Where I look for terroir and bubbles when I am not in Champagne

Terroirific Geneva

I am intrinsically attracted to quirky slightly off beat places and tend to look for them wherever I go. Today I want to talk about 2 of these places; I feel they belong in this blog as they have become a part of my life. Both are wine bars, both focus on terroir and both stand out, at least in my opinion, for their creative approach to wine. Both places beckon from the street and as soon as you walk through the door the outside world dissipates as you find yourself in this wonderfully happy cocoon!

The first place was always going to have a special place in my heart for two reasons: first of all the concept was created by my good friend and business partner Onneca Guelbenzu. She met Terroirific partner Julio Bem at a wine tasting in Lausanne about a year ago and at the end of 2012 they decided to go in business together. Onneca provided the concept and the vision and Julio the place. This brings me to the second reason why I have a special bond with this wine bar: it was the venue of the first Tasting with a Twist – when we still called it the Magic of the Magnum Bubbles and the Bar was still called Bar a Bem;-) However at that time, only a mere 5 months ago, the place was but a shadow of the cozy “Terroir Haven” it has become today!

Terroirific in Geneva

Terroirific in Geneva

Onneca totally re-invented this welcoming wine bar close to the Cournavin Station in Geneva and her flamboyant happy personality can be felt as soon as one walks in. I know this may sound biased but I am really not saying this because she is my friend; but I came to this conclusion by talking to several patrons on the few occasions I have helped out as every person told me how much they enjoyed the place, the concept and Onne’s warm welcome!

Onne & I at the opening night

Onne & I at the opening night

Terroirific opened with a bang on Valentines day. Onneca had organized a DJ and an independent Genevois “sausage” artist who hand made and cooked a 4 meter terroir sausage on a 4 meter barbecue just outside of the bar. The opening had been widely advertised through social media and the expat community which definitely paid off. Thirty minutes after the doors had opened the place was packed; in fact the stream of people never seemed to subside all night. The place was pumping and full of positive energy and this energy has carried through the last 6 weeks. I am very happy to say that Terroirific is going from strength to strength!

I believe this is driven by Onne’s passionate persona, creative flair and excellent wine choice. The bar is open from Tuesday through to Saturday and most nights there are some special events going on – and when I say special I mean business! Some examples of Terroirific events up till now have included live Fado concerts, an exclusive jewelry night with the artists, live ham cutting, psychic reading sessions, and coming soon Champagne brunches (with special opening times). I am also very proud to announce here that from next month we will have a monthly Tasting with a Twist – exploring sparkling wines and Champagne in an unusual and fun way!

Terroirific Geneva

Terroirific Geneva picture by Laure Noverraz ©

The eclectic wine list which changes regularly and aims to bring unusual and difficult to find terroir wines. Every wine on the list has a story to tell and is very much the expression of a specific place as interpreted by the winemaker. All wines are available by the glass so there is plenty of opportunity to broaden your horizon and expand your palate whilst listing to awesome rock music!

Another reason to visit Terroirific is that you will taste THE best ham – either in the cubes of ham-happiness or freshly sliced – outside of Spain. The ham and the chorizo’s are very much part of the whole Terroirific theme, so much that in fact a wee pig is part of the logo! There are other tapas available besides the ham and sausage (though you should definitely try at least the ham!) which like the wine change regularly.

Lastly if you want to learn about wine – Terroirific also offers a range of wine education programs – check out the website for details.

Terroirific is located 14 Boulevard James Fazy, 1201 Geneva and is open Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday from 5pm – 11 pm
Friday & Saturday from 5pm – midnight
In summer a there will be a brunch opening as well – again please check the website for exact details.

CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® de Bruxelles

CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® de Bruxelles

My second “coup de coeur” is the CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® de Bruxelles. This esoteric Champagne bar is located in the centre of Brussels and has in fact recently changed location. It is the labour of love of Eric Vauthier, who set up the concept in the Gallerie St Hubert more than 3 years ago. He gambled right from the start when he chose to open in the old workshop of fashion designer Kaat Tilley , a place he rented on borrowed time. Eric knew he would have to move when the owners building permits would come through. In the end this took more than 3 years which allowed Eric to build up a loyal following. The CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® closed early January and re-opened in its current location not long afterwards.

