We chat to Laurent Yung of SomMailier.com, a French wine club that brings unique, exclusive and difficult to find utterly delicious French wines to America…
Can you tell us a bit about you and where you live?
I was born in a small village near Bordeaux, France and I’m the youngest of three brothers. I spent my youth in Bordeaux and went to a business school in Spain. I’ve travelled and lived between Spain, Sweden, France and the US. My wife and I have three beautiful children… and a dog. We’ve lived in San Diego, CA since 2013. I worked in the business world for many years before deciding to go back to my passion for French wines.
What led to your passion for wine?
I grew up on my family’s vineyard in Bordeaux. I come from five generations of winemakers. My passion for wine was instilled at an early age, through intense discussions of wine among my family. And of course, according to my dad, there was no better wine than his (thus the intense discussions)!
What inspired you to start SomMailier Wine Club?
Well, I was the only one in my family not in the wine business. And, I always had a dream to start my own business. So, in 2017 I launched SomMailier. I knew from living in the US that there was a lack of wine clubs in the American market featuring small production, harder-to-find French wines. And, through my family heritage and more particularly my brother Patrick, I developed a multitude of connections among boutique vineyards across the French countryside. It gave me access to an enormous range of incredible artisan French winemakers.
Through SomMailier I have the best of both worlds. Living in beautiful San Diego and working with my family in France. And I am able to help people here to discover incredible boutique French wines not available anywhere else in the US.
What is your favourite wine making region – it’s a difficult question I know but!
I’m a red meat lover so I will go with Bordeaux. But starting SomMailier truly allowed me to appreciate more and more wines from other regions that I never considered in the past. I’ve become a big fan of Provence wines, especially the fruity Rolle grape varieties.
What’s your favourite wine to drink with chocolate?!
I really like the honey flavour that can be found in Sauternes wines. It’s a sweet dessert wine from Bordeaux which goes very well even with white chocolate. I’d really recommend L’ilot de Haut Bergeron from Patrick and Herve Lamothe. Discovering these special wines and being able to introduce such special artisan wines to people makes this a really amazing job.
What makes French wine the best in the world do you think?
I can’t say that French wines are the best in the world, I will be seen as arrogant! But, I think the biggest advantage French wines have over wines from the new world for instance is that in France, there are many multi-generation families who’ve have had the time to improve their wine making process for many many years. Traditions are very important in the French wine world and it took me many years to understand this fully.
When I was younger, I often asked my dad why Bordeaux’s red wines could only be made from five grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec). I didn’t think it was fair that in California for example, winemakers could make the wines they wanted with the grapes they wanted. They could even irrigate their vines when needed. In France, you are still not allowed to – you have to work with the natural elements. That said, I truly believe that many countries make fantastic wines. And, the key discussion is not around what country makes the best wine but more about understanding the nuances between each country’s production, and the way we approach wines.
The first year I launched SomMailier, I organized many wine tastings around San Diego to get the word out. One thing that really stood out for me was that when I was pouring wine people would tell me for instance, that they didn’t like a certain grape variety (like Chardonnay or Pinot Noir). In France, we don’t talk that much about grape variety. Our tradition is to mostly refer to location (Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Provence, etc…). A Chardonnay from Burgundy would certainly be quite different from a Chardonnay in California. Not only the climate would be different, but the soil, the winemaker and the winemaking process would vary as well. When I poured a chardonnay from Macon in Burgundy, many people could not believe its taste, but the main reason was that it was aged in stainless steel and not in oak barrels.
We think wine tastes better when you know the story behind it’s production – what do you think?
I agree 100% and this is a key objective for SomMailier. Every wine shipment comes with not only the wines but also with detailed wine cards to better understand who is behind each wine. For instance a client recently messaged us to say:
“I had never gifted a wine club membership before I selected somMailier for my husband, who is particularly enamoured with French wines. He couldn’t be happier with the wines that have been selected and the detailed information that arrives with each bottle, including how to pair the wine with food. The communication from somMailier has been so impressive right down to the personalized email follow ups from Laurent himself to the newsletters and special offers that are regularly sent out. I know when I am corresponding with them that I am getting an actual person that cares. I would highly recommend somMailier for anyone looking for a wonderful wine club membership for themselves or as a gift! Teresa.”
I really do feel that this detail helps you to appreciate the wine more than ever. Drinking wine is a pleasure. And it is my pleasure to make sure that every single client loves every single bottle we deliver. We’re like your very own sommelier. Our job is to bring you expert knowledge and the very best French wines – delivered straight to your door.
Read Laurent’s wine lover’s guide to Bordeaux
Get 10% off at SomMailier.com – use the code TGLF2022