Tips from a Master

THE ONLY MASTER SOM­ME­LIER BASED IN ASIA, Yo­hann Jous­selin, GIVES US A LES­SON ON WINE TRENDS AND WHAT WE SHOULD BE UN­CORK­ING NOW

Hong Kong Tatler - - Small Talk -

It takes an av­er­age of seven years to achieve the ti­tle of Master Som­me­lier—a Her­culean feat that Forbes has claimed to be the tough­est wine ex­am­i­na­tion in the world—but Yo­hann Jous­selin did it in less than four. The young som­me­lier, who is one of 219 peo­ple world­wide to have con­quered the exam since its de­but 40 years ago, pre­sides over the Is­land Shangri-la’s list of 2,000 wines. You’d be for­given for think­ing it’s rel­a­tively easy work for him, con­sid­er­ing he pre­vi­ously worked in Ma­cau with Robu­chon au Dôme’s master list of 14,000. After spend­ing half a year here in Hong Kong, Jous­selin has pinned down the ins and outs of the lo­cal wine scene. On a day-to-day ba­sis, you’ll find him work­ing the corkscrew at the ho­tel’s French fine-din­ing main­stay, Petrus. On his days off? Most likely un­cork­ing a fringe wine from a bud­ding vine­yard. SHANGRI-LA.COM

HOW DID YOU DIS­COVER YOUR PAS­SION FOR WINE?

I HAVE FAM­ILY MEM­BERS WHO HAVE VINE­YARDS AND RESTAU­RANTS, SO I WAS AL­WAYS STUCK BE­TWEEN THE TWO. I DE­CIDED TO STUDY WINE AT THE AGE OF 15, AND MOVED TO ENG­LAND SHORTLY TO LEARN ENGLISH. MY PLAN WAS TO BE THERE FOR A YEAR— AND THAT LED TO 10 YEARS. I WORKED IN SOME OF THE BEST RESTAU­RANTS IN ENG­LAND WITH SOME OF THE FINEST SOM­ME­LIERS.

HOW DO YOU MAN­AGE TO CON­STRUCT A CO­HE­SIVE MASTER WINE LIST?

I CAN’T BE TOO AD­VEN­TUR­OUS BE­CAUSE I’M NOT AL­WAYS PRESENT AT ALL OF THE OUT­LETS TO SELL THE WINES, SO I HAVE TO BE ABLE TO TRUST MY STAFF. THE MASTER LIST NEEDS TO HAVE A BAL­ANCE BE­TWEEN SIM­PLE, CLAS­SIC, MID-RANGE AND HIGH-RANGE. YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT EV­ERY POS­SI­BLE CUS­TOMER. IN RESTAU­RANTS WHERE THERE ARE A LOT OF WINE DRINKERS, THE LIST MUST CON­STANTLY BE UP­DATED. AT PETRUS, WE CHANGE OUR LIST EV­ERY WEEK OR SO.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE WINE SCENE IN HONG KONG AND MA­CAU?

MA­CAU HAS A LOT OF MAIN­LAND CHI­NESE, WHILE HONG KONG MORE IN­TER­NA­TIONAL PEO­PLE. MAIN­LAND CHI­NESE TEND TO STICK TO THE CLAS­SICS, LIKE BORDEAUX AND BUR­GUNDY. PEO­PLE IN MA­CAU TEND TO WANT TO BE SERVED IM­ME­DI­ATELY, BE­CAUSE THEY GO TO THE CASINO NEXT. THEY DON’T HAVE TIME TO LOOK AT A LIST AND RELY ON SOM­ME­LIERS. IN HONG KONG, PEO­PLE ARE VERY IN­TER­ESTED IN WINES AND WISH TO LEARN MORE.

NAME THREE BOT­TLES WE SHOULD BE DRINK­ING NOW

FOR A LOWER BUD­GET, TRY A DRY TOKAJI FROM HUN­GARY. IT’S PRO­DUCED BY ISTVÁN SZEPSY; HE USES LO­CAL GRAPES NOR­MALLY USED IN SWEET WINES. IF YOU WANT TO SPEND A BIT MORE MONEY, GO FOR A GI­A­CONDA CHARDONNAY FROM AUS­TRALIA. IT’S QUITE SIM­I­LAR TO A BUR­GUNDY, BUT WITH A BIT MORE IN­TEN­SITY. I WOULD PROB­A­BLY GO FOR A VIN­TAGE WITH A BIT OF AGE— MAYBE A 2002. IF YOU RE­ALLY WANT TO SPEND MONEY, OPEN A CHÂTEAU MOU­TON ROTH­SCHILD FROM 1945. IT’S SO SOFT AND EL­E­GANT, AND THE FRUIT FLAVOURS ARE IN­TENSE. THIS IS HOW I FELL IN LOVE WITH BORDEAUX WINES.

TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE CUR­RENT WINE TRENDS YOU’RE SEE­ING

IN HONG KONG, I’VE NO­TICED PEO­PLE ARE START­ING TO DE­VI­ATE FROM BORDEAUX AND BUR­GUNDY, AND EVEN THOSE WHO STICK TO THE CLAS­SICS WISH TO SEE LESSER-KNOWN BOT­TLES FROM SMALLER VINE­YARDS. ALSO, GUESTS KNOW THE PROPER PRIC­ING, SO YOU NEED TO BE VERY CARE­FUL—PEO­PLE CAN LOOK ANY­THING UP AT THE TA­BLE.

NO­TABLE NOSE MASTER SOM­ME­LIER YO­HANN JOUS­SELIN IS READY TO REC­OM­MEND THE RIGHT WINE FOR YOU WHEN YOU VISIT PETRUS AT THE IS­LAND SHANGRI- LA

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