Estelle Touzet, a sparkling sommeliere
At 34, she was appointed to one of the most highly sought-after jobs in French sommellerie, right under the nose of her male peers. For nearly 2 years, Estelle Touzet has run the show as head sommelière at the Ritz.
All spruced up in a tail-coat highlighting her Jiminy Cricket look, Estelle Touzet contains an energy and mood that seem to radiate from L’Espadon’s dining room. Originally from Berry, “the land of Sauvignon Blanc”, she earned her stripes in famous gastronomic hotspots: Château de Cordeillan-Bages under Thierry Marx, Restaurant Guy Savoy, Le Bristol, Le Crillon and with Tom Aikens in London. In March 2008, she rejoined Yannick Alléno’s team at Le Meurice where she quickly earned the title of Chef Sommelier before taking over, eight years later, a brigade of five sommeliers at the Ritz. There, she manages the cellars of the famous L’Espadon gastronomic restaurant, the Vendôme bar and the Ritz bar, whithout forgetting the prestigious accommodation like the Coco Chanel suite. A treasure of some 50,000 bottles.
Reopening in June 2016 after interminable renovations, the most prestigious of Parisian palaces confirmed its team of four with Estelle working alongside Nicolas Sale, Head Chef of L’Espadon, François Perret, Head Pastry Chef and Philippe Cousseau, Dining Room Manager. From the thousand and one combinations she likes to promote, like the rancio flavour of an old Banyuls with cheese and dried fruit, one is particularly dear to her: champagne. And, of course, “Barons de Rothschild - Réserve Ritz”, a champagne the hotel has chosen for its bars and restaurants.
Another asset: each champagne is ideal for an original match. “With rosé, I imagine a fish with citrus fruit to bring the elegant fruity harmony of this champagne to the fore. But you could also drink it with a dessert that is not very sweet like Buddha’s Hand (an Asian fingered citron, Ed.) to toy with the liveliness of the Chardonnay whilst highlighting the fruitiness of the Pinot Noir. And it can also be enjoyed by itself, in its simplest form as an aperitif or afternoon drink. The straightness and delicateness of the Blanc de Blancs demands raw fish. With this champagne, I would like to toy with the tautness of the wine and match it with a ceviche with toasted sesame oil from Eric Vigean.”
“With the 2008 vintage, perfectly balanced in strength, both mineral and complex, I imagine a fattened Bresse chicken cooked en vessie, to achieve the soft meat that goes so perfectly with the champagne. It could be served with asparagus with a chicken jus to soften the plant flavours. Or with line-caught turbot. “
Estelle Touzet has all her wine matches at her fingertips. Behind her choices, you can sense her quest for balance and harmony. “We are the merchants of happiness,” she explains with a smile. We must appreciate the state of mind of our guests, be open to them and help them in their choices without ever being insistent. The customer is not there to put up with the sommelier’s authority.”
A subtle art that she practices with exceptional skill. Who could possibly resist Estelle and her pretty grey eyes reflecting the colours of the light?