Name: HO PONG WALLACE LO
At the moment: Hong Kong
Currently: Head Sommelier
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
I have the passion in not just in wine but in F&B at a rather young age. Before legal drinking age, I work as a intern at the pastry kitchen, and i use to be a barista too. But i finally found my passion in wine when i was in the catering school. I found it really interesting and diversify. And i start learning about it. I am a lucky man, i have a lot of people who helps me a lot in my career path. I would like to say a special thanks to a few to them. Mr. Alan Liu (my mentor) , Mr. Creash Wong, Mr. Henry Cheng, Mr.Nelson Chow and Mr. William Chan. They are always there when i need advice and helps.
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?
There are a lots of skills and techniques that i think that is really important for a good sommelier. As we are a host in the restaurant, guest communication skill is really important, many people forgot our job is the make people happy. Then i think sommelier is the only role in the industry that works with the chefs closely, i think that is extremely important to have good concepts on food and wine pairing. Especially some new ideas outside the classics .at last of course is the showmanship and knowledge. Knowledge is the core of our job. But as a sommelier, food knowledge is also a must.
Personally my favorite sommelier are Gerard Basset and Andreas Larsson.
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?
My advice is very simple, Never give up ! I totally understand being a sommelier face a lot of tough times, there are lots of people wants to challenge you. But that is very important to stay focus, keep the passion and follow your dream.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
I think the best way is use the food they ordered or the style of the cooking in the restaurant. From my point of view people are coming to the restaurant for an experience of flavor, so nothing works better than start the recommendation with the food pairing aspect.
What's your philosophy about glasses? Are you with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
My restaurant is now working with the redel glasses. But Personally I am not a big fan of huge glasses, not much wines have the intensity of such that the aroma can travel the long distance from the glass to our nose. I prefer some simple and functional design, like Zalto and Lucaris. The most important thing is the glass can give a precise nose and palate.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
From my point of view, there are a few element that is really important in picking a wine for a pairing. Which is the purity, the energy and the acidity in wine, there was a trend of big, bold ,high alcohol and intensely oaked wines, some of them might tastes nice , but these kind of wine is very hard to pair with food as it make you feel full after one glass or two. That's why i always like to use wine that is full of energy to pair with food. Like one of my favorite is German Riesling from different regions and vineyards, it can do classic pairing like lightly seasoned seafood to a big piece of steak.
And of course it is very important for us to keep trying new idea outside of the box.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
It is a must to have a check on the condition of the wine before we serve. We need to change fault bottle before the guest notice it. And it helps us to give more precise recommendations on food.
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 markups?
I think a good wine list should be diversify, unique, expressive and adventurous. Wine is one of the most diverse beverage in the world, so i think a good list should be able to show this , even the list is only focusing in one country it should cover as much regions and sub region as you can. And a good wine list must be unique. In Hong Kong we see a lot of wine list that looks pretty much the same. Due to the big suppliers are offering good discounts or incentive program. However, i think these things make our industry really boring. Myself tend to support small producers and suppliers, to make my list more unique and interesting. Also every sommelier have their own style. I think that is extremely important for us to show our vision in wine through our list. At last we need to have adventurous, do something crazy, put some unknow producers and region in the list. As soon as the quality is good. It is the best way to gain trust between the sommelier and the guest.
I am 100% supporting on the mode of reducing the markup. In Hong Kong most of us do 3 to 3.5 times mark up. I think that is really too much. With the technology of winesearcher.com and vivino, everybody knows the price. The trend of people ordering those big bordeaux and other fine wines in restaurant are gone, people tend to bring their own , so in the restaurant i think is time for us to reduce the mark up too. We are here to sell wines, not keeping them. And in the end of the day wine is never a luxury product. It is for everybody.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
Keep reading , studying , there are plenty for media about wines. But my favorite is still decanter. Also that is important to keep gathering with other sommelier and people from other people in different aspects in the industry. Competition is one of the best way to learn too
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 the best way is to pop a bottle and to let a few sommelier to try, try to make it listed in some famous restaurant. With this, other sommelier tends to follow if the quality is good. Word of mouth is much more important than marketing to me.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
I think i am Grenache. When it is young, it produce a lot of sugar and alcohol, not a very attractive and complex wine. But after year and year on poor soil, it can produce some of the best wine in the world.
Just like myself is only 26 this year. I think myself needs more polishing by time and experience.
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?
Personally i love german riesling, especially those from Mosel, the brightness, the finesse and acidity in them are just irresistible especially in a sushi bar. The brand you always see in my cellar will be Reinhold haart.
Then i also love Portuguese wine, so many grapes so many region, so many to discover and i am a big fan of the Douro boys!
Lastly , the wine i love the most is still Italian, all of them, and if i need to pick a few within them i think it will be Mastroberardino Taurasi and Bartolo Mascarello Barolo. Classic !
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
I am a big fan of Guild somm and wine folly. They are doing a great job in two different way. Guild somm is for the somm and wine professionals of course, and the wine folly have a great contribution to introduce wine to the world in a casual way. That make wine much more fun and interesting.
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at