PARIS — When Estelle Touzet was appointed chief sommelier at the Ritz Paris this summer, she had a lot to celebrate: At 34, she got the much-coveted job at the mythic Parisian hotel, being one of the very few females to have made it to the top in the male-dominated industry.
Her nomination coincided with the release of her first book about food pairing, titled “Une Sommelière dans votre cuisine” (or “A Sommelier in Your Kitchen,” with Claire Vocanson and Eugénie Rambaud, published by Editions du Chêne.) “We start with the wine,” Touzet said.
The Ritz Paris team is prepping for the reopening, set for early next year. “I have just finished the cellar inventory of 40,000 bottles,” Touzet says over lunch — with no wine, only Châteldon sparkling water. “It is a great vintage,” she kids, noting the hotel’s treasures include a magnum of Château Margaux 1961.
Touzet says she plans to add more international wines and adapt selections to the cuisine of the new Ritz chef, Nicolas Sale, who snatched four Michelin stars at the Kilimandjaro and Kintessence restaurants in Courchevel in the French Alps.
She ascended the ranks at the crème de la crème of Parisian hotels, including Le Bristol, Hôtel Le Crillon and most recently, Le Meurice. At the Ritz, Touzet leads a team of nine sommeliers for the gastronomic restaurant L’Espadon, Le Bar Vendôme, Le Ritz Bar, as well as room service and banquets (plus the suites de prestige, like the Coco Chanel suite, that have private cellars.)
Celebrated bartender Colin Field will return to the Hemingway Bar after traveling the world mixing his famous cocktails for top bars and private clients. “He’s the best,” Touzet enthuses. “He’s a wiz. I would drink any of his cocktails, the eyes closed.”
As for the dress code at the Ritz, Touzet will wear “a full skirt dress uniform. It’s elegant and good to carry cases of wine up and down the stairs,” she explains. Men are to wear tailcoats. “Tailcoats could be elegant on women, too; it’s not so common to have women’s uniforms that are both elegant and functional,” she notes.
Off duty, Touzet sports brands like Tara Jarmon and can also be seen in a black tuxedo, since on top of being a sommelier, she’s a violonist with à l’Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique de Paris in her spare time.
She describes her role as chief sommelier as “taking our clients through the vineyards through storytelling.” For example, in her book, she pairs Gamay red wine with carbonara ravioli with butternut cream and bacon and Pomerol with carrot cake with dry raisins and spices.
She praises Californian wines like Ridge, Au Bon Climat and Marcassin, but generally favors homegrown French vintages. “I am thrilled to practice in France. I am here to promote the future stars of wine making,” she says.