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Photo for: Emmanuel Cadieu on creating a dream wine list at Paris’ new 5* hotel

Interviews

Emmanuel Cadieu on creating a dream wine list at Paris’ new 5* hotel

27/08/2021

Head sommelier at the 5* hotel in Paris on creating the dream wine list at what is said to be the biggest opening of a five star hotel in Europe this September.

Emmanuel Cadieu, head sommelier at one of the premium europe hotel, talks about his career, how he became a sommelier and what are the key factors that have gone into helping him create the dream list at what is said to be the biggest opening of a five-star hotel in Europe this September.

Can you tell us about your background and how you first got into wine?

I was born in Brittany. I don’t have any relatives working in the wine industry or in hospitality, however, I do remember that in my childhood my father would randomly stop at a few wine estates in France during our holidays. He was always bringing back wine bottles as a souvenir. That’s when I started to dip my lips into those precious nectars and that’s probably what pushed me deep into the wine world.

Why did you want to be a sommelier?

Being a sommelier was for me a way to transmit a passion to people. It was also choosing a job where you never get bored and are always learning, every day of your life. I love my job because I can meet our guests and talk with them about food and wine matchings, viticulture, grape varieties, history, geography and also connect with the team and my other colleagues.

How did you progress into your current role?

I came back to France after seven years working abroad, between London and Sydney. That was really a fantastic experience and I met so many hospitality professionals for whom I have a lot of respect, who helped me grow as a sommelier. Those two cities were amazing and I made a lot of great friends, but it was time to come back closer to my roots and my family. The opening of Cheval Blanc Paris in the historical Parisien building of La Samaritaine was such an exciting opportunity that I couldn’t decline the offer.

What is involved in your current role and your main tasks?

I’m in charge of all wine-related matters in the hotel and I’m overseeing four restaurants, as well as a team of 10 sommeliers. As it is an opening, I built the wine program, trying to make the best out of French vineyards, but also looking to promote wine from all over the world. Training is also a big part of my job and building a solid team was one of my priorities. I mainly work in a fine dining restaurant, but I love to spend time in the other more casual restaurants.

If you were given a restaurant and asked to fix their wine program and grow wine sales where would you start and what steps would you take?

I would probably spend a bit of time looking to see where improvements could be made. That might be in education and training of the staff, running exciting incentives, or trying to adapt the wine program so that it works better with the style of the cuisine of the outlet, or is more in tune with the key trends in wine. I would also analyze the buying behavior of our guests. 

It’s not just the style of the wines you have on your list that is important, but also the way they are served so I would spend time to make sure our glassware, serving temperatures are right and that we are making use of devised such as Coravin to help with a by the glass program. I would also try to build relationships with suppliers and look at what sort of deals we can negotiate with them as well as keeping a close eye on the wine stocks and pricing.

What questions would you ask of the restaurant owner to know what sort of wine list to create?

First I would discuss the budget that he wants to spend on the wine range and also the team that he wants to build. I would ask him about the habits of his usual guests and the style of cuisine he wants to offer both at the moment, but also over the next five to 10 years.

What do you most look for and want from wine suppliers to help drive sales?

Reactivity and understanding. I have to say that suppliers who are always ready to help and support the sommeliers are always welcome. The ones who can see the way I am going with the wine program that I want to build and who understand my needs and priorities without being too pushy have already earned my trust. That’s also probably the same thing that a supplier would expect from a good sommelier. 

Can you think of any good examples of wine partnerships with suppliers and wines you have listed as a result? What was it about those wines that stood out?

When I was working in London, we bought two 18 liter bottles of Madeira. I decided to open them and pour them by the glass over Christmas. Everyone loved it so much that we sold the first one within only two and a half weeks. It was crazy and both guests and sommeliers were happy to be able to enjoy seeing such a big bottle being poured and the chance to taste and better understand the way that Madeira is produced, whilst ensuring the wine was still fresh and vibrant after a few weeks or months of opening.

What are the key ways to show success from a wine program?

A combination of great feedback from your guests and great revenue generated by the wine sales. You can also look at the turnover of your sommelier team to get an idea of how excited they are by the wine program.

How have you devised the wine list and wine programme at your venue - what are the key factors about the list that help the bottom line?

I, unfortunately, can’t say much before the opening but it needs to be coherent and adapted to the place you are working in. You need to have great discoveries and wines from unknown regions, but you also need to have wines that your guests can recognize and be familiar with. You also sometimes need to keep yourself informed with new trends in order to make your wine offering exciting.

What are the key four things you focus on to be good in your role?

A sense of empathy, building trust with the guests, keeping the passion alive, and always looking, learning, and taking care of every detail are my leitmotif. And leading by example if there could be a fifth one.

What do you think sommeliers spend too much of their time on which is not that important?

Probably their personal goals and ambitions. I love sommeliers who can push themselves and are as good with the guests and their duties (even if they are not all as exciting as tasting wines and sharing them with their guests) as they are with their personal challenges.

What are the criteria you look for in a wine when deciding whether to include it in your wine program or not?

I would say quality comes first, then I’m looking at the price point to see if it could fit on my list and whether I can find better value for money or not.

What do you see as being the key skills and talents needed to be a good sommelier?

Once again empathy, but also an ability to communicate well and being able to read the guests well. Then comes knowledge. Being a hard worker also definitely helps as well as being prepared to go out of your comfort zone to grow and develop.

How do you evaluate the success and effectiveness of a good wine program?

I would probably have a look at wine sales, spend per head, and stock turn levels. I would look at figures over the past weeks, months, and years. I would also look at the faces of the guests after their dining experience.