Interview with Franck Damatte: Wine Culture at the Service of Customers

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

Intuitive, curious and passionate about his job, Franck Damatte has been head sommelier at the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo for just over 10 years. It has to be said that the man's taste for excellent wines is a perfect match for the 5-star hotel's desire to satisfy a clientele of enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

Meet a demanding professional who has a deep attachment to the wines cellars of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo and their history, and is committed to offering his customers a service of excellence.


Sommellerie, a history of encounters... and travels

Franck Damatte's story could have been that of a chef, or at least that's how he imagined himself as a child. And that's why he started out studying at the CFA Médéric hotel school in Paris. But cooking would remain a private passion for him, since discovering sommellerie during a course and meeting Philippe Faure-Brac at the Bistrot du Sommelier in Paris would be a real revelation. So it was off to the Drôme, where he specialised in sommellerie at the Lycée Hôtelier in Tain-l'Hermitage, before landing his first job... at Le Grill in Monaco. Franck Damatte's career took off, and the young man flew to England to join Gordon Ramsay's restaurant in 1999. After some great experiences in Lebanon and Switzerland, he returned to the Principality in 2001 for the opening of Sabor Divino, "the first wine bar in Monaco", he recalls. "Then I joined Alain Ducasse’s universe" at the Spoon in Gstaad and then Saint-Tropez. Before joining Noël Bajor's team in 2005 at the Louis XV - Alain Ducasse at the Hôtel de Paris. Seven years later, Franck Damatte left the 3-Michelin-starred restaurant to join the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo. 


Interview sommelier Franck Damatte
Interview sommelier Franck Damatte

Each to their own tastes!


Over the years and through experience, tasting has become a fantastic playground for Franck Damatte. When it comes to wine, "the first thing you try is Champagne, the sweet wine", and then your taste takes shape and becomes clearer. Patience is everything, because "the palate has to be trained to be able to taste the most sophisticated wines". Therefore, appreciating ‘veil’ wines such as ‘vin jaune’ requires a great deal of experience, which can only be gained through years of practice. Acquiring a wide range of tastes in no way prevents Franck Damatte from cultivating his preference for single-varietal wines, which in his eyes are "the most interesting and the purest, like a diamond". Pinot Noir and Syrah are often his favourites. Natural and biodynamic wines have whetted his appetite in recent years: "These are difficult wines to master and you don't learn them at school." Curious and open-minded, Franck Damatte goes off the beaten track to discover these living wines which, if "well treated and well preserved, are like no other". It's only logical that those who come to enjoy a glass of wine at the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo should take advantage of these inclinations, thanks to a superb wine list...


The field of possibilities at the “hotel des connaisseurs”

It is at the counter of Pavyllon Monte-Carlo, one of Yannick Alléno's restaurants, that the offer is the most spectacular, with "an extremely varied wine list to excite and challenge customers with wines they are not familiar with". To challenge but above all to provoke an emotion. And it's the job of Franck Damatte and his team to recommend to customers, novices and connoisseurs alike, refined and demanding wines that match the gastronomic offer. You'll be able to taste ungrafted wines, single-varietal wines and natural wines, such as the very first ungrafted vintage from Thibaud Boudignon in Savennières. A gem that will not remain confidential for long. Franck Damatte's eclectic wine list goes perfectly with Yannick Alléno's gastronomic creations. With its open kitchen, the restaurant's layout lends itself perfectly to interaction: "When the chef whips up a fresh dish, he can let us taste it, and ideas for pairing it with wine are born", explains the sommelier. And to satisfy the curiosity of all wine connoisseurs, Pavyllon Monte-Carlo's wine list features wines by the glass, "thanks to the Coravin system, which allows large bottles to be preserved without opening them", adds Franck Damatte.


Interview sommelier Franck Damatte
Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo - Pavyllon Monte-Carlo, un restaurant de Yannick Alléno

Pavyllon Monte-Carlo, a Michelin-starred restaurant that breaks the mould


Gourmet and local cuisine, modern and cosmopolitan, in an idyllic setting with one of the best views of Monaco on the terrace... 

Pavyllon Monte-Carlo is all this and much more. The kitchen is open to the dining room, with a large counter where you can enjoy lunch or dinner with a glass of wine. This is an opportunity to observe the constant exchanges between the dining room team and the kitchen, between the brigade of executive chef Guillaume Bellayer and Franck Damatte and his sommeliers. With a menu that gives pride of place to wines by the glass, each food and wine pairing is unique and sophisticated. In other words, when the art of sommellerie meets that of gourmet cuisine. For a moment when time seems to stand still, where nothing else matters but the pleasure of tasting.


The passion of a daily profession

Angers, Düsseldorf and many other international shows are also part of Franck Damatte's job. Along with visits to vineyards, these outings are a chance to make new discoveries, to be surprised by a new winemaker, or by a previously unknown wine estate... Back in Monaco after these visits, the sommelier of the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo draws up what he humorously calls his "List for Father Christmas": each wine he identifies is then tasted and assessed by his peers according to a strict process, in the depths of the Wine Cellars of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo. Every Friday, the Resort's head sommeliers meet here, and Franck Damatte loves this place steeped in history and heritage. It was here, in the world's largest hotel cellar, that the sommelier enjoyed his most memorable tasting: a 1961 Cheval Blanc.  "The wine had this very dark, intense, brilliant colour, with a fruitiness and deliciousness that I've never seen before", he recalls with emotion. And so it's here, in the very heart of Monaco, between these temples of gastronomy and wine, that Franck Damatte continues his exploration of the noble and living material that is wine. An exploration that he generously shares with the guests of the Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo.


Interview sommelier Gennaro Iorio aux Caves de l'Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo

The new management team has revitalised the company's cellar by creating a sommelier centre: a new professional vision under the guidance of Patrice Frank, corporate head sommelier, and his deputy Guillaume Robillon. The aim of this new organisation is to continue to broaden the group's wine offering and to give the Wine Cellar of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo its rightful place in the limelight.


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