Good to the last drop: Franck Moreau
First Australian Master Sommelier graduate from the Court of Master Sommeliers Australian Program
Born in a small village in southern France, Franck grew up in the Beaujolais, surrounded by vineyards and watching winemakers go about their craft. He then undertook four years of hospitality training in Macon, and various specialised wine courses in Dijon before moving on to the two Michelin-starred La Rotonde near Lyon, France. At the age of 21, Franck relocated to Paris as a Commis Sommelier at the highly esteemed La Tour D’Argent, famous for its cellar of over 500,000 wines.
Hard as it was to leave the La Tour D’Argent cellar, Franck moved to London as Assistant Sommelier at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges. And just a year later accepted ‘Marcus Waring at The Savoy Grill’s offer to become its new Head Sommelier. Both Restaurants gained Michelin stars within twelve months of opening.
To improve his already vast knowledge of wines, travel came next. Repeated trips to Germany and Italy, followed by four months in Chile, Argentina, USA and New Zealand. While there, Franck visited and tasted wines from as many vineyards as humanly possible. Eventually his passion for wine brought him all the way to Australia. In September of 2004, he commenced work as Head Sommelier for Pier Restaurant Sydney, and in October 2005, he joined Merivale as Group Sommelier. After more than 7 years in Australia and now a permanent resident, Franck competes as a proud 'Aussie'.
In November 2009, Franck took second place at the prestigious Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) in Osaka, Japan. The first competition for Asia/Oceania’s Best Sommelier. Franck also represented Australia at the World’s Best Sommelier Competition -also known as “The Sommelier Olympics”- in Santiago, Chile in April 2010. After taking on 54 candidates from 51 countries, he finished among the top twelve sommeliers in the world. He was also named Sommelier of the Year in the 2010’s SMH Good Food Guide and 2011’s Gourmet Traveller and recently became the first Australian, awarded in Australia, to join an elite worldwide group of 192 Master Sommeliers - the highest internationally recognised title for his profession.
Franck invited us down into the depths of the Merivale cellars for a chat.
Thanks for the wine Franck. So what would you say are the key highlights and greatest memories of your career?
You're welcome. Working at La Tour D’Argent with 500,000 bottles in the cellar. The wine list was as big as an encyclopedia! Also, the three months spent travelling the vineyards of the world from Europe to South America and California, and of course working for Merivale and spending quality time with the wines here.
So what is Franck Moreau’s favourite drop right now?
Wow, too many to choose from, however I do like Rhone Valley wine, Burgundy and the cool climate region wines from Australia.
Glad Australian wine made it into your top three. Biggest achievement so far?
Would have to be representing Australia with the best sommeliers in the world, in Chile last year. And of course finally passing my Master Sommelier in October.
I failed the exam last year, which was hard and very disappointing after over two years of preparation. But the pass rate is less than ten percent so you can’t feel too sorry for yourself. I learned a lot from it and came back much more focused and the second time around – I passed it.
So how do you become a Master Sommelier? Some bizarre initiation?
Well they’re not Masons, but it’s a long, long process. You need to be committed and ready to study every spare moment you have. Your family needs to be very understanding. I had to create my own study book with over six different folders to learn every wine, every vineyard, every vintage and every spirit in the world.
In the world.
The whole world. You also have to practice blind tasting to be able to identify six different wines in twenty-five minutes. The wines can be from anywhere around the world.
A kind of potluck, blind speed tasting?
Kind of. The last part of the exam is a practical test, which should be the easiest because I do it every day, but you can’t miss a single detail and it’s very stressful to practice in front of a judge watching your every move. You need to be very focused and concentrate.
So you passed and became a Master Sommelier. How did you celebrate?
I’m still celebrating. Cheers.
If you were told you were not allowed to drink wine ever again, what would your last glass be?
A very expensive glass of Champagne or Burgundy! But it would have to be more than one. Perhaps an S de Salon or Krug Clos du Mesnil, for burgundy DRC La Tache.
A bottle of DRC La Tache will set you back $88,000!
If it’s my last drink; totally worth it.