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Creating a Khmer palate for Rhone Valley French wines

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Thach Vibol proudly shows off a sample of the quality French wines and business partner Bertrand Mourierbert sell at French Wine Collection. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

They were two boys who grew up together in France, one a 10-year-old tennis instructor and the other an eight-year-old son of Cambodian refugees, a lad who wanted to learn the racquet and ball game.

The also both attended school in the town of Romans in the Rhone Valley, and the friendship grew between the local and the outsider who became an insider in the town of 20,000.

The tennis coach was Bertrand Mourierbert, and his student Thach Vibol and today the pair are still friends - and seven weeks ago opened a business inspired by their upbringings.

While Bertrand evolved into a wine expert, Vibol returned to Cambodia seven years ágo to help establish his father’s local business arm – an equally Francophile business of cosmetics and perfumes.

But Vibol and Bertrand’s friendship has now seen them open the French Wine Collection store – initially specialising in Rhone Valley wines – in a smartly designed boutique with wine sampling bar.

Here’s the place for you to spend $12 on a bottle of wine – or $2000 if you so feel the desire to quaff 750mls of the really good stuff.

“I grew up in the Rhone Valley so I always knew about wine, had my first glass at about 12, but I did not plan to follow into my father’s business until he decided to expand into Cambodia,’’ Vibol tells us over a satisfying and subtle Hermitage “Les Vin deVienne” by Guilleron Villard.

He then explained how their idea of the boutique came about.

“Bertrand and I had stayed in contact and talked about selling quality wines in Cambodia, and I soon realised there was a cross over of clients between the cosmetics and perfume business and those who want good wine.

“Of course we have ex-pat customers, but our aim is to teach Khmer people how to taste and appreciate wine, not just drink it like whiskey.

“Then I found many local people really want to learn more about wine, the countries and regions they come from and the structures of the tastes.

“There are affluent Cambodians who want to develop a palate for different wine, and we have wine tastings with experts here to help them understand how to really appreciate a good quality wine.’’

While the aim is to eventually expand the range with Italian and wines from other countries, France will remain the primary focus.

“Our wine knowledge from production to distribution made us realise we can offer Cambodian people the possibility to taste quality wine,” says Bertrand.

“At present there are only two major wine suppliers here, and while you can find good wine our specialty will be to find truly special and unique wines.

“Most of the French wine supply in Cambodia comes from the Bordeaux area. Of course, very good wines from Bordeaux exist, but we don’t think that they are the best in association with Asian dishes.

“Asian dishes are often spicy and with lot of different tastes, and I believe the aromas and characteristic go best with Rhone valley wines .”

The French Wine Collection is at 6F Sothearos Boulevard.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marcus Casey at marcus.casey@phnompenhpost.com

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