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The world’s appreciation of Western Australian wines is growing, and the efforts of Patrick Salord and other sommeliers is helping drive the success, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.

THE sommelier at Fraser’s, Patrick Salord, has a growing reputation for recognising a good drop. Such is his renown that he’s winning occasional international work developing wine lists and training hospitality staff overseas.

Patrick’s role at Fraser’s helped the French-born wine connoisseur land the opportunity to work at the Grand Hyatt in Jakarta (the word lavish would be an understatement with regard to this venue) and write a wine list with an Australian flavour.

“In September 2001 the food and beverage manager from the Grand Hyatt Jakarta sent Chris Taylor [Fraser’s owner] a fax asking whether we could write a new wine list for a new restaurant they were doing,” Patrick says.

“Chris asked me if I wanted to do it and I said yes. I didn’t know this food and beverage manager but he had been into Fraser’s and said that he liked our wine list.”

And why wouldn’t the Grand Hyatt Jakarta food and beverage manager like the wine list at Fraser’s. It comes complete with index and page numbers and covers top dollar premium wines as well as a stable of quality affordable bottles.

“It’s not a wine bar, it is a restaurant and I have to consider that we cater to a range of people. We have 40 or 50 wines under $40 and that is very important. With the view and what we do here it’s very good to have that. In London you would pay $120 a bottle,” Patrick says.

“I try to write a list that you can buy a glass of premium wine from. Some people want just one glass or maybe they can’t afford the entire bottle, but they want a taste of it. At the moment we have the 1996 Yarra Burn Chardonnay for $13.50 a glass.

“People like Peter Forrestal said you can’t sell premium wine by the glass. But we want people to have the pleasure and it has been popular. Next month we will do another premium, probably a red.

“When I came into Fraser’s the wine list was one and half pages. We built it up slowly and slowly and put in a cellar and teach the staff about the wines.”

Teaching the staff about wine varieties was important, Patrick says, because wine drinkers have become considerably more discerning.

“People are drinking less but they are drinking more expensive wines. They are more knowledgeable,” he says.

Much of Patrick’s knowledge of Western Australian wine has come since he immigrated to Australia in 1983.

“When I arrived I didn’t even know if Australia was making wine. I was blind. I did not think Australia could make great wines,” he says.

Patrick has since tasted a range of varieties and says his favourite regions at the moment are Pemberton and Manjimup. As is the case with most sommeliers, however, he adds: “I like everything there is not just one”.

And when it came to doing the Australian based wine list for the new C Restaurant at the Grand Hyatt Jakarta, WA wines featured heavily.

“The ‘C’ stands for food and beverages starting with the letter c, such as crayfish, champagne, cuisine, cabernet and the like,” Patrick says.

“Everything has an Australian flavour and they wanted a boutique wine list of Australian wines.

“When I finished the list I would say 60 to 70 per cent of the wines are from WA.

“When I was over there I spent a lot of time telling them how to open bottles of wine and helping develop a cellar. The restaurant sits about 300 to 400 people but the staff didn’t know a lot about wine. I did some wine education and that is what I am going back to do.”

Patrick heads back to Jakarta this week for further staff training, and it’s another opportunity for him to showcase his talent to the Grand Hyatt Jakarta’s dining guests.

And, while it’s not finalised yet, you can expect him to be jetsetting to Chicago later this year as part of a WA food promotion at the Ritz Carlton.

“The Jakarta food and beverage manager is now at the Four Seasons Ritz Carlton and asked if I wanted to go over and promote wines; this was only in December last year. I’m going to go over with Chris [Taylor] and also Jerry Fraser,” Patrick says.

“It will be more about WA than a particular wine or product. We want to use WA as the brand and show off some wineries and products.”

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