Gordon Ramsay starts wine war with English bubbly in Bordeaux

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay says "I love competition. I'm not afraid."
MARIO ANZUONI

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay says "I love competition. I'm not afraid."

First he opened a restaurant in the same area as his Gallic opposite number, now Gordon Ramsay risks upsetting the French by serving English wines in Bordeaux.

The Michelin-starred chef will be serving a range of English sparkling wines in the heart of the French wine world at Pressoir d'Argent ("The Silver Press") in the Grand Hotel of Bordeaux, in the city's central square, Place de la Comedie.

These include Gusbourne Estate from Kent, Coates & Seely from Hampshire, Ridgeview from the South Downs and Cornwall's Camel Valley, where Ramsay has recently bought a property. The food will also include nods to British produce, including Scottish venison served with local Landes foie gras.

Ramsay caused a stir on Friday with his new restaurant on the same Bordeaux square as Philippe Etchebest, the leading man of the television show Cauchemar en Cuisine, a French version of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

The Scottish chef, who also runs a restaurant in Versailles, has made no bones about beating the French at their own culinary game. He has said his aim is to "wake up classic French cuisine", which he described had become an "immobile monument".

"We had to include English sparkling wine," Ramsay told Decanter wine magazine, adding tentatively: "We haven't had a riot yet."

The wine list has been developed by Ramsay's team in Bordeaux, led by sommelier and buying director Frederic Rouglan, with input from the chef and his wine buyers in London.

Ramsay and Etchebest traded verbal blows before the opening of the restaurant, with the Frenchman saying: "If you want a chefs' fight, we can put a boxing ring in Place de la Comedie. I'm ready, no problem, I'm playing on my home ground."

Ramsay responded in French, saying: "I'm wetting my pants." He added: "I love competition. I'm not afraid. He's a great chef but I'm ready."

The pair insist, however, that relations are highly amicable after they met over a glass of wine and discussed "TV, family, hobbies and horses".

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Asked about Ramsay's English wine, Etchebest said: "That's a laugh. He can always try. You have to know the Bordelais are quite conservative, but it could be fun to make them try. After all, Bordeaux wine is exported everywhere.

"You need to remain open-minded. After all, we have wine from other regions of France."

Despite the English touch, Ramsay made it clear that the wine list will be "mainly from Bordeaux" - a region he described as an "oasis of magical growers that can't be matched anywhere in the world".

Gavin Quinney, a British wine maker in Bordeaux, said that local producers would not consider it an affront, as there is next to no sparkling wine production in Bordeaux, where champagne is the aperitif of choice.

"Of course there will be people in the trade who will turn their noses up if they don't like it as much as their big-brand champagnes," he said.

"The reality is that I don't think the French would order one but would be very happy to be served one if somebody else is buying because they're quite conservative. There will be curiosity to try it."

Ramsay is the third big name chef to have opened a restaurant in Bordeaux in the past few months, following Joel Robuchon and Etchebest. Alain Ducasse is also reportedly in talks to finalise a location.

Jeffrey Davies, a local wine expert, said beyond the hyped rivalry between chefs, this could only be good news for Bordeaux: "For a city that is world renowned for the quality of its wines, the offer where cuisine is concerned was frankly until now poor."

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 - The Telegraph, London

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