Tasting times

Sommelier and Amuse Bouche co-owner Kent Wong tells Sarah Wong how he creates the ideal wine list

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:04am

How did you come up with your wine list?
As Amuse Bouche is a French restaurant, the wine list focuses on French wines. My 18-year work experience at the Shangri-La has given me experience in selecting wines, so I look for good value for money wines from each region.

My wine list is 26 pages long - I am not trying to show off, but I want to give customers a wide selection to choose from. Many of my customers enjoy looking at the list and giving me feedback. Also, I believe a good wine list helps enhance the restaurant's image. The concept was picked up from working at Restaurant Petrus, where the wine list was very extensive.


Is pricing a big consideration in selecting wines?
Most of the 1,500 wines are from my personal collection, so I have no pressure to select certain wines. This gives me great flexibility and I pick wines that I like.


How do your customers select wine?
Most of my customers are regulars who have from five years to 30 years of drinking experience. Few pick wines to show off. They are usually drinking with friends and wines are picked around a certain theme or region.


What wines would you recommend to pair with your signature dishes?
For a white, I would recommend Meursault, Les Clous Daka 2009 (HK$670). This wine has mineral notes, is rich and not too oaky. In 2009, the weather was warmer and the wines can be enjoyed now. It pairs well with scallop tartare and langoustine.For red, I would go with Gevrey Chambertin from Bouchard 2007 (HK$680). It is drinking well, and is a classic expression of pinot noir. Our dishes are not too rich and most, such as roast suckling pig, frog legs, duck confit and langoustine, will go well with red Burgundy.


For most of the dishes on your menu, which wine would you suggest?
White Burgundy will work from beginning to end. Most of our dishes are seafood-based.


What is the most difficult dish to pair with wine?
Probably soup, because the high temperature may cover up the aromatics and flavours of the wine. An older white Burgundy, with nutty developed notes or a white wine from the Jura region in France may work.


What are you looking for in selecting new wines?
I look for good value for money wines and those that are ready to drink. For Burgundy, I recommend the 2007 vintage, which is drinking well. For Bordeaux, the 2003 vintage is warmer and can be drunk now. The 2004 year is also another well-priced vintage showing some maturity. I do not put wines on the list that are too young to drink.


Where do you source your wines?
I buy wines from UK and French wine merchants. For older vintages I buy from auction. Locally, I buy from four to five suppliers.


Is wine or food more important to your customers?
For most of my regular customers, wine is more important. They decide what wines they will drink, then ask me to tailor-make a menu that will pair with the wine. This has been a growing trend in the past few years.


What is your best-selling wine?
Probably Lascombes 1996. Customers like it because it is reasonably priced, from a high-quality region and a good vintage. I have sold about 20 cases of the wine. The best-selling wines are in the price range of HK$800 to HK$2,000.


What wines do you think Hongkongers should try more of?
A lot of customers are long-established Bordeaux drinkers. However, now they are trying Burgundy, white and red. I believe Burgundy gives people more satisfaction and will give you unexpected surprises. The wine in the glass will change after half an hour, and again after an hour and two hours. It allows people to comment and talk about the wine throughout the dinner.