BRINGING LIKE-MINDED INDIVIDUALS TOGETHER TO ENJOY FINE FOOD AND WINE.
Interview by Cyprus in Style Magazine: October 2019
Christophe Chaillou is a French businessman who has lived in Limassol since 1985. He is the father of four sons and lives in the city with his wife. He is the owner and director of Wine and More at French Depot, the CEO of Creative Tours and President of the Cyprus Wine and Business Club. He is also the Foreign Trade Counsellor for France, the former President of Cyprus MICE Agencies Association and the Vice President of Cyprus Finance Business Association.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE IN FRANCE.
I was born in Libourne, near Saint-Émilion. Wine is very much appreciated in my family and I was aged thirteen when I started drinking and enjoying it. Wine is very much a part of life in France. As a child, I used to remove and collect wine bottle labels; this must have been a sign of my later career. I grew up in Bordeaux, before leaving to study at hotel school in Glion in Switzerland. There, I studied for my masters in hotel management.
After graduation, I completed my army service, but because of my hospitality background, the General at the garrison made me his maître d’hôtel. This further increased my knowledge of fine wines, as I became responsible for their selection and serving at the table to guests. Once, I had the honour of serving wine to the former President of France, François Mitterrand.
After my national service, I was ready to start my career in hospitality and worked with the exclusive hotel group, Relais and Châteaux. I was the assistant manager at Château Saint-Martin in Vence. It was a boutique hotel with twenty suites. I became good friends with the sommelier at the hotel and he taught me a lot about wine. I actually think he was the best sommelier in France during that time, so I was lucky to work with him. He was an unbelievable wine educator.
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO CYPRUS?
My first wife was from Cyprus and we met whilst we were studying in Switzerland. We came to Cyprus in 1985 to get married in Limassol. Then, I thought my destiny was to be a hotelier, but my career took a different course. Many guests had flown in from France for my wedding and we were responsible for showing them around the island. This led us to establish our company, Creative Tours, which is a travel agency that focuses on bringing tourists to Cyprus. Back then, there were no direct flights and very few French people visited the island. Today, we probably deal with 85% of the French tourists who visit Cyprus. Over the years, I would say that we have brought approximately over a million French citizens to Cyprus.
Creative Tours also offer trips for wine lovers to visit France and learn about wine. This month, we have a trip going to France to visit vineyards in Alsace, Champagne, Burgundy, Chablis and Sancerre. We run these trips on a regular basis for enthusiasts and wine professionals. We also arrange trips all over the world for our clients.
WHEN DID YOUR CAREER GO IN THE DIRECTION OF WINE?
In 2009, I was presented with the opportunity to purchase the original single French Depot boutique in Limassol. The concept of French Depot back then, was to sell French wines by the case. We have since expanded with boutiques in both Paphos and Nicosia. At our shop in Paphos, we also have a wine bar and purposely designed tasting room. We are focused more on selling fine wines by the bottle. Our market is 40% direct sales to the public and 60% to the trade, including leading restaurants and hotels across the island.
This year, we celebrate our tenth anniversary and we are going in a new direction under the name of Wine and More at French Depot. This is so we are able to upgrade the brand and include other products and wines from around the world. We are very keen to promote artisan, traditional food products and import the best cheeses to Cyprus. We buy them from Rungis, the largest market in France and they are flown to Cyprus within 24 hours. We have over 40 French cheeses, including a truffle cheese and an outstanding camembert. Our delicacies also include biscuits from La Mère Poulard and chocolates from the world-famous chocolatier, Marquise de Sévigné. The top luxury products that France has to offer will always be found at Wine and More.
We also carry an exclusive selection of Cognacs, Armagnacs and Pineau des Charentes. In every boutique, we have a Whisky and Gin corner.
All of our boutiques have knowledgeable, trained staff. We also have trained sommeliers who are there to advise our customers on their wine purchases. Personally, I have returned to France 12 times over the last 10 years on wine research and buying trips.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF CYPRIOT WINE?
It is very good and getting better by the year. This year, we decided to make the big move and exclusively distribute the wines of Ekfraseis Vassiliades Winery. We consider them to be amongst the best winemakers in Cyprus and we like what they are doing. Their vineyard is positioned at the highest altitude in Cyprus and they have a great selection of wines. They are the only ones doing a Pinot Noir in Cyprus. Ekfraseis wines were served to President Macron during his recent visit to Cyprus.
Over the 35 years that I have lived here in Cyprus, I have seen a dramatic improvement in winemaking in all the wineries.
HOW DID YOU START THE WINE & BUSINESS CLUB IN CYPRUS?
Over 10 years ago, whilst reading a magazine on a flight, I first read about the Wine and Business Club in France. I kept the article, as I really thought it was a good way to bring together, people who share a real passion for wine and excellent food. Last year, after speaking with the association in France, I secured the first overseas franchise for Cyprus. The founder of the club, Alain Marty, visited Cyprus before we started and I was delighted to show him around the island. We have already had 5 events and our dinners always take place on the last Thursday of every month.
It is a way to bring like-minded individuals together to enjoy a good meal and taste different fine wines. The tasting is usually discussed in the presence of the winemakers.
WHO ARE YOUR WINE HEROES?
Most certainly, I consider Alain Brumont to be one of them. He is based in the Madiran Region, which is very well known for producing fine wines. Originally, this area was not destined for great wines but over the last 20 years, he has transformed the land. He produces a variety of seven authentic wines. His wine was recently served at the G7 Summit. He has been voted the Best French Winemaker and is also considered to be the producer of one of the top ten finest wines in the world.
Another personality I respect in the wine industry is François Janoueix from Saint Émilion. He owns 11 châteaux and has become a very good friend. He is a great personality and makes great wine.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WINES IN THE WORLD?
I am very fond of wine from the vintage of 2000. I really enjoy most wines from Saint Émilion or Pomerol. A special favourite would be a bottle of red wine from Château Montus ‘La Tyre’. They have a 2000 Montus Cuvée ‘La Tyre’.
With regards to white wine, I always enjoy a Sancerre from Domaine Vacheron or a Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos from Christian Moreau. The winemaking tradition of the Moreau family goes back to the early 19th century. It has been voted the best white wine in the world and we are very happy to sell it exclusively at Wine and More by French Depot.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF YOUR HOMETOWN OF LIMASSOL?
In my opinion, it certainly is becoming the “the place to be” on the Mediterranean. It is already a very fashionable place with many nationalities living here. With the completion of the casino and big hotels, Limassol’s future as a cosmopolitan city is secured.
Interview by Cyprus in Style Magazine.
Written by Sarah Coyne
BEAUJOLAIS NOUVEAU PARTY
21st Nov 2019 – French Depot – Paphos, Limassol & Nicosia
A great party with the arrival of the famous Beaujolais Nouveau Wine and Finger Foods. Contact the individual boutiques for more information.
CYPRUS WINE & BUSINESS CLUB
28th Nov 2019 – Four Seasons Hotel, Limassol
Dinner with the Italian wine producer, ‘Astoria’ and presentation of the new range of ‘My Cooking Box’, featuring authentic Italian recipes. For further details please call 99 599 460 or email firstname.lastname@example.org