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Interviews

Meet Christine Parkinson - Wine And Sake Expert

22/10/2019

Meet Christine Parkinson - the woman who created the first wine list for Hakkasan in 2001.

Christine Parkinson started her restaurant career in the kitchen and moved into management after 3 years as a Head Chef. Various operational roles followed, leading to responsibility for 39 restaurants. Eventually, she decided to follow her passion and concentrate on wine.

Parkinson worked with Hakkasan for 18 years venturing out and working on her own as wine and sake professional.

In a chat with our Editor, Parkinson spoke about her journey in the wine industry and shared her expertise in wine buying.

  1. Tell us a little about your journey in the wine industry. How did you get started and where are you now?

I first studied wine when I was studying for hospitality management qualifications, aged 25. I was fascinated from the start and took responsibility for wine in various restaurants and food & beverage management positions. In 2001 I had the chance to write the opening wine list for the first hakkasan and ended up staying there for 18 years, as head of wine. I'm now planning my next adventure in wine.

  1. So you created the first wine list for hakkasan. How did you go about that? (Tell us about the team you had with you and the wines that spoke to you the most)

From the start, it was about food. Back then, no-one had a clue what wine to drink with Chinese food, so we had to find out for ourselves. For 3 weeks, I gathered the opening team every afternoon around a big table, to taste wine samples as they ate their lunch. The chefs sent out the dishes they were working on, and we tried wine after wine with them. Everyone voted on what went best with the food, and from those wines, I worked up a list. I had a rule: any wine can go on the list if it’s

  • Really good

  • Goes with the food. As The Head Of Wine At Hakkasan - How Did You Lead Your Team? What Was Your Leadership Style?

I managed the framework - how we chose suppliers, samples etc, how we measured profitability and set the standard for tasting wines with our food, but the most senior sommeliers always made the final choice of the wines for their lists.

  1. When a portfolio is presented to you, what makes you think "yes, this is the wine I want in my restaurant?"

When a new supplier sends me a portfolio, I want to turn the pages and understand what they are about. I want to buy from someone who can add something to what I already buy. does the portfolio have a personality? Are the wines new to me, nor have I seen them offered by other suppliers? I look for something fresh.

  1. As a wine buyer, how have you seen trends change over the years?

Wines from the new world are mainstream now: almost every list has NZ sauvignon blanc and pinot noir, for instance. By-glass has become much more important, helped along by the rise of equipment

to preserve wines, such as Le Verre De Vin and Coravin.

  1. What are some of the wine trends you’ve seen that have remained the same over the years?

Certain wines always sell Sancerre, chablis, rioja. those were the best sellers when i started in wine, and they still are.

  1. What are some of the training programmes you put in place for your team?

WSET courses were always a big part of our training at Hakkasan, but I was particularly proud of our involvement with Plumpton College - our trainees not only visited the winery and vineyards, but we sold wines from the college on our list.

Click here to find out more about Wine By The Glass Program - In David Vareille's Words

  1. And lastly, what is Christine Parkinson drinking at the moment?

Tea! I can’t get through the morning without a cup of Beatons

Dong Ding oolong! I may have sherry later :)