Maurice Amiel came to Florida to retire and bask in the sun. Fortunately for us in Palm Beach, his plans didn’t work out.
The result is The French Wine Merchant in the historic Paramount Building. Soft classical music plays in the background, and a range of carefully selected wine is tastefully arranged in wooden bins. Amiel opened his first wine store in Manhattan in 1979, and he has used his three decades of experience to create an environment which is both welcoming and soothing. For him, being a wine merchant is an important role.
“The wine business is based on trust,” he says. “Customers come to understand that their wine merchant is not just a source of value. He’s someone who can recommend the best wines to go with a particular dish, the perfect wine to serve to guests at a dinner party.”
Amiel built up his network of contacts by traveling back and forth to France several times each year. He’s always on the lookout for small producers who exceed the public’s expectations for quality. Despite his background, though, there’s more to his Palm Beach store than French wine. Expect to find a smattering of selections from California, Chile, Argentina and Italy, all reasonably priced from $15.99 to a high of $125.
Still, France remains his first love. He carries a small but strong selection of Champagne, and focuses on the second labels of famous Bordeaux chateaux such as Monbousquet, Talbot and Meyney—superior wines that he can pass on to his clientele for less than $40. Responding to the current popularity of Pinot Noir, he stocks a selection of Bourgogne Rouge—entry-level wines from the best Burgundy producers—that retail below $20. A vintage wine such as the 2000 Chateau Simard is available in his shop for $33.99. Those who don’t want value can snag a Volnay from Marquis D’Angerville, or a Corton-Charlemagne from Tollot-Beaut.
As he progresses through his first season in Palm Beach, Amiel is gradually blending The French Wine Merchant into the community. He has hosted tastings for the Society of the Four Arts and the Palm Beach Civic Association, using the courtyard of the Paramount Building to accommodate up to 200 guests. He is also the designated retailer for Café Boulud’s exclusive series of winemaker dinners. He’s known to hold impromptu tastings in his store for ten or twelve people.
The French Wine Merchant is the newest destination on Palm Beach island for those who want carefully considered advice from a professional in the wine industry.
FEATURED WINE: Stop by The French Wine Merchant and pick up a bottle of Chateau Millaud Montlabert, a St-Emilion Grand Cru from the 2007 vintage for the low price of $19.95. This blend of 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon displays bright fruit and supple tannins, and goes particularly well with steak or lamb dishes.
139 N. County Road, Palm Beach; 561-833-7712