kelly McAuliffe sees and does things on a grand scale: after his debut with Ducasse, time spent in Las Vegas and the “conquest of America”, he returned to France with the ambition of presenting Rhone wines on the world stage. Meet a larger-than-life wine-lover!
Kelly McAuliffe fell in love with wine in the 1980s
During occasional visits to France, when he was working in the fashion industry. As a pleasure-seeking epicure, he was soon smitten: “It quickly became a devouring passion! I got deeply involved, and so I studied to become a sommelier. My first job was with the chef Ducasse. I was really fortunate! I got in through the front door. A good thing, too: I’m 6 ft 2 inches tall!” (laughter)
He cut his teeth in Paris, Monaco, then Avignon...
...where he worked for six years as head sommelier with chef Christian Etienne, “the greatest chef in Avignon”. There, he perfected his knowledge of Rhone wines. “And then Ducasse persuaded me to work for him again.” That was a big step in my career: “I became his wine manager in Las Vegas. It was sheer madness, with an amazing turnover and between 300 and 600 diners every evening! Colossal!”
Mais Kelly ne s’arrête pas là :
« I then worked for Southern Wine & Spirit the biggest distributor in the States, with an annual turnover of 10 billion dollars. In the State of Nevada, we were selling wines worth $650 million a year.” When the financial crisis took hold in America, he decided to return to France with his wife (who is French), and devote himself to Rhone wines
Enlightened guide and translator/interpreter of a complex terroir.
Kelly now works on his own behalf, runs course on wine, provides training and consultancy services… He accompanies importers, distributors and foreign sommeliers on visits to wine-growers. “I explain everything, take them for a stroll in the vineyards to see the terroir, so they can talk about it knowledgeably when they get home. The Côtes du Rhône are a mosaic of terroirs, extremely diverse. I stand between the producer and the consumer; my role is that of an intermediary. It’s mad when you think that someone born in the land of Coca-Cola and the Big Mac should be interpreting France’s noblest, most fascinating product!”
2012 is getting off to a good start.
« I have a number of trips scheduled with the French Wine Society French Wine Society (link: http://www.frenchwinesociety.org/), founded by Julien Camus, an enthusiast who works for the French Embassy in Washington DC.” In response to the financial crisis, and the fall-off of French wine sales in the United States, the Society is organising training sessions for American wine-lovers. “My role is to talk about Rhone wines. Two other sommeliers present the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux. It’s a really nice programme. In April, we shall be in Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, organising tastings for each terroir.”
“Then we shall be going to Paso Robles for the Hospices du Rhône festival (26 to 28 April 2012,hospicedurhone.org). This is a major event featuring Rhone grape varieties grown in all parts of the world: Italy, France, Australia, the United States… Finally, we shall probably be in New York in the fall. This means we shall have worked on three of the biggest American markets (Houston, Paso Robles, New York – Ed.)!
«Destined for success”
Kelly is convinced that Rhone wines have what it takes to conquer the United States: “I believe that Americans really need to get to know the Rhone. For one thing, Côtes du Rhône wines offer the best quality/price ratio of all the French – and world – growing areas. I am in no doubt that, where reds are concerned, we are really the world leaders. And, over there, price is an important factor, especially during this financial crisis, which weighs heavily.”
A favourite wine?
“There are so many!” Impossible for him to mention just one appellation or estate. “I am amazed that simple, basic estates can achieve such great things, and the various appellations are really sublime.” y en a tellement ! »