Sommelier Mathieu Mermelstein from the vaunted Restaurant Tantris in Munich compares the opening of a 1981 bottle of Romanee-Saint-Vivant Grand Cru with his Code38 with the deflowering of a virgin. (By his own admission he is ‘sharp-witted’ and ‘blunt to the point’). He had been waiting for the right wine to come along, deemed worthy of trying out his brand new Excalibur Code38, keeping meanwhile another corkscrew in his pocket for everyday use. ‘While opening’, he tells me, ‘I felt joy for them to meet! The cork was in superb condition; as soon as I pulled it out, a whiff of dried rose petals filled my nostrils.’ Picturing himself in the middle of a field of roses, he knew in that moment he had ‘the best wine opener in the world’. A worthy partnership indeed.
Mathieu in his position has had many opportunities to taste many glorious wines of assorted provenance and vintage. And how it all began was when, about a decade ago, he was asked by a wine collector to rearrange the cellar. As reward he was given a bottle of 1934 Cheval Blanc (from the Bordeaux region, priced around $1500 and described as being elegant and fragrant and having the colour of rosehip tea). ‘I can still taste the wine’, he tells me. ‘From that day I knew that I wanted to do something with wine in my life.’
In fact, Mathieu’s favourite white wine comes from Bordeaux. It’s the 1959 Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc, with aromas, he says, that range from ‘fresh apricot to cooked quince, hazelnut to caramel notes and a good portion of minerality.’ I’m getting hungry. (Or thirsty.) Yet he also enjoys young German dry Rieslings from Keller and Wittmann in the Rheinhessen, along with crispy Chenin Blancs from the Loire.
As for reds, his ‘all-time favourite wine variety and wine region’ are Pinot Noir and Burgundy. ‘Their wines’, he says, ‘bring so much finesse, elegance, depth and longevity.’ Aside from these he’s currently excited about an unusual and little-known Tempranillo made by one of Spain’s pioneer winemakers, Telmo Rodriguez: the 2015 ‘Tabuerniga’ Rioja, part of a very small production and a single ‘field blend’ vineyard of 2.7 hectares. ‘Unbelievable density’, he describes. ‘(A) tight wine with so much potential. Pure elegance.’
As far as a wine Mathieu would like to recommend to fellow Code38 members is concerned, it’s the 1992 Gewurtztraminer ‘Herrenberg’ from Domaine Zind-Humbrecht he is suggesting. He describes this mature Alsatian wine as having ‘beautiful intense lychee and rosewater aromas, a little fat and buttery on the palate, low acidity, but somehow fresh as a daisy for 28 years of aging.’ He reckons it pairs beautifully with a red curry of chicken alongside crunchy pappadams.
What Mathieu loves best about his Titanium Code38 is the smoothness and agility of the opener. ‘The handle gives you a perfect firm grip’, he tells me. ‘Not to mention the lightness it brings with it. Beautiful craftsmanship!’