“It was the usual story – fell in love with a French guy and decided to take the opportunity to spend a year there learning the language and wining and dining really. I wanted somewhere warm, so we chose Provence.” What Bridget Raffal didn't expect was to learn, while researching her family's French history, that her great-great-great-grandfather was Jean-Antoine Chaptal, the inventor of chaptalisation (the process of adding sugar to grape juice to increase the alcohol content after it ferments).
No longer in France, Raffal is now sommelier at the critically-acclaimed Sixpenny in Stanmore, Sydney, and has just been selected to go on the NZ Wine Sommit for 2019. “I’m really looking forward to touching base with smaller producers in New Zealand; winemakers who might not have huge reach themselves,” says Raffal. “Dan (Puskas – head chef at Sixpenny) is working on some new dishes for 2019 so I’m hoping to lock down a pairing or two over there.”
About a month into her start at Sixpenny in 2018 disaster struck – the fridge where Raffal kept her Champagne, Jura Blanc and back vintage rieslings exploded. “It was horrific. Corks had blown through their wax, there was hot wine everywhere. Importer Andrew Guard tells the story to someone new everytime he sees me.”
One of Raffal’s main concerns when maintaining the wine list at Sixpenny is to make sure female winemakers are well-represented. “It was a project I started a year ago, using the by the glass section to really highlight them.”
For a 35-seater restaurant, the wine list isn't tiny. There are 250 wines on the list, and it’s focused on small producers practising minimal intervention and sustainable viticulture.
But at home, it's kimchi and cheese jaffles paired with a gamay.