Interview du sommelier Patrice Frank
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Interview with Patrice Frank: Head Sommelier Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

Published on February 16, 2024Updated on February 22, 2024

Patrice Frank has spent two decades working with guests at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, advising them on their choice of wine. He now approaches the art of oenology at source. As Executive Head Sommelier, a key role at the Resort, he is responsible for supplying the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo wine cellars. A temple of excellence and expertise in wines and spirits and the central cellar of the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer, this legendary venue is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

150 years dedicated to divine nectars, their history, how to preserve them and how to enjoy them in the finest way! Portrait of a passionate professional.

A dazzling debut

Patrice Frank remembers his very first days as head sommelier at the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo very well. Twenty-three years before becoming executive head sommelier of all the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer establishments, the former international rugby player, under-20 category, turned wine service specialist, was taking his first steps at the legendary Monte-Carlo Casino, three days before the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix ™. He had a busy weekend ahead of him: 1200 guests, the crazy atmosphere of the Formula 1, and a whole new working atmosphere. "I came from a Michelin-starred restaurant in Cognac, where I was head sommelier, and there were two of us in charge of the wine service", he recalls. "At the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, everything was on a much larger scale: there were 14 sommeliers when I arrived, and the cellar was 300 times bigger than in my previous place of work ".

Interview du sommelier Patrice Frank
Interview du sommelier Patrice Frank

Awaiting confirmation

 

Patrice Frank's unusual career path has taken him from the rugby pitches of the Charentes region to the prestigious Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo wine cellar. After enrolling in a sports-study section at secondary school and gaining a general baccalaureate, he went on to study law in Bordeaux. A choice of town that bore no relation to the vineyards that surround it. "My parents-in-law at the time owned a restaurant in Cognac, and they were looking for staff during the season to give them a hand", he explains. "And I enjoyed the experience". Rather than re-enrolling in law in September, the young man preferred to train in the service professions, and therefore worked up through the compulsory stages of the profession: CAP, BEP in table service, specializing in wine service. This 'late' introduction to wine, together with the world of top-level sport, has shaped the personality of this enthusiast: "In the continuity of rugby, I think that the values of sharing, conviviality and human relations are reflected in my management approach today ".

Patrice Frank, the man for a new job

Over the last few months, Patrice Frank has changed his position, but not his mentality, within the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer. After twenty-three years working with the guests of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo, he has now turned his attention to the winegrowers. As Executive Head Sommelier for the entire Resort, the wine specialist is responsible in particular for relations with wine suppliers. With 38 outlets where wine can be served, from hotel bars to Michelin-starred restaurants, and a central cellar containing almost 300,000 bottles and a wide range of references, sourcing is clearly very strategic. "Not all establishments have a dedicated sommelier, and one of my tasks is to train the staff of these particular outlets in wine advice, as well as supervising their wine lists, so that they are coherent and well positioned", confides the former head sommelier of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo. What's more, his "new role is to recreate links with the winegrowers, to strengthen our relationships", an approach which implies a perfect knowledge of the different French wine-growing terroirs. His expertise and experience have made the Société des Bains de Mer's new 'Mr Wine' one of Monaco's leading figures in oenology and sommellerie.

Interview du sommelier Patrice Frank
Interview du sommelier Patrice Frank

On the wine routes of France

 

"90% of the wines tasted in our establishments come from Provence, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne", explains Patrice Frank. These are regions that now make up the bulk of the destinations visited by the Executive Head Sommelier. "Building relationships is important in this job: winegrowers are farmers, in the noble sense of the word, who want to get to know the people to whom they sell their produce", he explains. Additionally, his job is to meet with the people who make French wine, ten days a month. 4 or 5 days in Burgundy, a detour to Porto, a return trip to Châteauneuf-du-Pape... In his itineraries, Patrice Frank multiplies the destinations, trying to give priority to the human contact that is essential to showcasing the finest wines.

Between passion and open-mindedness

"Accompanying, discussing, creating links, sometimes to increase our orders by 3 to 6 bottles. This may seem insignificant compared to the volumes that a large company handles, but we also have to give priority to the must-have labels that we owe it to ourselves to have", explains the man who tries to keep up with both the small winegrowers, who sometimes have to cope with the vagaries of the weather, and the big estates with very limited quantities, such as Romanée-Conti or Pétrus. Patrice Frank's open-mindedness and knowledge of all aspects of the wine business, from production to service, mean that he is able to promote the excellence of the Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer establishments to suppliers. And this while always keeping in mind the satisfaction of the end customer, who has come to Monaco to experience a wine, a grape variety and a vintage that they may remember for the rest of their lives!

 

Interview du sommelier Patrice Frank

Preserving a unique oenological heritage

The cellars of the Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo are home to some of the world's most famous appellations and vintages. 150 years of excellence are aged here, in superb conditions, to honour the prestigious Crus. Patrice Frank remembers some very special moments spent in this temple of oenology: "We organised an exceptional dinner for two people, a marriage proposal, during which we served two very famous vintages of Château Margaux, 1929 and 1989". For the Executive Head Sommelier, the prospecting mission and regular work with the winemakers are the foundation of the future of this type of exceptional tasting experience. And anticipating the development of the wine once it is in the cellar is part of the job, as Patrice Frank sums up: "In this 'buying' part of the sommelier's job, there are very few wines that I choose today that I will see on a wine list when they mature ". 

 

Interview du sommelier Patrice Frank

Anticipation and expertise

With wines reaching maturity at least five years after purchase, and keeping wines capable of expressing themselves for decades, anticipation is one of the essential qualities of this type of approach. The former rugby player explains: "We're capable of drinking wines that are 80 years old, but we have no idea what they tasted like 79 years ago, so my job is to buy, on the basis of experience, these wines which, acquired today, will still be of quality eight decades from now ".

 

Hôtel de Paris - Les Câves de l'Hôtel de Paris

A taste for others

"At the age of 55, given the physical demands of table service, it seems to me that this new mission comes at a good time". Frank Patrice Frank admits that he already misses the contact with customers, even though he is now forging new relationships with winegrowers. "As a waiter for 23 years, I got to know the children of some of the regulars, and today I say to myself that I'm currently buying the wines that the children of the youngest customers will drink". However, this great wine enthusiast views his role with humility: "Our job is never boring, because everything we know about a vintage changes significantly the following year, which means we have to learn more and more to offer excellence ".

 

Interview du sommelier Patrice Frank
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