Monday, July 4, 2016

LeDomduVin | Portrait


Dominique Noël | LeDomduVin | Portrait
with ©LeDomduVin Logo 2012 

My name is Dominique Noël, a.k.a. LeDomduVin. I'm a French-American, well-travelled and well-seasoned Sommelier, Wine Buyer, Wine Quality Control Director (Wine Inspection / Authentication) and Market Analyst, with 29+ years of experience in the wine trade on 3 continents, working in really exciting markets such as Bordeaux, Paris, London, New York and currently Hong Kong. 

My Childhood

Born in Bordeaux (in a really bad vintage.... 1973...😊) and grandson a winemaker from the Côtes de Bourg, I grew up partly within the city centre of Bordeaux and partly in the countryside, in a small right bank village surrounded by vineyards called "Comps" in the Côtes de Bourg.

I can truly say that I was born in, perhaps, the most renown wine region in the world, and raised in the vineyards, and, somehow, couldn't escape my fate to work in the wine industry at some point. My passion for wine came gradually with age. As for most young people growing up in a wine-producing area (like Bordeaux), wine is unavoidably part of the culture and traditions, consumed as a daily beverage always on the table and served with every meal. Wine is an indissociable part of life when you come from Bordeaux (or France in general for that matter).

My parents divorced during my early childhood, so my weekly routine was usually to spend the 5 days of the week with my father who lived in Bordeaux "intra muros", where I was going to school, and spend the weekends, some Wednesdays and all the holidays at my mother house surrounded by vineyards, in the countryside, on the right bank, in the "Côtes de Bourg", roughly 50 kilometres north-east of Bordeaux.

For pretty much all my childhood, from the age of 7 years old up to the year I reached my 18 years old, I remembered always being on the move, carrying two bags everywhere I went, one for school, one with clothes to get changed, wherever I was. I also remember always being on a bus to go somewhere...  And, so, roughly for 11 years, I was bouncing around from one house to another, between my mother, my father, my grandfather, my aunt, my uncle and even the houses of some of my best friends with whom I was staying with sometimes... 

All these years of bouncing around defined and shaped my personality and character, and made me flexible, open-minded, creative, curious and sociable, inclined to often travel and meet new people and always be eager to take on new opportunities to satisfy my personal ambition and allow me to (maybe) settle down one day... which I never did, as I took most opportunities life gave me, and thus, indeed, I have always been on the move since the age of 18 and never really succeeded settling down ever since (😊).        

That said, prior to the age of 18, I never really travelled away from Bordeaux and its region. I spent a lot of time alone at my mother's house in the countryside, in the vineyards and forests surrounding the house and our local village. Maybe that's the reason why I always wanted to travel the world, as, when I was young, the only thing I wanted was to escape from the routine of this small countryside village life, happy to live there but somewhat tired of always seeing and going about the same places.

My Grandfather

My grandfather lived near my mother's house. He was a "vigneron", basically someone working both in the vineyards and the cellar, tending the vines and also making wines. In fact, I spent a lot of time with my grandfather during my youth, at his farmhouse nearby my mother's house, where he had all sort of animals and was growing all sorts of vegetables and fruits (read a bit more about my grandfather and my childhood with him here and here). 

He was a blue-collar, who had always worked in the vineyard (and construction too). He was a man of the earth, always in his garden tending to all of his plants and animals needs. He was really knowledgeable about everything and skilful too. I enjoyed very much spending time with him and talking to him. 

I usually watched him do things, and even assisted him sometimes, learning all sorts of things along the way: like how to plant this or that, how to take care of the animals, and also learning about the various stages of the vinification and winemaking process, whether when he was tending the vines or taking care of the vinification and ageing process of the wines in his cellar. I basically grew up in the vines and the wine with him. Hence, wine has always been part of my life directly or indirectly.   

My First Taste of Wine

My grandfather (and my family in general) drank wine pretty much every day with each meal. My grandfather even drank wine with breakfast, as he woke up very early every day and was a hard-working man, therefore his daily breakfast was quite substantial, more like a real meal, and he always had a glass of wine with it.

In France, more especially when you are born in such an illustrious wine-producing region like Bordeaux, drinking wine is an indissociable part of the local traditions, culture, mentality and ways of life. 

