Cateys 2018: Wine and Spirit Award – Christine Parkinson

07 July 2018 by
Cateys 2018: Wine and Spirit Award – Christine Parkinson

Sponsored by Searcys and Pernod Ricard

Christine Parkinson has not only written the rule book on pairing Chinese food with wine, but she is also an active supporter of the wider industry. The judges described her as "inspirational" and a "genius".

Parkinson is group wine buyer across Hakkasan's 13 restaurants in London, America, the Middle East, India and China, having joined the company in 2001 after working as a chef and in management.

Since joining Hakkasan she has developed a programme extending to hundreds of wines, carefully selected to be of excellent quality and to compliment the restaurant's Michelin-starred cuisine. This is not an easy task and Parkinson has often spoken of the need to take into account the sweet, sour and spicy flavours of the restaurants' dishes.

The programme categorises wines under titles such as "curious vines: distinctive wines", "genius without a château: the new classics" and "spiritual wines", providing guests with an insight into why they have been selected.

The process of selection involves the careful examination of each wine by all the group's sommeliers in what has become known as the "Tuesday tasting". Here, existing and potential wines are tasted alongside dishes from the dinner menu to ensure a harmonious tasting experience for diners. The opinions of every sommelier are considered, with the theory that "the food chooses the wine" taking precedence.

Parkinson's work around education and staff development has also seen all guest- facing staff receive Wine & Spirit Education Trust training. The sharing of her passion with junior members of the team is something that stood out for the judges, who said she was a "great asset for our trade".

She is also a judge on numerous trade and consumer panels, including the Decanter World Wine Awards, New Wave Spanish Wines, Top 100 IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée), International Wine Challenge saké awards, and the Sommelier Wine Awards.

As well as frequently sitting in the judge's chair, Parkinson has also been presented with many awards, as well as being labelled "one of the most creative wine buyers in the UK" by Jancis Robinson. In 2009 she received the Taste On-Trade Influencer Award in association with Imbibe, and in 2011 she won the Imbibe Restaurant Personality of the Year as well as picking up Wine List of the Year for Hakkasan.

What the judges said

"Christine has contributed so much to her company, but also her dedication to training both internal and external people with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. She is a great ambassador."

Joel Claustre

Roger Jones

"One of the most dedicated people in the wine world, sharing her passion with young members of the team. A great asset and an ambassador to our trade."

Xavier Rousset

"Sheer commitment to the wider industry, through her general support of all wine initiatives and through her involvement year-on-year outside of Hakkasan."

Sue Williams

The shortlist

Andrew McKenzie The Vineyard, Stockcross

Christine Parkinson Hakkasan

Laure Patry The Social Company

The judges

Craig Bancroft Managing director, Northcote

Joel Claustre Operations director at Searcys

Roger Jones Owner, the Harrow at Little Bedwyn

Xavier Rousset Founder, Blandford Comptoir and Cabotte

Marc Verstringhe Chairman, MESV Trust

Sue Williams General manager, Whatley Manor

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