From France to Hong Kong – experienced French Master Sommelier Arnaud Bardary runs the wine program at Black Sheep Restaurants in Hong Kong, where he spends his days improving, learning and guiding.
”Whether you create a wine list or are facing the customer, the question remains the same: what can I do to make this experience unforgettable?”, says Arnaud.
Arnaud Bardary was born in Jura as the 5th generation in the family working in the catering industry. He has as studied and worked in places such as France, Spain and London, and nowadays lives in Hong Kong where he manages the wine program for all the venues in the Black Sheep group.
”Black Sheep is a fast-growing Hong Kong-based hospitality group founded in 2012 that today counts 21 venues, and with more to come. Each of them with a distinct dining experience, a story about a particular time, place, culture and cuisine, and last, but not least, wine lists that match each concept. The group is expanding rapidly, as well as our wine program.”
The team of sommeliers he’s recruited comes from all over the world – Asia, Europe, USA – with different backgrounds, skills and knowledge. To manage such a big team, Arnaud says that communication is key, both within the team and individually.
”To share your knowledge and create interest is the second key. Your team needs to be happy to come to work, thinking they will always learn something new. Delegate and empower them would be my best managing advice. Give any feedback, positive or negative, and discuss what can be learnt from it.”
Good service is about understanding your customers’ needs and taste. Listen to them and interpret their wish
Now based in Hong Kong, Arnaud says that the city is in many ways different from places he’s been working before, like London.
”At first, I was shocked that hardly anyone drinks wine for lunch in Hong Kong. On the other hand, Hong Kong is one of the leading wine markets in the world. The sommeliers in the restaurants are doing their best to create the world’s most exciting wine lists, and everyone pushes to be curious and to discover new things.”
What does a good wine list mean to you?
”Good wine list would be a list that is easy to read, both for your team and your customers, and that sells itself. Always keep in mind the identity of the restaurant you are targeting. If it is a theme restaurant, the wine list needs to reflect it, and of course, match the food. You should always have some references that can be easily recognized by the general public, major grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon for example.
”You will also need wines from lesser-known regions, or grape varieties, wines for the connoisseurs. If you take France as an example, why not have a few items from appellations like St Sardos, Fronton or Tursan. It makes it exciting to read, recommend and discuss positive feedback.”
And good service?
”A good service is about understanding your customers’ needs and taste. Listen to them and interpret their wish. It should be an exchange. Make them feel comfortable talking about wine, whatever their knowledge is. Make your customers feel appreciated and looked after. Whether you create a wine list or are facing the customer, the question remains the same: what can I do to make this experience unforgettable?”
What has, so far, been the proudest moment in your career, and why?
”It is hard to select one… But probably to see members of my team developing, stepping up, getting higher positions, winning competitions. Even when I watch live competitions with people I have worked with, I get goosebumps. Guiding them through their career path is what now make my proudest moments.”
What, in your opinion, is the world’s most wine regions right now, and why?
”I have recently been taking a lot of pleasure in rediscovering Greece and its indigenous grape varieties. This country has been making wine for over 4.000 years, and it is so rich in history, techniques, style, and taste. It makes you travel.”
”Another region that for sure is developing faster than most of the few wine regions in the world is Piedmont in Italy. Especially Barolo and Barbaresco. Are they becoming the next Burgundy?”
What do you drink on a night off?
”I usually like to finish my week with a Negroni. Or wine, obviously. I like a good bottle of Champagne since it usually fits every moment and it is always a pleasure drinking it. But also fresh, elegant white wines, as much as an older Barolo. And much more…”
Where in Hong Kong do you go to drink wine?
”Le Quinze Vin is one of them. They have a very extensive and well-priced list. There’s also Oz Terroir, with a focus on Australia’s Victoria region, and Premier Cru, a French wine library located in Sai Ying Pun. I’m also excited for the opening of ThinkWine, I’m looking forward to go there when they’ve opened.”
Below you can check out some of the restaurants in the Black Sheep Restaurants group!