Erdener Treppchen – Mosel
Photo – Christian Depken


Raison d’être du Le Chai

Literally translated raison d’être means “reason to be”, as in “justify yourself”, “what is your purpose”, or “why do you exist?” All of these are interesting questions and all of them deserved to be answered. Indeed, these very questions run through my head (and often out of my mouth) whenever I drink a wine from the “New World.” For those unfamiliar with the term, “New World” is the opposite of “Old World,” and encompasses (at least in the wine world) just about everything outside of Europe, including but not limited to California, Australia, Oregon, Washington State, and New Zealand. On the other hand, the Old World is comprised primarily of France, Germany, Italy and Spain. There are a few other countries of Europe that produce great wines, but these are the big four. These four have set the world standards for all things wine and, as it is my opinion that they also produce the finest wines in the world, they make up the core of the wines in which I deal.

Le Chai deals exclusively in the wines of the Old World. The primary focus is France, with Italy running a close second. Germany and Spain are running in third and fourth. Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Portugal and Slovenia round out the rest. The entire inventory is stored in a “cellar” or as the folks in Bordeaux might say, a “chai” (pronounced ‘shay’). Unlike other stores that have racks of bottles dying under fluorescent lights, all wine at Le Chai is continuously temperature and humidity controlled at 55 degrees and 70% humidity.

The wines carried at Le Chai may be unknown to many. However, what is far more important is that they are known by me. I have personal knowledge of every bottle in the shop and can tell you as much as you wish to hear about each of them. There is not a bottle for sale in the shop that I would and do not drink myself. In other words, I do not sell what I do not like. If it doesn’t get past me, it doesn’t get to you.

In this regard, ratings are of little importance. You will find no reference to “points” or “ratings” anywhere in the cellar, the shop, or this website for that matter. Of course, I am aware of what certain publications have awarded certain wines, but I don’t use these ratings to sell wine. Nor do I use these ratings to determine which wine to sell. I feel that too much time and attention is afforded what in essence are a few people’s opinions. I have opinions about all sorts of things, and you probably do too. In the end, opinions are not currency and should not be treated as such.

As far as the New World goes, to be sure there are some very good wines being produced. Unfortunately, they also tend to have big price tags and very small production levels. Most of them are extremely allocated (limited in distribution) and/or require membership or presence on a mailing list to get them, thereby creating additional limitations on distribution. If you are aware that these wines exist, you probably already have them or are waiting for somebody else to get dropped from the list so that you can then get them.

So there it is. Justify myself? I do with every bottle that leaves my shop. What is Le Chai’s purpose? To educate my clients and acquire the wines that my clients are and should be interested in. Why does Le Chai exist? Because there has to be an alternative to the sea of misinformation that gets thrown about concerning wine.

Christian Depken
Le Chai – galerie du vin
Savannah, Georgia

Le Chai – galerie du vin | 15 East Park Avenue | Savannah, Georgia 31401 | 912.713.2229
© 2024


Hours of Operation

Mon – Fri 11.00 – 19.00   |   Sat 10.00 – 19.00   |  Sun 12.30 – 17.00