The world of Chinese sommeliers: Wallace Lo

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Basic profile

Name: Lo Ho Pong / Wallace Lo
Current Position: head sommelier at le Comptoir Group, Hong Kong
Based in: Hong Kong
How long have you been working as a sommelier: 4 years
Awards:
-2nd Runner up of The Best Sommelier of Greater China 2014 by Hong Kong Sommelier Association
-Champion of The Best Sommelier of Greater China 2013 by Hong Kong Sommelier Association
-1st Runner of The Best Sommelier of Greater China 2012 by Hong Kong Sommelier Association
Qualifications:
WSET level 3 (2010)

Wallace Lo

What is it like to be a sommelier?

1. How did you get into the business?
When I was studying in secondary school, I already have a very strong passion on Food and Beverage, especially beverages, from coffee to wine, and I started to study (about F&B) at the age of 19. I like wine the most because of the diversity and its ability of pairing with food. But I didn’t just start in a fine dining restaurant, as I didn’t have any experience in F&B when I first started. I was working in some rather casual establishments with only a very small wine list. I have worked as a barista, and a junior pastry chef just because I wanted to know more. Finally I got a chance to work in my first fine dining restaurant – “the French Window”. I really learn a lot there.

2. Who was the most interesting customer you’ve ever met?
I have met a few guests who really like Italian wine just like I do, and we became very good friends. And they really inspired me a lot in my career.

3. Describe your typical day.
Usually I work for over 12 hour a day.
- The first thing to do when going back to work is to reply to all the E-mail came the night before from Suppliers or Diners.
- Then I need to check all the Wine by the Glass items.
- Making sure the lunch service is fine.
- Training for my assistant and fellow staff. Tasting with suppliers almost every day.
- Design food and wine pairing menu.
- Then of course dinner service and to make recommendations.
- After work usually is already late night, after ordering the inventories, I will go home to read some wine books or arrange some tasting with my assistant or other sommeliers.

4. How does a wine end up on your wine list?
Of course, through tasting; and base on quality, value, and pairing with the menu. Sometimes not just me (to make the decision), also some of my guest or the Chef in the kitchen.

Tips for consumers

5. Apart from your own hotel/restaurant, where do you go to find good wines in your city or elsewhere in China?
My personal favourite is 121BC. It’s a restaurant, but they are also a retailer of Natural Italian wines.

6. What is popular right now? (region, producer, ect.)
Small Producer with a big story behind. People are moving from France, to Italy and Spain; and new world (wines) such as Australian and South African are growing very fast too. People are getting more and more open-minded.

7. What has changed in the last year? (Consumer profiles, consumption habits, price, region, etc)
I see much more people drinking wine. Rather than only those fine and rare wine, more and more people are going for those “Fun” wines. For many people, (wine) is more like an everyday beverage. People are more willing to try something they have never tried before.

8. What is the role of a sommelier in modern day China?
I think sommelier is quite like an ambassador of wine. Nowadays Sommelier not only appears in those very fine and high spending restaurants, they are moving to some more casual wine bars and eateries, which I think is a really good sign. As this will let more and more diners understand that sommeliers are not only wearing suits and ties and serving very highly priced wines. We are also able to advice very good pairings at your more casual dinner or to suggest you try something you have never tried before. It’s about Fun! That’s what wine is about. This trend is something I really love to see and it makes our industry more approachable and enjoyable.

9. Finally, how would you suggest people to approach food and wine pairing?
Recently I have fallen in love with those hearty Primitivo di Manduria from Puglia in southern Italy, as it really goes well with winter stews. It really warms you up, and the price is usually very reasonable. And this is a wine I always keep quite a few bottles at home to go with some simple home cook dishes in winter, such as nicely steamed rice with Chinese sausage臘味飯 or Braised Beef. Yumm!

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