With its sleek deck opening to Treellion Park and its leafy alleys, its large bay windows and its classy-casual interior design signed by the Cambodian architecture studio SO-AA, the place -- set in one of Aquation Office Park buildings -- is not your typical wine bar. While many inviting bottles are displayed in the bright and luminous store, and instant degustation is available at the bar or at high tables, a massive wooden door leads to a more intimate lounge with plush armchairs, where private tasting events and meetings with sommeliers or wine-makers can be held.
"Our aim is to help Phnom-Penhers in discovering French wines from small- or medium-sized vineyards, a high-quality production that reflects the amazing diversity of soils, climates, grape varieties and winery techniques," remarks Pierre Pages, project leader at Monsieur Wine & Beyond, currently commuting between France and Cambodia to select vintages and organize the first major shipping that will hopefully arrive in September.
Do not fear being put off by pompous, in-your-face oenologists, though. The day of our visit, Fabien, the store manager, and Liiden, coordinator of events at Monsieur Wine, proved that you can be young --Liiden has just completed a 3-year course in hospitality management in Sydney, Australia -- and yet remarkably knowledgeable about cepages or wine pairing. "This is a space dedicated to learn more about French wines and to have fun doing so!", she explains with a radiant smile, still remembering the latest Oyster Night, when a happy crowd sipped white blends not often tasted in Cambodia along with Ostra seafood.
Even without any event taking place, it is always possible to enhance your wine tasting with yummy snacks, for instance a French wild boar sausage or cheese platter. It went well with a bottle of Ribbiera-Culombu, a lush Corsican red much more fitted to the Cambodian heat than so many ubiquitous, heavy and sugary mass-produced reds that have taken over the Phnom Penh wine scene so far.
The Ladies Night is also a hit, with girl friends meeting up here every Wednesday to enjoy a free bottle for parties of 5. On that note, we wanted to know if the "Monsieur" in the brand name could hide some macho connotation. "Not at all!", replied Fabien, "we just wanted to add some 'French touch'to the name. And we are already committed to name our next bar&shop in Cambodia...Madame Wine."