Restaurant Sofia Be So
François Chartier reinvents the experience of choosing the right wine to match a meal and transforms it into a unique moment of pleasure. To be discovered at the gastronomic Be So restaurant at the Sofia Hotel in Barcelona.
Sofia Be So
The Be So restaurant (2 Michelin stars) is located at Hotel Sofia, a 5-star establishment in Barcelona. In January 2017, the hotel’s restaurant manager and chef contacted François Chartier (newly installed in the city of Gaudí) to ask him to create their wine list.
The hotel was closed for renovations at the time, with millions of euros being invested in the establishment to make it even more luxurious and modern. At first, François Chartier was hesitant since he had not created a wine list as a sommelier for a long time. But the offer was much more tempting than it seemed. Restaurant director Raimon Serra and chef Carles Tejedor wanted François Chartier to revisit how wines are chosen at the Sofia Be So restaurant. In this way, each customer would be able to enjoy an extraordinary experience when ordering wine or other drinks.
The unique and innovative aspect of the approach, and the fact that the contact was initiated by Ferran Centelles, renowned ElBulli sommelier and François’ friend, convinced him to embark in the adventure. It would take three weeks to work out the broad outlines of his project.
Fragrance at the core of the process
François Chartier has been dreaming of creating fragrances for a long time. “The world of fragrances inspires me in my scientific work and in my understanding of the molecules in wine and food,” says Chartier. He tapped into the world of fragrances by first creating “a scent list” in the form of a rack containing seven small bottles. Each bottle is associated with a specific scent; this is the Caja aromática (aromatic box).
Partnership with the great perfumer Ramón Monegal
François Chartier explains that using his aromatic science, he first classified wines and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages from around the world into one of these seven categories. He then created mixtures of molecules on paper to achieve the aromas he wanted in each of the seven categories. “Once this stage was completed, I met the great Catalan perfumer Ramón Monegal and asked him to make the blends in his laboratory. We fine-tuned them together, as well as the look of the Caja aromática,” says the “créateur d’harmonies”. Ramón Monegal has considerable experience in creating original bottles since he designs the bottles that contain his fragrances. His help was, therefore, invaluable in the design of the containers, which are reminiscent of wine amphoras.
Choose your wine by smelling a fragrance
The sommelier suggests that guests at Sofia Be So should first smell each of the seven containers and then determine which scent he or she prefers. Once the aromatic family has been chosen, the list of wines and other beverages, also classified into seven categories, is presented. The customer can then choose between wines, alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, and even teas served in wine glasses from each of the seven categories. This was important for François Chartier, because he and his partners at the restaurant wanted to offer every possible option to guests.
A great success in Spain… offered soon in other countries?
As soon as it opened, the Sofia Be So restaurant won over a broad public as well as the gastronomic and wine press. Although the Barcelona restaurant has the exclusive Spanish rights to the Caja Aromática concept designed by Chartier, similar projects are already being studied elsewhere in the world, including Japan.