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A Sommelier’s Journey

A role that previously stood in the shadow of head chefs, sommeliers are traditionally the quiet achievers. The ones who can match your mood, your meal or your celebrations to a sip. While the role of the sommelier has barely changed, their popularity is mounting as diners’ thirst for knowledge grows.

“People remember me because I recommended them a good wine or I served them well. For me that’s the best recognition I could have,” says Franck Moreau, Merivale’s head sommelier. You may have been lucky enough to observe him pouring at Uccello’s or Ms G’s. Given he holds the title of Australia’s first master sommelier, now one of only three nationally and 236 internationally you can trust you’re in good hands.

He insists their expertise is no reason to stay quiet or question-less while you dine. “We want people to be excited about it,” he says. When it comes to approaching your sommelier, Franck encourages an honest approach; “feel very open about what you’re looking for, what you want to spend. We are here to choose the best wine we think will go with your food but also what you like as well.”

Franck looks back on his start with Merivale 12 years ago, acknowledging the many ways starting from scratch has made for successful and steady growth. “Our wine program is one of the biggest in the country now so we’re a very important part of the business.” Moreau considers the wine list to be a continuation of the company’s values. “We have a benchmark for having high quality produce or a high quality chef and then we do the same with the wine side.”

Moreau believes understanding the origins of the wine you’re drinking and the “people behind the wine” is crucial to being a good sommelier. “We are ambassadors of these products, we are the last person between the producer and the customer, it’s important to have the best knowledge.”

The teams recent visit to Villa Maria’s Marlborough vineyard gave him an opportunity to show his team of 24 sommeliers the area which produces a large portion of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc. “It was very important for me to bring the team there to excite them and for them to understand the region.”

As far as the process of pairing goes the head sommelier makes the practice sound easy;

“There’s two ways, you can go very simple, looking at matching by flavour, with what you have in the plate and the wine, or you can do it the opposite way and use contrast.” He speaks with composed passion but his considered and calculated approach to curating each venues wine program is transparent.

“Every time we’ve got a new restaurant opening or a new venue I always think about what we are going to try there.” With an eye over every one of Merivale’s wine lists his ability to pair wines with a wide array of cuisines a display of his considered approach. “You can have the best food but if you don’t have the best wine or the best people to recommend it to you you’re not going to have the best experience.”

Franck believes the right wine can completely “change your experience in a restaurant.” Tying together every element of eating out, rounding out your palette with the right drop is crucial to your own enjoyment. If you find yourself overwhelmed next time you open a beverage menu don’t be shy, seek out your sommelier.

Enjoy Villa Maria’s Organic Sauvignon Blanc and a range of Franck’s favourites at the Paddington’s Villa Maria Winemaker’s Dinner, hosted by Senior Wine Maker, David Roper. Book your table today.