Francois Chartier, the inveterate and curious harmonies creator

To the great displeasure of his mother, he likes to say that « he was educated with Kraft Dinner and Kik Cola ». One way to admit that the wine was not part of his everyday life in the Villeray district of Montreal. Today, this alchemist of wine, this harmony’s creator has become the reference in molecular sommellerie. And not so long ago François Chartier has launched a new range of wines and beers. An extraordinary journey for this master of aromas. (To learn more, listen to the audio interview at the end of the article (in French)).

By Frédéric Arnould (lefred@toutsurlevin.ca)

François Chartier was destined to study architecture like his older brother. But in 1982, during a summertime job, his life totally changed in Mont-Tremblant while he was working as a busboy. That was a life-changing experience. He got into the business three years later when he opened a bistro specialized in imported beers in St-Jovite, North-West of Montreal. But the bottle of wine was never far away and it was even gaining ground in his life. In 1989 he then got into wine tasting and the rest is History. For someone who didn’t want to do anything with chemistry classes, a few years later in 1994, he was awarded the title of world’s best sommelier in the Sopexa contest in Paris. Afterwards, he will become one of the pioneers of molecular sommelier.

A professional curious

François ChartierAt that time François Chartier had more cookbooks than wine books. So he wanted to find out more about the thoughts of great chefs such as Ferran Adria from the Spanish restaurant « El Bulli » who combined kitchen and taste of science. This self-taught oenologist wanted to go so much further than his readings. In 2002 he took a sabbatical. « To create and move, do not copy, » he said. He then bumps on what he calls « harmonic comfort zone ‘, a kind of perfect marriage between the flavours of food and wine. « I didn’t call it science. Just harmonic liaison agents, like black olive with Syrah, Gewurztraminer with ginger and mint with Sauvignon Blanc. » He then embarked on a special quest to understand these chemical bonds. And his meeting with Dr. Richard Béliveau ( a oncologist well versed in nutrition)  will accelerate that process. From now on, he will want to know more about those famous molecules aromas and taste . That’s when he publishes his major opus, « Taste Buds and Molecules ».

The Chartier Wines

After he stopped publishing his purchasing guides (in 2013), he focused therefore on the launch of a range of wines, the « Chartier wines, creator of harmonies » series. « Each label of those wines links the aromatic family of the food to the source of each of them allowing to do the perfect wine and food pairing. Success was met,  even with the wine critics. That opus acknowledged his mission of educating buds and his culinary sensitivity to aromas.

Vins ChartierIn this regard, he noticed the incredible journey of Quebeckers along the past 30 years. « An eye opening experience which, he said, began with Expo 67. That’s when Quebecers discovered other « cuisines ». And this carried on with the arrival of European chefs and sommeliers who settled in Montreal. » Subsequently, the refinement of Quebeckers palate did change the face of the restaurant and the sommelier industry, paving the way for all the Véronique Rivest of this world. (Note: Véronique Rivest became the second best sommelier in the world at the prestigious competition in Japan last year). These days, François Chartier is working on a new « Taste Buds and Molecules » and was not so long ago one of the main characters in the documentary film « The Nose » (Le Nez) from director Kim Nguyen. Nothing seems to stop the curious who wants incorrigibly and continually learn and innovate in a profession that he has, in some way, invented himself.

Quickies !

The first wine that changed your life?

In 1986, in a wine bar in Trois-Rivières, an Australian wine 1982 in the region of Coonawarra Shiraz. It was called Lindemans Limestone Ridge.

The unspeakable guilty pleasure for a wine connoisseur like you ?

Apart from the tonic and ginger ale, only soft drinks that I like, I would say the root beer from A & W because it reminds me of my childhood!

The wine you bring to a desert island?

Without hesitation: a « vin jaune » from Jura, because there is no wine cellar on a desert island, so the yellow wine is the only wine that will stay as is, even long after it has been opened . In addition with maple flavors, it allows me to stay connected with where I come from (Quebec).

The last meal ? With whom and what do you drink?

Inevitably with Albert Einstein, a human being filled with madness and intelligence. No matter what I eat or drink it, it’s just for the opportunity. Or if I had to choose someone who is still alive: Stephen Hawking, to learn from his life strength.

What music are you listening to right now?

I am a big fan of jazz music and I listen to a lot of flamenco. For now, I like Ibeyi, two Franco-Cubans who doing a mixture of folk, lounge and contemporary music. Also, Mathieu Désy and his « Contrebasse et marées » disc.