How kids get acquainted with wine in France by ©LeDomduVin 2018

I had my first taste of wine at his house when I was about 6 years old... I did not like it... yet, by the age of 10-12 years old, my grandfather officially started my wine education by adding droplets of wine to my glass of water. The older I became, the less water was in the glass. Hence, my taste and passion for wine grew gradually and naturally with the increasing amount of wine droplets...😊 (see picture above). 

During my youth, every year, I was helping with the manual harvest of the grapes at different local small wineries (sometimes with my grandfather, or in the vineyards of my grand-aunt in the "Côtes de Blaye", and/or in the vineyards of some neighbours and/or friends of my grandfather). Growing up, my hideout was literally a huge, (roughly 2 meters high by 2.5 meters of diameter), empty wooden vat in one of the cellars at my mother's house, it was fun. My mother's house was located a few parcels of vineyards away from my grandfather's house, the reason why I was always messing around in one or the other.  

My Wine Career

I officially started my wine career in 1992, right after finishing the army, while working as a Head Waiter assisting the Sommelier in various restaurants and events in several towns in France (Orleans, Bourges, Strasbourg, etc...). In 1994, I came back to Bordeaux and worked in a Relais and Chateaux, where I was also working as Head Waiter and Sommelier for a bit more than 3 years. 

Sommelier Promotion of 1997 - Catering and Hotel Management School of Talence (Bordeaux)
Article from and courtesy of the French newspaper "Sud-Ouest" - June 1997 (close up)

1996-1997, while still working at the restaurant at night and on weekends, I went back to the Catering and Hotel Management School of Talence (Bordeaux), to follow the "Mention Complémentaire de Sommellerie" and graduated as a certified Sommelier in June 1997. I'm the one at the bottom of the picture above... 😊 ... I was 24 years old

Right after graduating, in July 1997, (and after 5 long years working in restaurants in France), I started a long journey which brought me around the world up to this day...

July 1997 marked a new chapter in my life, as I moved to London (UK), where I worked as a Sommelier and Head Sommelier / Wine Buyer for several restaurants until mid-2002. 

In 2002, I moved to New York (USA), where I worked as a Wine Director, Wine Buyer, Wine retail Store Manager (I was a "Caviste" as we say in France), and Wine Writer for 2 prominent wine retail stores, until 2011. 

In 2011, I moved to Hong Kong, where I still am currently, I first worked as Head Sommelier and even as a Restaurant Manager; then, a few months later, early 2012, I took the difficult decision to stop my career and retired from the restaurant world for good this time, due to physical issues (shame as I loved the restaurant life and vibes). 

In 2012, facing my personnal situation, I took a leap of faith and put my own company together. Logically, I called it "LeDomduVin". I was providing Wine Consultant / Wine Specialist services like Wine marketing, Promotion, Events, Wine Writings and Wine Education. I had a blast with many great experiences promoting, educating, organising events and selling wines for the rich and famous of the luxury world of Hong Kong... 

It lasted for about 6 months. Back in 2012, competition was fierce as Hong Kong was the world's new wine hub and everyone was fighting to get a piece of it. Each importer, wine merchant and/or distributor had a foot in Hong Kong and a foot in China, and everyone was targeting the rich and famous. The experience was a great opportunity to extend my work and social network, get to know people and explore HK differently, it was super exciting, yet, it proved not as financially rewarding as I expected it would be...   

I needed a more financially stable job to sustain my little family, so I stopped the consulting, and accepted a job that had nothing to do with my previous lives as Head Sommelier/Restaurant Director for Restaurants and Store Manager/Wine Director for wine retails, I became a "Wine Quality Control Director / Market Analyst" for the Wine Division of a major financial corporate company based in Hong Kong. 

It was in July 2012. And since then, aside of my daily job at the office, I have, (and still do today), also occasionally played the role of personal Sommelier of our Chairman, which gave (still sometimes gives) me the chance to prepare, open, taste and serve countless times (and drink occasionally) some of the most prestigious, illustrious and most expensive bottles of wine in the world, predominantly from Bordeaux and Burgundy. I consider myself one of the luckiest Sommeliers in the world, having the chance and opportunities to prepare and taste such amazing wines on a regular basis. 

I love wine and I love my job, and through both, I love Life!  

LeDomduVin Logo with name ©LeDomduVin 2012

Santé! Cheers!

Dominique Noël a.k.a. LeDomduVin   

#ledomduvin @ledomduvin #portrait #sommelier #winebuyer #abitofmylife 

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