Ruinart’s Frédéric Panaïotis: ‘VEP Chartreuse tastes like eternity’
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My personal style signifier is a simple little bracelet given to me by De Beers when I did a tasting for them in London, which never leaves my wrist. It’s a black- and white-gold coin strung on a black thread, with a tiny diamond encapsulated in it – it feels hard to get at, which I like.
The last thing I bought and loved was Sunday at the Village Vanguard by the Bill Evans Trio on vinyl, at a vintage book and record store in Reims.
The place that means a lot to me are the chalk crayères where we cellar our champagne in Reims. When you are in them, 30m underground, you feel totally out of this world – it’s quiet, it’s dark, you can smell the humid chalk. I close my eyes and think back to a time, centuries ago, when people were digging out the chalk by hand, or even further back, 70 million years, to a time when they were under the ocean. It’s like being in a time machine.
The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a little Day of the Dead diorama I bought when I was on vacation in Tulum. I am really interested in how Mexicans look at death. The way they do it is more joyful; there’s more colour. It’s a way of coming together, rather than a lamentation.
The thing I couldn’t do without is my morning coffee – two shots of Arpeggio Nespresso. If I don’t have that, I’m grumpy.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is a graphic novel called Le Monde sans Fin, which is about the finite resources of the earth. Written by the engineer and climate expert Jean-Marc Jancovici and illustrator Christophe Blain, it highlights what impact our life has on the planet and what we should do to reduce our impact personally and globally. Honestly, you read it and you question yourself. After I read it I bought copies for my 27-year-old daughter and everyone in the Ruinart management team.
The podcast I’m listening to is 59 Rue des Archives on the French radio station TSF Jazz. In each episode a group of three presenters tell the story of a jazz musician, or an album or a period in jazz. It’s very cool. I like to listen to it while I’m cooking Sunday lunch.
My style icon is the French actor Jean Dujardin – he has what I’d call chic decontracté. He’s always well-dressed but not ostentatiously.
The best gift I’ve given recently is a leather-bound notebook I gave to my mum, who is 92, so she can record her life and her memories. There are a few things I would like to learn from her but it’s probably easier for her to write it all down than to speak about it.
And the best gift I’ve received is a beautiful painting by my fiancée Vineta. It’s an abstract oil on canvas in different shades of blue. I like to think it’s me free-diving, but it could be other things. It hangs at the end of my bed so it’s the last thing I see when I go to sleep and the first thing I see when I wake up.
The last music I bought was “Dig Dis” by jazz saxophonist Hank Mobley – I love jazz from that ’50s and ’60s Blue Note era.
In my fridge you’ll always find champagne, obviously. Parmesan for risotto. And lots of Japanese condiments – soy, ponzu and mirin.
I have a collection of succulents – I’ve owned as many as 80 at one time. I like them because they are like cats – they need care but they don’t need care. The flowers they produce sometimes only last one night because they take so much energy to produce. I have an Aloe polyphylla (spiral aloe) that is 50cm across – it’s like a fractal picture. They take years to grow to that size.
I’ve recently discovered Croatia. I stayed at an amazing place in Jelsa, on the island of Hvar, called Plage Cachée – it’s just five beautiful tents in a very secluded place on the rocky coastline, right next to the Adriatic sea. To get there you have to drive several kilometres down a long dirt road. You prepare all the food yourself, at this little outside kitchen next to the water. We cooked very simply; tomatoes and basil from the garden, olive oil and wines from the local market. You swim, read, contemplate nature. myhvar.net
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a beautiful chocolate-coloured Berluti jacket in cotton – the cut of their jackets is always incredible.
An indulgence I would never forgo is a little glass of VEP Chartreuse [exceptionally long-aged Chartreuse] after a meal. It tastes like eternity. I’m in a group called Les Amis de Chartreuse with some chefs and champagne growers like Frédéric Savart, Rodolphe Péters and Alexandre Chartogne, and once a year we have lunch and open some special stuff. We even have a WhatsApp group to share our discoveries.
The best bit of advice I ever received was from my dad, who said, “Aide-toi, et le ciel t’aidera” [God helps those who help themselves]. Don’t count on other people – make it happen.
An object I would never part with is a pair of free-diving fins given to me by my fiancée. They’re by the Greek company Alchemy and are extremely light and very comfortable. My favourite place to dive is Dahab in Egypt, in the Red Sea. It’s like meditation in the water.
My favourite apps are the Oura ring app, because I love data and the app lets you see the data collected from the ring that monitors your sleep, heartbeat, body temperature, how you exercise and how you recover. And Sencrop, which monitors weather in the vineyards; how much rain we’ve had, the temperature, leaf humidity index, that kind of thing.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Rothko. His works are very introspective – they make you reflect on yourself.
In another life I would have been a vet. I studied biology and that was my original plan.