Up­close and per­sonal with four of Sin­ga­pore’s top som­me­liers

Singapore's Top Restaurants - - Wine Panelists -

BRITT NG Shangri-la Ho­tel, Sin­ga­pore Al­though Britt Ng has great pas­sion for food, go­ing into the F&B busi­ness was never on the cards, much less be­come a som­me­lier. In fact the Malaysian grad­u­ated from NUS with a Bach­e­lor's de­gree in En­gi­neer­ing. To­day, he is the head som­me­lier for Shangri-la Ho­tel, Sin­ga­pore and boasts nu­mer­ous awards un­der his belt, in­clud­ing Malaysia's Best Som­me­lier 2014 and Asia's Best Som­me­lier in French Wines 2016.

What in­spired you to be­come a som­me­lier?

I was very in­trigued by the ex­pe­ri­ence of a per­fect food and wine match­ing in a restau­rant set­ting. It was a unique skill that I de­cided to hone and I have never looked back since.

What’s your favourite pair­ing of food and wine?

I was once asked to cre­ate a wine pair­ing for a durian souf­fle. It was such a chal­lenge that I still re­mem­ber it, and the pair­ing has def­i­nitely be­come one of my favourites. I se­lected a 2008 Tokaji, a dessert wine from Hun­gary (2008 Disznókő, Tokaji Aszu 5 Put­tonyos). The wine has a re­fresh­ing acid­ity that matches su­perbly with the creamy and fluffy tex­ture of the souf­flé. The wine also has in­tense flavours of honey, can­died apri­cots and jack­fruit, which com­ple­ment the strong and unique taste of the durian.

What is the most chal­leng­ing as­pect of your job?

The most chal­leng­ing part is def­i­nitely to keep up with the ever-chang­ing world of wine. As I am writ­ing this, some rules and reg­u­la­tions of wine­mak­ing may have just changed in some parts of the world, and it is in our in­ter­est to be at the fore­front of this. The more I learn about wines, the more I re­al­ize how much I don't know.

How long have you used Kadeka prod­ucts?

I was only re­cently in­tro­duced to Kadeka prod­ucts about one and a half years ago. I par­tic­u­larly en­joyed the Kadeka Sig­na­ture se­ries mainly due to the con­sis­tency of the tem­per­a­ture and the speed at which the fridge reaches my set tem­per­a­ture. Not to men­tion the build is very solid, sleek and el­e­gant. It is very quiet too.

What’s your favourite wine quote?

"Hav­ing a meal with­out wine is like a day with­out sun­shine".

What are you drink­ing now?

NV Egly-ouriet V.P. Vieil­lisse­ment Pro­longe Grand Cru, Ex­tra Brut, Cham­pagne, France NOVALAN DORASAMY He started at the bot­tom and worked his way up to cap­tain, then som­me­lier and fi­nally cel­lar mas­ter at the Raf­fles Ho­tel. That was just the be­gin­ning for Novalan Dorasamy, founder of Nova Cel­lar Se­lec­tion, a Sin­ga­pore-based wine mer­chant that cu­rates ex­clu­sive wines from winer­ies around the world.

What in­spired you to go into a wine busi­ness?

I should say it's who in­spired me to go into the wine busi­ness. My wife Tanya, my fam­ily and a group of friends who en­cour­age and sup­port the cause.

What do you en­joy most about your job?

From the get-go, I wanted the busi­ness to be about peo­ple first. Re­spect­ing and cel­e­brat­ing the peo­ple who tend to the vines, win­ery own­ers, artists who makes the wines, som­me­liers and restau­ra­teurs who play an am­bas­sador role to the wines that are on the list of some of the best din­ing ta­bles, wine en­thu­si­ast or guest who just sim­ply en­joy drink­ing wines. I en­joy be­ing able to cel­e­brate all these things in meet­ing the peo­ple, see­ing the re­gions, the winer­ies, un­der­stand­ing their craft, the food, cul­ture, tra­di­tion, con­tin­u­ous search­ing, learn­ing and dis­cov­er­ing. Bridg­ing some of the best of wine­mak­ing to my guests who drink them. And even­tu­ally see­ing friend­ship, con­fi­dence and trust built over time and over wines.

What’s your favourite pair­ing of food and wine?

To date, it’s roasted quail with red wine re­duc­tion and grapes with a five to eight-year-old Bur­gundy Pinot. It was a dish I had on a trip in a home-styled restau­rant. One cru­cial thing

to make it com­plete—the com­pan­ion.

Old World or New World?

Both. I be­lieve in wines with a cer­tain sense of place—a con­nec­tion to the land and the im­print of the hands of the peo­ple who made them.

How long have you used Kadeka prod­ucts?

More than two years.

What do you like best about Kadeka?

It is stylish and el­e­gant in its aes­thet­ics, es­pe­cially the Sig­na­ture Se­ries. I like the rim­less full-glass fin­ish which I have in my space. Kadeka chillers also have wider in­be­tween shelv­ing space that fits var­i­ous sizes of bot­tles— Cham­pagne, Bordeaux, Bur­gundy and even mag­num bot­tles. It is quiet and lowvi­bra­tion, which is vi­tal for these col­lectibles to con­tinue ma­tur­ing grace­fully. It is en­ergy ef­fi­cient. Above all, I ap­pre­ci­ate the level of cus­tomer-care and at­ten­tion the team from Kadeka pro­vides.

