Winnie Toh sommelier of the Maximal Concepts group on wine

Tell us about when you first became interested in wine…

I was 18 and studying subjects I didn’t like. My boyfriend at the time was in the industry and worked as a sommelier, he would always be so passionate about wine and drinks and I always found myself incredibly interested in it. Thanks to him, it opened my eyes and made me realize that I wanted to know more about the wine industry. A few months later, I applied to The Hotelschool in Bruges, Belgium, to train for what it would be like to be a specialist sommelier for a year.

Tell us about your wine list at L’Aubrey

At The Aubrey we have a wide selection of champagne with an emphasis on small producers. Our white and red wines are carefully selected with an emphasis on smaller or lesser-known producers. The layout is not traditional in the UK as we have divided the list by style and type of wine. As an izakaya, we also have a wide range of sakes from iconic producers and more modern producers who supply us with sparkling and draft sakes.

During your career, have you had any wine-related disasters?

Of course, everyone does, am I right? I remember a moment very well. I was on duty, running (you know how it is on a busy night) and needed a magnum carafe, we only had one, cleaning it up quickly I fell on my back in the restaurant I accidentally broke the carafe. Fortunately, the wine was not there yet.

Name your top three restaurant wine lists

El Cellar de Can Roca in Spain, LQV in Hong Kong and Villa Mas in Spain.

Who do you respect the most in the world of wine?

Tough question, there are so many I have respect for. I would choose two sommeliers from the El Bulli restaurant, where I did my internship in 2010 and 2011. Ferran Centellas and David Seijas are the ones who believed in me and were my mentors, they still are.

What is the most interesting wine you have ever encountered?

A magnum of Stony Ridge La Rose 2003 from Waiheke Island in New Zealand. It’s difficult to taste blind, for me it looked like a mix between Château Margaux and Château Latour.

What are the three most overused tasting notes?

Fruity, balanced and sweet.

What’s the best wine on your list right now?

All our German Rieslings. I’m a big fan of the Riesling grape variety and my goal is to better educate our customers to show them that Riesling doesn’t necessarily have to be sweet. I too often hear “no I don’t want German Riesling because it’s sweet, I only drink Australian Riesling because they are dry”. We have a range of Rieslings and only a few are sweet.

What is your ultimate food and drink pairing?

Caviar and semi-dry Riesling.

Old World or New World?

I don’t like to use these terms. But if I had to choose, it would be Old World.

What does your pet hate about wine service at other restaurants?

Dirty wine glasses and stains – I really can’t stand it.

Who is your favorite producer at the moment and why?

Peter Jakob Kuhn, his entire range, from starters to great vintages, is simply breathtaking. I love that they carry on family traditions from generation to generation. It is one of Germany’s iconic producers and produces some of the best Riesling in the world.

As a group sommelier, what is the question that customers ask you the most?

Where do you buy your wines?

Which wine region/country is currently underestimated and why?

Languedoc-Roussillon. The wines from there are excellent value for money and are delicious.

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?

Jacques Selosse, Brut Rosé Grand Cru, I love Champagne. It’s the best pairing with all types of food, from oysters to caviar to langoustines, a simple salad or pasta – so people can eat whatever they want when they join me for my last meal.

About Michael Brafford

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