Chef Chat: Marc Borel, Wine Badass

The wines served in Houston can be all over the place, but one wine bar continues to stand above the rest, 13 Celsius. We recently sat down with local wine "badass" Marc Borel. You too can ask Marc questions about wine via Twitter (@marcborel).

Eating Our Words: Any suggestions for our readership to actually find where 13 Celsius is?

Marc Borel: It's technically in lower Midtown. We are essentially on the same street as House of Blues, just on the other side of the freeway. Look for a street named Anita and that's us on the corner.

EOW: How do you get the feel for a customer?

MB: I first and foremost find out the flavors that they like. At first I don't even ask about wines, I want to know what my customer likes to eat and drink. There are so many descriptors that can be used that I like to narrow it down to just a few flavors they can get really excited about. Most people know what they like, so the most difficult part is to try to stay away from what they dislike. Terms like "tannic," "earthy," "sweet" and "dry" can be a little intimidating. I enjoy allowing people the opportunity to discover what they love most about wines.

EOW: Wow, that was a mouthful. What is a good day to come in and experience Marc at his most sommelier best?

MB: Sunday for half-price wines. Only a few people take a look at the list on Sundays. I have an opportunity to pour some really incredible wines at a bargain. It is a great way to experience the really cool bottles that may be a little pricey to take a risk with normally. I think it also gets my customers out of their comfort zone and engaged in selecting something limited and unique.

EOW: So what is your favorite wine of all time, price not withstanding?

MB: Bandol. It is a little town east of Marseilles off the coast of France. They make some really fantastic, meaty, earthy wines. We sell Bandols by the bottle for around $50. Bandol in Provence is one of the oldest wines in France. The main grape in Bandol is Mourve'dre. By the way, we offer all our selection for retail pricing to go by the bottle.

EOW: Where does a wine badass spend his day off?

MB: I love to hang out with my culinary peers. This usually ends up with us heading to grab some coffee off Buffalo Speedway, then on to explore new local dives in Houston. Houston has such a unique food community with all sorts of ethnic options. I like to try different venues with the same menu items. We could end up at three different places just trying each restaurant's mussels, or hunt down three different boudins in town.

EOW: What is the biggest challenge facing the wine community of Houston?

MB: The biggest challenge is educating our customer base for a truly dynamic experience. They come in wanting one of the big four -- Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc. There are so many other varietals of wine to explore that can be a truly romantic glass. The biggest challenge is also my favorite thing about be a sommelier. When I see someone's face crack a smile after learning something new about wine, it really makes my day.

Check back tomorrow to find out more about Borel's days at 13 Celsius and what he feels is most important for Houston's wine community.


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