A wine enthusiast at heart, Patrice Frank has been the Head Sommelier of the prestigious Hotel de Paris Monte-Carlo since year 2000, and has been the President of the Monaco Sommeliers Association. Aside from delivering the best wine selection to guests at Le Grill, Patrice also takes care of the 1500 square-meter underground wine cellar at the Hotel de Paris and curates its inventory.
AS THE HEAD SOMMELIER OF THE HOTEL DE PARIS MONTE-CARLO WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AND WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY LIKE?
My role at the Hotel de Paris is to ensure that the service of the beverages, wines and hard liquors, is performed in the best possible conditions (temperature, decanting of the wine, choice of the glassware…) I must manage my team of 9 sommeliers daily and of course I often take part in the service myself, providing advice to clients who wish to discover wines that they do not know. I am also involved in the acquisitions for all the drinks served at the Hotel de Paris and I have to control all the wine lists. Aside from being a creature of pleasure, wine is a stock with values determined by its maturity, its availability or rarity and its success with the clientele.
A typical day always begins with family breakfast. Then I take my service at the Hotel de Paris, often starting with a tasting (it is indeed in the morning that our taste buds are at their best). After a short tour of all restaurants and bars, the time of lunch service comes and I usually have a break during the afternoon. In the evening I am in service in various restaurants according to the different events that take place in our establishment.
THE WINE SCENE IS VERY DIVERSIFIED TODAY WITH THE GREAT BURGUNDY AND BORDEAUX WINES’ DOMINATION BEING DISPUTED BY FOREIGN APPELLATIONS. WHAT HAS CHANGED IN THE LAST 10 YEARS? HOW DO YOU ADAPT TO THIS CHANGE AND IS IT REFLECTED IN YOUR RESTAURANTS’ WINE MENU?
What has evolved the most is the diversity of the offer and especially the taste of the customers which has slightly changed. Consumers want less aged wines (not over 15 years) so we have been forced to reflect this a little bit in our purchases. However, we are only slightly affected by this phenomenon. When customers arrive in Monaco, they are more likely to discover French wines than wines from other countries. Today we sell 98% of French wines, which is normal considering the discovery and expertise we can bring to our customers. The wine estates have also adapted and generally produce wines for earlier consumption. Nowadays one drinks big Bordeaux which are 6 to 8 years of age.
WHAT ARE THE “MONEY CAN’T BUY EXPERIENCES” THAT YOU CAN OFFER TO YOUR MOST ILLUSTRIOUS CLIENTS?
There are two types of experience: the first is the business expertise that we are able to give to our customers if they so wish. It is an exchange of our knowledge about wine varieties, vintages and vineyards of the world. Another is to offer them extraordinary premises: the central cellar of the Hotel de Paris which has nearly 400,000 bottles of wine from 1835 to the present day. Organising dinners there for a small circle of friends is truly a bespoke experience.
ON TOP OF YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AT THE HOTEL DE PARIS, YOU ARE OFTEN CALLED FOR SERVICE AT THE PRINCELY PALACE. HOW DO YOU REMAIN ON TOP OF YOUR PROFESSION?
I do not know if I’m at the top of my job, but if there is a single engine in my work, that is passion. It’s almost not work, it’s fun. It’s a bit like in sport, the easiest is not to progress, but to remain at a high level. I try to be as rigorous as possible in my work, but also in my private life. I want to maintain an important balance between work and family which is for me a source of comfort and motivation. After all, I think there is no secret that it takes a lot of work: tasting as often as possible, vineyard trips, and especially, to remain very close to my customers in order not to lose touch with their needs and desires.
WHAT IS SPECIAL AND UNIQUE TO MONACO IN THE FRAME OF YOUR JOB?
The most unique is the exceptional clientele that we have the chance to rub shoulders with at the Hotel de Paris. We are lucky to regularly sell prestigious bottles that are all exceptional. The second unique element that directly affects my work is the cellar. Imagine 400,000 bottles of wine from all over the world, from all parts of France and dating back – for the oldest of them – to 1835, it’s just fantastic. Finally, the environment. We are 1 hour from ski resorts and 5 minutes from the beach. The weather is pleasant and the sun is always present. It is an exceptional place.