Finding the perfect wine to complement a delicious meal at one of the excellent restaurants at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo hotel in Roppongi is much less of a daunting prospect since the hotel welcomed its newest sommelier, Manuel Rodrigues, earlier this year.
Born in Portugal, Rodrigues moved to France’s Burgundy region as a child, where he worked alongside his vintner father, gaining an intimate understanding of what goes into making a great bottle of wine and providing the foundation for his future as a sommelier.
Thanks to stints in Dubai and Singapore before his arrival in Tokyo, Rodrigues is comfortable with recommending wines suited to a wide variety of tastes and is extremely careful to consider the best wine to meet diners’ requests, rather than pushing the most expensive or best-known option.
To give guests a better understanding of wines and their pairing with different foods, Rodrigues and the hotel have been holding various promotions, including special menus to demonstrate some recommended combinations and wine seminars to teach some of the finer points of wine.
Through Nov. 30, between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., The French Kitchen restaurant is offering “Bistro & Vin,” a ¥5,800 set menu created through a collaboration between Rodrigues and the hotel chefs. The menu features an appetizer, daily autumn soup, a choice of fish or chicken, and five wines, including a sparkling, two reds and two whites, all selected by Rodrigues. The vintages have been chosen to best complement the food and are free-flowing for 90 minutes.
In the wine seminars, Rodrigues is aiming to give diners insights into the world of wines in a friendly and comfortable atmosphere. “We try to do them in a fun way and give people a chance to learn a little more about wine in a very relaxed way,” Rodrigues said. “When people think of wine seminars, they think of a classroom setting where they are just sitting and listening to a lecture for one or two hours … especially for beginners, the worst thing we can do is to be too aggressive.”
The seminars are intimate, limited to about 16 people, as well as educational, with the first teaching guests how red, white, rose, and Champagne and other sparkling wines are made, with the second seminar covering how sweet varietals such as ice wine and port are made. One upcoming seminar is slated to look at Champagne, including information about the region, a history of the wine, how it is made and food pairing, while another will examine the steps involved in tasting and describing wines.
The hotel is also planning events for next year involving the hotel chefs and Rodrigues, where guests will learn about the regions of France. Chefs will show how to prepare traditional dishes from each region and participants can enjoy wines from the areas.
Some people say that properly pairing food and wine is an art; if that is true, Rodrigues and the chefs at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo are working to create a masterpiece.