Interview with Mathias Negro: Portrait of a Head Sommelier in Monaco

Published on February 16, 2024Updated on June 12, 2024

Both in the iconic ‘palace’ hotel and in the wine cellars of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer combines demanding sommellerie with a belief in the importance of passing on knowledge, and generosity. Mathias Negro, head sommelier at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, obviously shares this idea of excellence. He gives us a glimpse of a profession in the throes of change, far from the ethereal world we sometimes imagine. It's a demanding profession, where the apprenticeship continues as long as the passion for wine lasts, and where excellence is proven day after day.

A youth far from the vineyards

In Mathias Negro's life, nature comes first. Between Menton and Monaco, where he grew up in the 1980s. And then in Italy, his father's homeland. He spent all the school holidays there, in a small village perched in the mountains: "We ate seasonal produce, respecting nature and the animals, whatever the land could give us", he remembers. It was during a training course that the world of wine entered the youngster’s life. Aged just 16, he began working at Bar & Boeuf, one of Alain Ducasse's establishments in Monaco's Sporting d'Été. Although the work was difficult, the world of sommellerie intrigued and attracted the young man, who decided to take an additional qualification at the Lycée de Tain-l'Hermitage, the benchmark school for sommellerie. While he was already passionate about learning, his palate still needed convincing. First tasting in class: a red Saint Joseph from Domaine Jaboulet. Everyone had their say. Mathias Negro said soberly:  "I don't like red wine", to which his teacher replied with the kindness of someone who has seen it all before: "Don't worry, that will change". A remark as wise as it was prescient.

Interview avec Mathias Negro Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo
Le meilleur de la restauration à Monaco

First return to Monaco


The young student's teachers quickly recognised his potential, and Mathias Negro landed a work placement at Louis XV - Alain Ducasse at the Hôtel de Paris***. His mentor was none other than Noël Bajor. That summer, this "hard but incredibly rewarding” work led to the young trainee's passion for the sommelier profession. And since his work was impeccable, he was asked to come back the following season: it was the second chapter in a beautiful story between Mathias Negro and the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo. Working in the incredible surroundings of the Louis XV, the young sommelier made himself a promise: before the age of 30, he would be head sommelier of a 3-star Michelin restaurant. In the meantime, there was a long way to go, and he clearly needed to perfect his English: so off he went to England, where he would work at some excellent addresses, including the Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford and Alain Ducasse's Dorchester. Initially assistant to the head sommelier, Mathias Negro took over the position in 2007. Two years later, the restaurant was awarded its third Michelin star. The gamble paid off, and his promise had been honoured! Then Mathias and his wife decided they wanted to see more of the world, so they headed to Singapore. A very different culture, a big hotel, a big challenge: it was a "tall order" in terms of career development. The adventure lasted two years, after which the couple returned to France. It was 2012, and Noël Bajor, his former training master and head sommelier, suggested that Mathias Negro return to the Louis XV - Alain Ducasse at the Hôtel de Paris***.

Mathias Negro and the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo

Mathias Negro blossomed in this 3-Michelin-starred restaurant. Three stars that change everything on a daily basis: "Customer expectations are high, and the products we work with are of the highest quality", explains the sommelier. But the key is "human resources": with around fifty diners and 4 full-time sommeliers, the service can be done differently. Here, everyone takes the time to talk, listen and exchange with customers. For some time now, however, Mathias Negro has been taking things to the "next level", overseeing the sommellerie for the entire Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo. It's a "tricky exercise because we're potentially going to find the same customer in different atmospheres, with different expectations". At Le Grill*, for example, the clientele is relaxed, enjoying a truly magical view and an eclectic wine list. "We always offer a certain number of new wines to discover", adds Mathias Negro. This is a necessity to satisfy the restaurant's many regular customers. Le Grill, Em Sherif Monte-Carlo, the Bar Américain and of course the Louis XV - Alain Ducasse at the Hôtel de Paris: each address has its own signature, with a common denominator: meticulous sourcing by the Head Sommelier.

Being head sommelier at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo also means having the privilege of being part of the Group's brand new Sommelier Centre, led by Patrice Frank and made up of the company's various head sommeliers and players in the world of wine.
Interview avec Mathias Negro Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo
Interview avec Mathias Negro Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo

The fascinating wine cellars of the Hôtel de Paris


The palace's reputation is well established when it comes to tasting a Grand Cru that cannot be found elsewhere, thanks also to the Hôtel de Paris wine cellars, where some 350,000 bottles are kept in exceptional conditions. The whole place is exceptional: cool, semi-dark and steeped in history, it exudes an atmosphere that borders on the sacred. Every week, the Resort's head sommeliers meet in the tasting room to discuss and select new wines. But for Mathias Negro, sourcing begins much earlier, and outside the walls of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo wine cellars: "We have the advantage of working in a profession that is full of passion, where you don't count the miles you spend trekking through the vineyards, the discussions you have with the winemakers, the days you spend at wine fairs", he says. "That’s where you discover the real gems". The weekly tasting committees are an opportunity for the head sommeliers to share their discoveries and their favourites. "It also allows us to discuss trends and our customers' expectations ".

Sommelier, a forward-looking profession

Indeed, how do we satisfy a demanding and discerning clientele? And above all, how can we meet customer expectations when all the encyclopaedic knowledge is just a few clicks away? Mathias Negro agrees: opening a bottle of wine, serving the nectar, knowing the history of a wine in encyclopaedic terms: these are all within the reach of any sommelier. But understanding a customer's expectations, anticipating their desires, surprising them and winning their trust: that is where excellent sommeliers certainly stand out. These are professional and human qualities that no artificial intelligence can replace. These are qualities that Mathias Negro is determined to pass on to the next generation: "I can't open the books for them or go to the vineyards for them. All I can do is give them the right tools to trigger their desire to learn and their passion for the sommelier profession". Passing on his passion, continuing to learn day after day from the living material that is wine: in all humility, the Head Sommelier of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo continues on his path.

This centre puts the craft back at the heart of the thinking and choices made about wine at the Resort, in a quest for excellence to serve our customers.
Interview avec Mathias Negro Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo

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