Ev­ery­one talks about a last sup­per. What would be your last bot­tle?

It doesn't mat­ter re­ally, as long as I'm hav­ing it with my loved ones and close friends. Though a 1978 Ro­ma­nee-conti Grand Cru mono­pole Do­maine de la Ro­ma­nee Conti will be fit­ting.

DAISUKE KAWAI The som­me­lier-owner of La Terre in Sin­ga­pore, Daisuke Kawai has won nu­mer­ous com­pe­ti­tions and ac­co­lades, in­clud­ing World Gourmet Sum­mit 2017’s Best Som­me­lier of the Year. Orig­i­nally from Ja­pan and based in Sin­ga­pore for the past eight years.

How did you start in the wine busi­ness?

I started as a waiter and I just kept pol­ish­ing my skill and knowl­edge. From there, I be­came a som­me­lier.

What do you en­joy most about your job?

I en­joy trav­el­ling, And there are dif­fer­ent wines ev­ery­where in the world.

When it comes to pair­ing food and wine, what is your key prin­ci­ple?

I con­sider the weight of flavour of wine and food.

How long have you used Kadeka prod­ucts?

I have used Kadeka for three years. My ex­pe­ri­ence with Kadeka has been re­ally good. I like the stylish de­sign, and above all, the sta­ble tem­per­a­ture con­trols.

What would be your last bot­tle?

Chateau Pou­jeaux 1982. BENE­DICT LEE La Strada Ris­torante Bene­dict is the restau­rant man­ager and som­me­lier of La Strada Ris­torante, which is part of the Les Amis group. As Bene­dict pro­claims, while his first love is Bur­gundy, he has

de­vel­oped a soft spot for orange wines and gen­er­ally “all things ox­ida­tive and funky”.

What in­spired you to be­come a som­me­lier?

When I was still a stu­dent, I found my­self more in­ter­ested in read­ing up on the Classed Growths of Bordeaux and the Grand Crus of Bur­gundy rather than study­ing for my ex­ams or do­ing re­search for the pa­pers that I had to write. The world of wines felt very nat­u­ral and made so much sense to me. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion, I took up my first full-time job as an as­sis­tant som­me­lier and have not looked back since.

What do you en­joy most about your job?

I en­joy the cus­tomer en­gage­ment the most. See­ing my reg­u­lars re­turn is like see­ing an old friend, and even as a wine pro­fes­sional, you learn so much more by lis­ten­ing to your guests, and hear­ing about the ex­cit­ing wines that they have tried re­cently, their thoughts on it, and the ex­pe­ri­ences that the wines have evoked.

When it comes to pair­ing food and wine, what is your key prin­ci­ple?

My key prin­ci­ple is that the cus­tomer's pref­er­ence must come first. Talk­ing about how an aged Barolo would pair per­fectly with the White Truf­fles of Alba is an ex­er­cise in vain if the cus­tomer, for ex­am­ple, does not like tan­nins or even red wine for that mat­ter. I al­ways be­lieve in work­ing within the pa­ram­e­ters of their pref­er­ence to find the best pos­si­ble pair­ing with each dish.

What ex­cites you about the lo­cal wine scene?

It is a small, tightly knit com­mu­nity with many tal­ented som­me­liers. There's Ma­son Ng of Atlas Bar, who has cu­rated an ex­ten­sive wine list of small pro­duc­tion cham­pagnes; there's Alvin Gho, run­ning a funky nat­u­ral wine bar with ex­cel­lent food to go along with it. There's even a cer­ti­fied Mas­ter Som­me­lier, Mathias Camil­leri, UK Som­me­lier of the Year in 2017, who started work­ing in Sin­ga­pore fairly re­cently. It's dy­namic, it's grow­ing, and there's a very strong sense of ca­ma­raderie.

How long have you used Kadeka prod­ucts?

Our restau­rant, La Strada, had a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion in Jan­uary. It was then that I de­cided I would choose Kadeka's Sig­na­ture Se­ries wine chiller.

What do you like best about Kadeka?

Kadeka's Sig­na­ture Se­ries has a sleek, bor­der­less black glass de­sign that matches the restau­rant's am­bi­ence. Func­tion­ally, the broad tele­scopic shelf is a god­send in terms of stor­age so­lu­tions. The small rub­ber stubs to keep the bot­tles in place is also a very small de­tail that makes all the dif­fer­ence.

Ev­ery­one talks about a last sup­per. What would be your last bot­tle?

The very last bot­tle I would want to drink is Hu­bert Lig­nier, Hospices de Nuits, Nuits St Ge­orges Les Vigneron­des 2010. It is one of the wines with per­fect fruit trans­parency, ethe­real min­er­al­ity with an im­pec­ca­ble bal­ance of acid­ity and tan­nins. It is a pretty hum­ble wine, but I've come from hum­ble be­gin­nings, and that is how my last bot­tle will be.

Britt Ng

Novalan Dorasamy

Daisuke Kawai

Bene­dict Lee

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