Name: Daisuke Kawai
At the moment: Singapore
Currently: Chef Sommelier
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry?
I first encountered wine in my career as a waiter (please note that while there may be some distinction in certain countries, waiter and sommelier roles in Japan are synonymous) working in coffee houses and hotels since 1995, and I started studying wine because I desired to improve myself and advance further in my career.
Any particular mentors at that time?
Although there were seniors who gave me advice, I did not have a specific mentor and mostly learnt about wine through self-study.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
Hospitality is extremely important. A sommelier should also be highly sensitive to wines (such as assessing the temperature of wines to the touch), as well as in every situation they are in. Speed in serving customers is also important.
I do not really have a person that I especially admire. I always strive to be the best.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
Work hard and don’t take it easy. Don’t skip or neglect the basics, as they are the most important and there is no shortcut to success. Always be sharp and attentive to every detail.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
Generally speaking, I would ask for the type of wine they are looking for first. I would then ask them for more details, e.g. if it is a sparkling wine – fresh or matured? A white wine – refreshing or rich? A red wine – light or full bodied?
However, it really varies from customer to customer and there is no standard way of doing things. Sommeliers need to be able to be sensitive in reading and understanding what each customer wants.
What's your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
I am using Riedel glasses from Austria. The shape of each of their glasses is truly well-suited for each grape variety. In future, I am open to trying new brands, if they are good. I look for material, quality, price, fragility, and aesthetics when I consider glasses. A balance of all these factors is required.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
As a general rule, light food can be paired with light wine and deep-flavoured foods with more full-bodied wines. It is also advisable to pair food and wines that come from the same region e.g. a T-bone steak from Florence would pair excellently with a Toscana Chianti.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
Tasting the wine, or rather, checking the condition of the wine is required in certain restaurants to prevent a situation in which there are faults in the wine. Besides checking the condition of the wine, it is also to decide if the wine should be decanted so that the sommelier can make a better suggestion to the guest. For casual restaurants, it is not really required.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine mark ups?
A wine list needs to be balanced to cater to many different kinds of palates.
I feel that a restaurant can decide on any price, depending on how confident they are in doing so and also the atmosphere of the restaurant. Good wine glasses and high service standards may also justify a higher price.
For mark ups, a cost percentage of 25-50% is generally normal.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I dedicate myself to my work daily and am constantly improving myself. My philosophy is that I can never be “good enough”.
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what's the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
I think that good promotion and working closely with importers and suppliers is important. Representatives can also travel to different countries to meet with the sommeliers there.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I would be a Romorantin, because it is both rare and unique.
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what's your desert island wine?
My desert island wine would be a Beau Paysage rosé wine, because it is very smooth.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at