Opinion: How to win Wine List of the Year!

Drinks: Wines
Location: England, Europe
Other: Opinion
Martell star blog prize winner: November/December 2011

Happy people tell the world how they feel, so I’m going to tell you how Hakkasan won the Wine List of the Year competition! Except I can’t, because I don’t know quite what the judges liked so much they made us the winners, alongside the wonderful Coq d’Argent. But I’m certainly happy about it, so here’s  how it happened.

At last year’s WLOTY we were shortlisted, but didn’t win. We came away determined to improve our lists and our chances next time round. There were so many smart ideas in the successful lists, but our challenge was to make changes that suited our restaurants. At Hakkasan we could never write such a personal list as, for instance, last year’s winner HK House, nor could we ever offer the great vintages of every top Bordeaux wine, as somewhere like the Greenhouse does.

Our wine list layout is unusual anyway, and it works for us, so all we could do was tweak. First we re-wrote our ‘Signature’ page, so that it worked as a stand-alone ‘mini wine-list’. Not every guest wants to read the whole list, so that was a worthwhile improvement. Then we freshened up our ‘themes’, and put an explanation of our food and wine tasting philosophy at the front of the list. Now our guests know they can safely choose any wine on our list, regardless of what food they order. Finally we looked at the running order of the wines in each section, listing them in order of body and flavour from light to rich. That one helped the junior sommeliers too, which was handy.

We have certainly been happy since the results. Roberto has shown the certificate to everyone at Hakkasan Mayfair, and after a brief appearance at head office, it will soon be on its way to Hanway Place, so everyone there can admire it too. Philippe will probably then take it on tour to Yauatcha and Sake No Hana, just in case anyone was in a coma and didn’t hear the news. In fact when Olivier leaves on Friday, to become our Head Sommelier in Hakkasan Dubai, we’ll be checking his suitcase. It has probably brought a bigger smile to everyone’s face than last Saturday’s takings.

Maybe the changes we made didn’t affect the outcome of the competition, but even without the win, we benefited as a team, and most importantly so did our guests. That makes us all happy.

About Author

Christine Parkinson

Christine Parkinson started her career in the kitchen, and moved into management after 3 years as Head Chef. Responsibility for 39 restaurants eventually convinced her to follow her passion and concentrate on wine. In 2001 Christine created the first wine list for Hakkasan, and later became Wine Buyer for the group, which includes the Michelin-starred restaurants Hakkasan and Yauatcha, with operations in London, Miami and (soon) Abu Dhabi. She has been called “one of the most creative wine buyers in the UK” by wine guru Jancis Robinson, and recently received the ‘Taste On-Trade Influencer Award, in association with Imbibe’. When not on the phone to suppliers, she is often out on a motorbike, and is therefore probably responsible for most of the UK’s bad weather.

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