The arrival of the winner of the 2012 edition of Top Chef under the gilding of the Plaza Athénée in 2021 caused a stir in the small world of Parisian gastronomy. Adored by some, mocked by others, Jean Imbert remains today one of the favorite subjects of those who frequent bistros and starred restaurants, and seems well disposed to remain so. For having never planted our fork in his vol-au-vent, nor curled hyperglycemia in contact with his so-called copious desserts, it is as an old Swiss sage and not as a referee that we questioned Jean Imbert on his love of wine, discovered with his father and his brother, passionate about the subject. “Apart from that, you can say that I learned late. I had the opportunity to work in prestigious houses, I remember in particular going through the cellar of Michel Rostang where he had many magnums of Château Latour and I found that incredible. At the Bocuse school, I also had the opportunity to do a few wine tastings, in particular from the Rhône, and I remember certain Condrieux who had marked me»he points out.
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If he assumes his classicism in terms of French wines, with a penchant for Burgundy and Bordeaux, Jean Imbert insists on the pleasure of discovery, especially outside France. “I am lucky to be able to travel thanks to my job and to taste local wines, depending on the region where I am, including those that can be considered less wine-growing. I am quite classic in my French approach and very open-minded on the international scene”. His selection is intended to reflect moments that have left a lasting mark on him, which he likes to associate with special encounters: “Wines like dishes are for me Proust madeleines that remind me of happy moments that I want to perpetuate. They are above all memories, whether professional or family.
Veuve Clicquot – The Great Lady 2008
A champagne that accompanies the chef on occasion “of all the happy moments I had the chance to experience, all the celebrations, and especially certain moments of professional accomplishment where I had the opportunity to open this bottle”. A bottle whose shape immediately evokes something joyful and delicate. “I had the chance to be the Chef for their 250th anniversary aboard the Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express where we left from the chalk pits in Reims to Venice, while tasting their greatest cuvées. It remains one of the most beautiful moments of my life as a cook..
Available online on Millesima
Johanna Cecillon Estate – Nantosuelta
Sevignac – Brittany
Although he admits that cider evokes Normandy more than Brittany, the chef particularly likes those of Johanna Cecillon, which he never fails to drink during his visits to Cancale with Hugo Roellinger: “I was still less than two weeks ago in a creperie in Saint-Malo where we opened a bottle of this cider and I find that these are moments a little disconnected from reality: I am in Brittany, barefoot, we open a bottle of cider while making pancakes. If tomorrow everything stops, this life will suit me perfectly.
Available online at Le Poupiquet
Tenuta San Guido – Sassicaia 2006
Tuscany – Italy
The great wine from one of the most coveted estates in Tuscany, which Jean Imbert discovered while following the tour of a couple of international musical artists, and for which he was in charge of the kitchen: “There was always this wine placed in the dressing rooms, in particular to accompany the meals that I prepared. This taste marked me like the memory of an incredible moment: sharing this wine with these exceptional people, in this precise place. But there remains for me the memory of a very intimate moment in the middle of an extraordinary and planetary event..
Other vintages available online on Vivino
François and Pascal Cotat – The Great Coast 2016
Sancerre – Loire Valley
A wine that reminds Jean Imbert of memories between friends: “one of my best friends from Brittany knew this winemaker well, allowing us to go to Sancerre, in the vineyards, in the damned mountains, on the great coast where we have many memories sharing this wine. It’s time for an aperitif: a crottin de chavignol and a little of this white wine. I always have a bottle in the fridge in my cabin in Brittany”.
Available online at Cave du Palais
Château d’Yquem 2015
The “wine of kings”, whose price may seem prohibitive, “but never disappoints”, and always seems to be unanimous. Among the most recent cuvées, he keeps fond memories of the 2015 vintage, “for this tension, this acidity in addition to its sweetness”. Although he recognizes that his image as a dessert wine remains a great classic, the chef underlines the importance of pairing it differently: “I think it’s a wine that deserves to open up to something other than the first idea people have of it and I really like to introduce it to others in unexpected contexts such as an aperitif at the corner fire or on a boat”.
Available online on Millesima
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