Bottoms up!

Making a success from what was once a quiet business lounge, Cin Cin at The Fairmont Dubai has raised the game for wine bars in the region, offering over 230 wine labels and 40 wines by the glass

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By  Laura Barnes Published  July 1, 2006

|~|cincin2.jpg|~|Cin Cin has over 230 wine labels and 40 wines by the glass|~|The second floor of The Fairmont Dubai was originally designed to act as an exchange business lounge for business meetings and conferences. However, due to a lack of traffic, The Fairmont Dubai closed the floor in June last year and gave it a complete refurbishment. Six months later, Cin Cin, The Fairmont’s wine bar, opened its doors and has seen the outlet grow in popularity. Designed by Paul Bishop, the concept behind the wine bar was to create an outlet that complemented the hotel’s sleek and modern look, whilst at the same time making guests feel as though they could be in a bar anywhere in Europe. “We travelled around the world to see what other wine bars were like. Once we did this we then gave Paul [Bishop] some direction in what we wanted. We wanted clean lines and lots of chrome and glass to complement the hotel. Paul has a very ‘out of the box’ approach and it really worked for us,” comments Richard Schestak, director of food and beverage, The Fairmont Dubai. However, what really sets Cin Cin apart from other outlets is its extensive wine list. With over 230 labels and 40 wines by the glass, from the outset Schestak was eager to make sure that Cin Cin did not fall into the trap of offering every day wines that are readily available across the emirate. In order to do this, the wine menu for wines by the glass consists of 40 different labels, 30 of which are solely imported for The Fairmont Dubai, and cannot be found on any other wine menu in the region. “We worked closely with a+e to create a wine list that was truly unique. What happens a lot in this region is that every new opening has some great wines, but then, after a while, it becomes too expensive to import so they return to the basic wines, that is not what we wanted,” says Schestak. “We have a very competent management team so the wines are meticulously monitored, but we have every faith in a+e to inform us of any changes,” he adds. With an operations manager solely dedicated to the exchange floor, twice weekly checks are made to the wine list. However, the biggest problem that Cin Cin faces is changes in vintages. “There can be a lot of vintage changes, so it is important that both the staff and myself check the bottles to make sure it is the right year; there is nothing worse than having a guest telling you that you have the wrong vintage,” says David Beaufort-Dysart, operations manager, The Exchange Floor, The Fairmont Dubai. “We get through a lot of paper as we have to reprint the wine list whenever there are changes with the vintages. It can be frustrating but that is the way it is,” he adds. However, having the right wine is what Cin Cin is all about, and although there may be regular vintage changes, the selection on offer varies greatly from a 2004 Semillon/Chardonnay from Penfolds at AED160 (US $44) a bottle, to a 1982 Magnum Château Lafite-Rothschild, 1er Grand Cru Classé, costing AED33,000 ($9000) a bottle. The wine by the glass also has a wide range on offer, including a Semillon/Chardonnay, Collage, Kendall Jackson at AED34 ($9) a glass, to a Chablis, St Martin, Domaine Laroche 2004, costing AED89 ($24) per glass. Red wine by the glass also has a number of different varietals including a Syrah from the Rhone Valley at AED36 ($10) a glass, to a Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendocino at AED80 ($22). “Our wine list is not very big compared to wine bars in Europe, but for this region we have one of the largest selections. Around 45% of the menu is red, 45% white, and the remainder is made up of sparkling wines and dessert wines,” says Schestak.||**|||~||~||~|Compared to wine bars in Europe though, Cin Cin has shifted the focus from Old World wines to New World wines, and although the menu still has a significant amount of wines from France and Italy, it is focusing more on wines from Australia, New Zealand, Chile and South Africa. “The New World is producing some unbelievably fantastic wines at the moment, and winemakers from Europe are now heading to these countries to produce wines, whereas 30 years ago it was a completely different story,” comments Schestak. However, the move towards offering more New World wines is also linked to the cuisine on offer at Cin Cin. Primarily a wine bar, Schestak also realised the importance of serving food. In order to complement the outlet the dishes have been specifically designed to match the wines on offer. Consisting of oysters, a Cin Cin seafood tower and crispy asparagus rolls, among others, the food is presented on glassware provided by Glass Studio in order to keep in line with the style direction of the outlet. The menu also has flights of wagyu beef burgers, beef tenderloin and crostini flights, a spin off on the wine flights that are also on offer in the outlet. The adjoining Cigar Lounge also has rum flights and a Three C promotion, offering chocolate, cigars and cognac. Compiling the wine list and sourcing the right vintages was a three-month process. In addition, the management at Cin Cin also had to create a wine menu that was easy to read. As such, the menu is broken down into countries, regions and sub regions. “We found that the majority of our guests choose a wine from a certain country, so if somebody wants a Californian wine they go to the US wine section, then California and then a sub region, like Napa. We then put all the varietals together, increasing in price from the cheapest to the most expensive,” comments Schestak. “We find this works best for us, as well as for our customers,” he adds. One of the most important aspects in the smooth running of the outlet has been staff training. Prior to the opening, the staff underwent four weeks of intensive training, ranging from learning about the characteristics of each region, to New and Old World wine styles, the grapes and how wine is made. The staff also undertook a number of wine tasting sessions in order for them to be able to competently recommend a certain wine to customers. “When we chose our staff we looked at what qualities they had. We didn’t necessarily go for people who knew about wines, but instead we opted for confident people who don’t look down or up to a guest, but see them as their equal,” says Beaufort-Dysart. “But most importantly, I believe product knowledge is key. I see my staff as sales executives for the company, and if they don’t know the product, then why would you expect the guests to trust their judgement? It is a requirement that they know each wine on the wine by the glass menu; the composition, where it is from, and three words to describe the taste,” he adds. Despite the initial four-week training, the Cin Cin team have training and wine tasting sessions each day in order to broaden their knowledge, as well as attending events held by wine suppliers a+e and MMI. Adding small touches is something that Beaufort-Dysart is very particular about, as he says that with so much competition in the market, each outlet has to add that something extra in order to compete. At present, The Fairmont Dubai boasts not only being one of the few users of Spiegelau glasses in Dubai, but also providing handbag hooks for female guests, so they can hang their handbag on the edge of the table. The outlet also uses specially designed wine buckets that change colour, replicating the light display on the outside of the hotel. “Because everybody is trying to be one step ahead of the game, you have to do something different. I believe that the only way to improve is to concentrate on the small things, like making sure the staff have confidence in themselves, and a handbag hook for women; this is the type of service you don’t see in most places,” Beaufort-Dysart maintains.||**||

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