Being a sommelier seems an interesting and enviable career for many wine lovers. We had a chance to chat with one of Asia’s best – Mr Yuthapichai Polnakoo. He explains to us the life and role of a sommelier in Asia.
Yuthapichai spends most of his time at the Bangkok Marriott Resort and Spa, managing wine in all the restaurants and bars in the hotel. A hard life huh?
AP : Tell us how you landed this stellar career?
YP : I started my career at Dusit Thani Bangkok Hotel in the restaurant 8 years ago, and then I attended the Sommelier class – learning about grapes, vineyards and wine. After that I moved to Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Hotel working as sommelier. After 4 years with wine knowledge, I participated in the Wine Professional Challenge 2008 where I was the Champion of this competition. Later, I also joined the Best Sommelier 2008 organized by Wine Today Magazine and I won the runner up of the Best Sommelier 2008.
AP : Are you responsible for buying, selecting and putting the wine list together? If so, what is the general philosophy behind the wine list?
YP : Yes, I do buy, select, and put the wine list together. The general philosophy of the wine list is to choose the wine relating to the character or type of the restaurant and to choose the supporting wine producer.
AP : How many wines are on the list and what are a few of your favorites from the list?
YP : We have approximately 340 labels on the list and my favorite wines are
1. Meursault, “Tillets” Verget
2. Sauvignon Blanc, Cloudy Bay
3. Sassicaia DOC, Tenuta San Guido
4. Château Talbot, 4ème Cru Classé
AP : What types of wines are most popular and has this changed over the past few years? What is the average price point of the wines sold at the restaurant?
YP : The most popular wine is red wine; this has not been changed over the past few years. The average price is about 3,000 – 5,000 Baht or € 60 – 100 in our restaurants.
AP : Do you feel that your customers are open to suggestions and will experiment or are they generally fairly conservative?
YP : I feel that nowadays customers are open-minded and love to share their experience with me. They always trust my suggestion.
AP : Now on to food…What is the most popular dish and which wines do you usually recommend with it?
YP : In Thailand, the popular dish is Tom Yum Goong which is always recommended with Rosé Monsoon Valley.
AP : Asia is moving at such a fast pace…what are the current main food and wine trends in your city?
YP : The trend of Bangkok is Italian cuisine and healthy food plus the new world wines. Most popular is red wine medium bodied to full bodied.
AP : Italian food? What about the pairing of local food and wine?
YP : Thai food has various styles; boil, stir fried, curry, deep fried, etc. which we can cook as spicy as we like or even mild flavor. Therefore, having Thai food with Thai wine is a perfect combination. For example, Thai salad, I would recommend sparkling wine or white wine with fruity aroma which you can find in Thai wine; delicate and drinkable like White Monsoon Valley or any white wine from Kao Yai region. If you have any curries, I would advise medium bodied red wine with elegant, fruity, spice, peppery and dry on palate or silky taste.
AP : If you had to pick just three local dishes with wine, what would they be?
YP : “Yum Woonsen” or Thai vermicelli salad goes well with White Monsoon Valley or Chardonnay from any country.
“Goong Yang” or grilled prawn, I would recommend dry white wine from Kao Yai Valley or Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Bianco or Dry Riesling from any country.
“Gaeng Kiew Waan Nuea” or green curry with beef, having Thai red wines or Shiraz (SYRAH) or Tempranillo or Merlot from any country are the great combination.
AP : If we’re going to Bangkok next week, what should we try?
Som Tum (Spicy Papaya Salad), I recommend White Monsoon Valley.
Tom Yum Goong (Spicy and sour prawn soup), I recommend Rosé Monsoon Valley.
Gaeng Phed Ped Yang (Red curry with roasted duck), I recommend red wine from Kao Yai Valley.
Meet Yuthapichai Polnakoo to experience the world of wines and superb cuisines at Bangkok Marriott Resort & Spa. For more information or reservation, please call (66) 2 476 0022 Ext. 1416 or email [email protected] or visit www.marriott.com/BKKTH