Walls: Alexandre Fréguin interview, wine director of L’Oustalet

Alexandre Fréguin interview
Wine director and sommelier Alexandre Fréguin

It’s 11.00am on a July day and it’s already hot in Gigondas. The cicadas are trilling in the plane trees that shade the village square. A busy day is looming for Alexandre Fréguin but he remains unfazed, looking relaxed in a smart shirt and sandals. Underneath the calm exterior however there’s a single-minded determination that would put the Terminator to shame. At just 34, he’s achieved more than most sommeliers manage in a lifetime.

Fréguin oversees the drinks program across the network of restaurants and bars in Gigondas that belong to the Perrin family, owners of Château de Beaucastel and Domaine du Clos des Tourelles. It will come as no surprise that they take wine very seriously here. The main wine list, which is shared across the sites, features 3,500 different wines, mostly from the Rhône.

From law to wine

Fréguin grew up in Aix-en-Provence and was initially destined for a very different career. ‘All my family went to law university; I had no choice whatsoever. My dad said, “you’re going to be a lawyer.” And that was that!’ After school, he dutifully enrolled.

‘My connection with wine happened late one night in a nightclub,’ Fréguin explains. He made friends with someone whose mother owned a small wine estate making rosé in Aix. The following morning, they met up to visit the estate and spend a day helping out around the winery.

It turned into a hobby; cleaning tanks, delivering wines, attending wine fairs…Alex was smitten. ‘I’m serving wine to people, I’m having wine for lunch, a little apéritif at in the evening – it’s the good life!’ Studying law began to look less appealing.

‘After two years of university, I went to see my dad and said “I want to work in the wine industry.” He said “fine, do it, but I’m not talking to you anymore.” We didn’t talk to each other for more than two years, not even at Christmas.’

If he was going to get back in his father’s good books, he was going to have to prove himself.

First steps on the floor

With little work experience, no qualifications and no income, Fréguin found reality starting to bite. He got a job at a neighbourhood bistro, where it quickly became clear that he’d lied on his CV, as he had no idea what he was doing. But he worked hard, and they got on well. Soon he felt like part of the family.

The next step was to enrol at culinary school. He excelled, and managed to secure work experience at a restaurant with a Michelin star. He abandoned his studies to concentrate on work, and by the age of 24 he was offered the role of head sommelier at one-star Michelin Les Loges, in the Cour des Loges hotel in Lyon.

Soon after he started there, the phone rang. ‘I remember exactly where I was,’ says Fréguin. ‘I hear you’re doing well,’ said his father, on the other end. They now have a warm relationship, and share a mutual passion for wine.

See Matt Walls’ southern Rhône 2021 full report

To England

‘I wanted to challenge myself, to go to the next level – to a two-star Michelin restaurant. To push my boundaries, to go abroad,’ says Fréguin. He successfully applied for a sommelier position at L’Enclume in the Lake District in the north of England.

‘When I first opened the wine list at L’Enclume, I realised I knew nothing. The list had wines from all over the world. I realised in France we have very good sommeliers, but these guys [in the UK] are way above! That’s what I loved about being in the UK, the diversity.’

The head chef was Mark Birchall. ‘At the time I thought he was horrible! Rough, always shouting,’ says Fréguin. ‘But he had a golden touch… it was impressive how sharp he was.’ Birchall was planning on opening his own restaurant, and told Fréguin he wanted him on board.

They opened Moor Hall in Ormskirk, Lancashire, in 2017. Within 18 months, it had been awarded two Michelin stars and numerous other accolades.


Source : https://www.decanter.com/interviews/walls-alexandre-freguin-interview-wine-director-of-loustalet-508917/

Walls: Alexandre Fréguin interview, wine director of L’Oustalet Walls: Alexandre Fréguin interview, wine director of L’Oustalet *Walls: Alexandre Fréguin interview, wine director of L’Oustalet