By Margaret MacDonald
Thomas Grouard Lillelund, a native of France with a passion for wine, has opened French Corner, a small wine importation and distribution company in Saratoga Springs.
The company is small but encompasses what Lillelund terms the “art form” of what he does.
It brings French wines to the U.S. market, focusing on vineyards from well-known and new wine regions
Having left France 20 years ago, Lillelund and his wife moved from London to settle in Saratoga five years ago to begin the company.
A passion for wine began to express itself around 15 years of age. He said he traveled often and loved visiting the scenic vineyards. Upon moving to the U.S., he sought to establish a smaller production company like those abundant in Europe.
As the only link between customer and winemaker, the French Corner serves primarily restaurants and retail from New York City to Lake Placid—the Hudson River corridor—no further west than Schenectady.
He said the process has three levels: selection, importation and distribution. All the winemakers whose products are being sold are small- to medium-sized, compared to primarily large distributors in the states. The focus is on production in a given wine area. Region-to-region comparisons serve as a benchmark.
“We want a wine that has a sense of place,” versus something that’s been changed and modified to suit a broader and less-discerning market, Lillelund said.
The fairly elaborate selection process involves intensive reading of reviews; a blind first tasting; and ultimately a visit to France to select products that are outstanding for quality within market price and without regional overlap, he said.
He looks for makers growing their own grapes on their own vineyard.
“We bring the makers to the customer,” he said, with things like master classes, tastings, wine dinners and boat shows. He also helps with wine list assessments.
The French Corner sells locally to places like to Muzon House, Sperry’s, 15 Church, and Putnam Market, he said.
Its website is www.thefrenchcornerwines.com.