As I climbed the four floors leading to the apartment of the Mario Rinaldi, U.S. Ambassador of the Paul Goerg champagne brand, I was a little apprehensive to find myself facing a severe man ready to flood me with his too-sharp knowledge on champagne and its production process. Yet, this is a man with a great sense of humor as well as a warm, welcoming touch.
If he exercises his profession with passion and verve, Mario Rinaldi is far from a serious man. When asked what his job is, he always answers, “I don’t work, I keep myself busy.” Some quite humble comments coming from the one who established the prestigious Champagne brand Paul Goerg in United States in 1994. Brand ambassador for 18 years now, this man with a surprising charisma and personality has been representing the brand in 17 different states to major liquors stores and gourmet restaurants. It is no wonder he knows all the great chefs . He is the one who takes care of supplying, among others, the restaurants of Jean Georges, Joël Robuchon and Alain Ducasse.
“I love my job,” he says. “It made me a witness to a fabulous story that brings back to life a great man who had great ideas.” This great man is Paul Goerg, former mayor of Vertus, the capital of Chardonnay, very attached to the land of the Champagne region. When he died in 1980, an association of wine producers, consisting in seven families and 112 owners of 135 acres of vineyards, decided to pay tribute to this illustrious man and his philosophy, giving his name to their wines. As a child, Mario was adopted by one of these families with whom he grew up in Champagne and thanks to whom he was introduced to the art of winemaking. When he decided to go study in the United States, Mario was twenty years old. Then, it became obvious: Mario was going to be the one who would promote the brand Paul Goerg on the other side of the Atlanti
Since then, Mario has been taking great care to convey his love and knowledge of the wine of Champagne to Americans, who are becoming more and more enthusiastic to the idea of gastronomy as an art – because champagne is a wine indeed, despite many misconceptions. “The modern consumer culture has damaged the value of its wine. The French, just like the Americans, tend to see champagne as a drink for special occasions and cocktails. Yet, champagne is a wine that should be used to sublimate a good meal.” For Mario, to educate oneself to the art of both wine and hospitality is a necessity and the illustration of a lifestyle. Champagne, as he explains, is not just a drink but a culture of its own, combining history, attachment to the land, a willingness to work with impeccable raw materials, as well as a collaboration with nature. According to Mario, when the consumer has understood the history and value of champagne, then understood the real value of wine.
“Everyone should make the effort to drink champagne every day; It is good for your health and the economy! ” he jokes. When most of the French drink red or white wine every day, Mario drinks champagne. “Your life can’t be fulfilled without some good wine and good meals,” he claims. “Even dressed in rags, if I have my glass of champagne everything goes well.”
For Mario, champagne is synonym of life, excitement and pleasure. When I ask him if drinking champagne every day would not be an excess that goes against the recommendations of doctors and the government, Mario pulls no punches: “I have been drinking champagne as far back as I can remember,” says the 57 year-old businessman who absolutely does not look his age. “And can you see what I look like! I run and I swim regularly, I travel constantly, I’m in great shape! In Champagne, every time there was a village festival, pregnant or not pregnant, women would drink! And at that time there were less congenital disorders and babies were healthier!” (FCG, of course, does not condone drinking while pregnant – but you get the point.)
Always glad to have the opportunity to share his knowledge on wine, Mario has accepted the invitation of Le Taste of France Show and will be present at La Soirée for the Paul Goerg champagne tasting and to tell us a little more about this exceptional drink.
Mario Rinaldi enjoying a glass of champagne in Arcachon, France.
Mario Rinaldi’s recommendations:
Mario suggests a blanc de blanc (100% Chardonnay) to accompany a dish of seafood, and, to enjoy with some parmesan, a Cuvée Lady 2000, which consists in a delicious combination of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir that I had the opportunity to taste during my interview with him.
By Manon Paulic