Franco File Friday: Olivier Magny of O Château

24 June 2011

Olivier Magny, O Chateau

I know that the concept of Franco File Friday was to showcase Francophiles living in or dreaming of France, but I thought it might be fun to introduce you to someone with a very personal, local perspective about France. This Franco File features a Frenchman who easily could be mistaken for a dual national – impeccable English skills,  keen insight on Parisian behavior and a widely recognized expertise for fine wines all make Olivier Magny a particularly interesting person to profile.

Magny is not only a sommelier and the founder of Ô Chateau, a wine tasting company with a recently launched wine bar and restaurant, but also a wine consultant for the 5-star luxury Hôtel de Crillon and a published author. What began as an extremely clever blog, in a similar tradition to the satirical Stuff White People Like, Stuff Parisians Like (written in English) has turned into a hugely successful book. First published in French as Dessine-Moi un Parisien , the English version will be released in English this July.

Olivier’s thoughts on Paris and France…..

Describe what you love about France in three words.
Le pain chaud

Best spot in Paris to seek inspiration for satirical writing? Why?
It’s funny, your question makes me realize that I’ve never really sought inspiration on the subject of Paris and Parisians. I’ve never sat down at a café with the intention to observe people. The whole Paris thing is really quite intuitive for me: I was born in Paris and I’ve lived here all my life. I guess my silly writing is just the result of 30 years of passive observation of my environment. Writing both Dessine-moi un Parisien and Stuff Parisians Like has been an unexpected opportunity for me to say things about my city and its inhabitants.  And I  guess, discreetly, about the times in which we live.

Olivier Magny, Dessine-Moi un Parisien

THE place to see and be seen (aside from O Chateau, of course)?
I’m not very much into scenes, to say the least. It’s like with wine – when people try to incarnate things that are truly not who they are, it makes me cringe. Paris is worth more than these spots and their people. I do believe in beauty and its power. If there’s one thing to say and pay attention to in Paris, it is undoubtedly its beauty. Which is everywhere. As far as being seen goes, I think we are best seen in beauty, too. So there you go, a bit of Frenchness for you. Beauty would be my answer.

Most amusing interactions with a Francophile during one of your wine tastings? 
I guess it has nothing to do with France but this one sticks out in my mind for some reason.

Olivier:… “so for that reason, rosé wine is usually drier in France than say, the U.S.
Client: “I’m sorry, you’re talking about rosé, I’ve never heard of that. Is it Mexican wine?”

The guy was dead serious!

Favorite French city outside of Paris? Why? 
Hmm, tough one. City, I might say Morlaix in Bretagne (Brittany) which is where my family is from. The city oozes with soft melancholy and provincial modesty. The coastline in that area is one of the prettiest in the world , absolutely breathtaking. Truthfully though, as a good Parisian, I don’t think I could live in another French city. Countryside is a different story, but a city? No.

What should Francophiles know about France that they don’t know already?  
The France they imagine, the France they admire, the France they love is gone. Long gone.

Talk about a cliffhanger! If you want Olivier to elaborate on his last remark, fly to Paris, take one of his wine tastings or pop into the O Chateau wine bar and ask him in person! Be sure to pick up a copy of his book this summer and add O Chateau to your list of Paris musts – no one leaves disappointed.
68 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
75001 Paris
Metro: Louvre Rivoli (Line 1) or Etienne Marcel (Line 4)
Email:{All photos courtesy of Olivier Magny}