The cel­e­bra­tory glass is firmly in the hands of Ger­ald Lu, win­ner of the re­cently con­cluded Sin­ga­pore Na­tional Sommelier Com­pe­ti­tion 2017


Ger­ald Lu, Praelum Wine Bistro

Ger­ald Lu, 32, caught the vi­nous bug while work­ing at a bar at age 16. Fast for­ward to the present—and the charis­matic wine tal­ent has gone from carv­ing out his ca­reer at the In­doChine Group, to his present post as head sommelier and gen­eral man­ager at Praelum Wine Bistro, while also jug­gling du­ties as vice chair­man of the Sommelier As­so­ci­a­tion of Sin­ga­pore.

Mak­ing his mark early as the youngest cham­pion at the Sin­ga­pore Na­tional Sommelier Com­pe­ti­tion when he was 25 years old, Lu has since at­tained ac­cred­i­ta­tions in the Wine & Spirit Ed­u­ca­tion Trust Pro­gramme and the Court of Mas­ter Som­me­liers, and is a Cer­ti­fied Spe­cial­ist of Wine (CSW) and Cer­ti­fied Sake Sommelier (SSI). On

10 Oc­to­ber, Ger­ald lit­er­ally came one full cir­cle with his lat­est win as na­tional cham­pion at the eighth Sin­ga­pore Na­tional Sommelier Com­pe­ti­tion

2017. Edg­ing out eight other top som­me­liers dur­ing the event held at Parkroyal on Kitch­ener Road, Ger­ald’s next task will be to fly the Sin­ga­pore flag high, rep­re­sent­ing the na­tion at the South­east Asia Best Sommelier Com­pe­ti­tion 2018.

I was first cap­ti­vated by the ‘cool’ vibes of be­ing be­hind the bar, but be­came re­ally cu­ri­ous about the sci­ence be­hind wines af­ter two years into the job. One book led to five, and look where I am now!

The com­bi­na­tion of sci­ence, his­tory and cul­ture sim­ply cap­tured me, and that’s how I chose to be a sommelier over bar­tend­ing. I still en­joy watch­ing the bar guys work at their craft, but I’ve some­how re­mained hooked on wines for a decade now. The friends I’ve made on this jour­ney are some of the best a man can have now and a long time more.

It’s not new, but I’m drink­ing a glass of Tas­ma­nian Pinot Noir at the mo­ment. They def­i­nitely de­serve more at­ten­tion.

When peo­ple ask about the best thing about be­ing a sommelier, the cor­rect an­swer is that I get to meet peo­ple and friends daily, and that I al­ways learn some­thing new. But the real an­swer? The free wine (laughs).

Many peo­ple mis­un­der­stand som­me­liers to be up­pity, snobby peo­ple who only put drops of gold in our mouths. I love food from 7-Eleven.

I pre­pared for the Sin­ga­pore Na­tional Sommelier Com­pe­ti­tion the same way I al­ways do: I slept lit­tle, stud­ied non-stop and tasted [wines] daily. My fam­ily, friends and peers sup­ported with tons of love, and

I can­not em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of this last point enough.

The goal was to make the fi­nals so when my name was called [to­gether with Jacques Chua from Galaxy En­ter­tain­ment Group Ma­cau, and Alvin Neo from Sin­ga­pore Air­lines], I was pretty con­tented. Go­ing into the fi­nals I had noth­ing to lose, and af­ter the per­for­mance I knew I’d given my best and that it should be enough. Thank­fully, it was!

The the­o­ret­i­cal as­pect of the com­pe­ti­tion has al­ways been the hard­est—it’s in­sane the amount of in­for­ma­tion we try to cram into our heads. Pre­par­ing for the­ory still in­tim­i­dates me; it feels as if de­spite all the time and ef­fort spent as a sommelier, I still know very lit­tle.

To be a good sommelier, I be­lieve that you must have a gen­uine love for peo­ple and an un­con­di­tional love for food and drink. You must also be pre­pared to sleep very lit­tle and work a lot.

My ad­vice to those who want to en­ter the in­dus­try: work hard and do not give up even in the face of failed com­pe­ti­tions and/or ex­ams. Sur­round your­self with som­me­liers who ex­ude good en­ergy, re­mem­ber to rest and spend time with loved ones be­cause they will pro­vide you that ex­tra strength to soldier on.

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