Wall of Bottles at the CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE®

Wall of Bottles at the CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE®

As very adequately put by the man himself, the fact that he had to move and start again was not necessarily a bad thing – it proved he could reproduce the concept.The new location is in fact not very far away from the original CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® so the existing clientele followed. However a large chunk of the CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE®’s business comes from tourism visiting the heart of Brussels hence the eclectic window display and an outside terrace – which will be a great draw card once it warms up a little.

I first met Eric last year at my favourite tasting Terres et Vins de Champagne. He immediately caught my eye as he was the only person wearing an apron. The apron is very much part of the CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® branding – it has the logo – Champagne bottle top (plaque de muselet) – and a small Belgian flag on the breast pocket. Eric wears it everywhere and so does anybody who helps out in CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® as I found out when I visited a few weeks ago. Within 10 minutes of entering I was donning one myself!

The Champagne Vasque - Picture Eric Vauthier ©

The Champagne Vasque - Picture Eric Vauthier ©

The CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® concept is in fact pretty simple. There are about 150 different Champagnes; the bulk of them are from Vignerons who aim to make wine which reflects and expresses the essence of their village or vineyard. However, Eric also stocks the classic grandes cuvees and some wines produced by co-operatives. All wines are available as a taste (5 cl pour), by the glass (10 cl pour) or by the bottle. There is no wine list as such, but all the wines currently in stock are displayed on the Wall of Bottles, where every bottle has a price tag with the 3 different prices.

Besides the wall of bottles there is also the Vasque - a large and very chique Champagne ice bucket where the open bottles are kept under a specially devised pressure system to keep them fresh. Generally there are 6-10 bottles in the Vasque, from which a Tasting Palette will be formed. I have to admit to have fallen hard for the tasting palette concept as it really is mega cool and quirky!

Pouring the tasting palette

Pouring the tasting palette

The palette is a flight brought in an unusual way – ie it is a cardboard cut of a painter’s palette, with 3 holes for stemless glasses; I love the way the he glasses are stored in a riddling rack! The palette is tailored to the customer’s palate as the 3 champagnes are selected to best match the customers taste.

The unique presentation not only speaks to the imagination of the customer, it is also the CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® unique touch to bring the different subtleties in terroir & winemaking in Champagne in a very visual way.

Eric also has a mobile version of the CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE®, which can be hired for corporate events and has several exciting projects to expand the horizons of the CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® even more up his sleeve. Again I am mega proud to write here that one of these projects is a 10 series collaboration with “Tasting with a Twist” starting on the 28th of April. The full program of this exciting partnership will be published very shortly – so stay tuned!

The CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® is located 11, rue de la Madeleine – 1000 Brussels. Opening times are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 11 AM till 10.30 PM.
Friday & Saturday from 11 AM till midnight.

The CHAMPAGNOTHÈQUE® also offers discovery boxes of several Champagne producers at a very competitive price. I strongly suggest that you do check out this amazing “cultural” Champagne experience on your next visit to Brussels!

About Caroline

Caroline is a certified Sommelier (by the CMS) and WSET diploma student. In order to specialize in the wines of Champagne she moved to the region and currently works as a wine consultant, wine educator and wine writer. She is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers and writes for several international publications including Palate Press, Snooth, Wine-Searcher, Decanter and Vinogusto; further activities include teaching Champagne related courses at Reims Management School and organizing personalized tasting experiences at http://www.tastingswithatwist.wordpress.com as well as being a regular judge at international wine competitions.
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  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com/ awaldstein

    Nice Caroline.

    Your passion and excitement shows through in this post.

    Makes me want to visit both of these spots.

    Trust that all is well.

    • http://www.missinwine.com/ Caroline Henry

      Thanks Arnold. I am sure you will like both places and remember Geneva is relatively close to the Jura & Savoie :-)) Looking forward to catch up at RAW!