At a recent lunch, a fellow sommelier spilled red wine on his pristine white shirt. A flurry of waiters descended with soda water and clean napkins in an attempt to remove the stain, but to no avail. I suggested using white wine to blot out the red. Looking sceptical, Mr Butterfingers tried my remedy - with great success. The only downside was that his shirt ended up smelling like pinot grigio.
Vodka and gin can also tackle red wine stains; the alcohol in the spirit lifts the colour out.
The best product I've found for getting wine stains out of shirts and napkins at home is Napisan - Australia's gift to the world in keeping whites white. In Hong Kong, ask for Vanish. It's chlorine-free and safe for laundering babies' clothing.
Another cleaning concern is getting wine glasses to sparkle. Those at the luncheon were, sadly, extremely spotty and cloudy. Although they were clean, they hadn't been polished correctly. I sent my glasses back a few times, but always they were returned cloudier than ever. When I finally marched up to the bar, the staff were diligently polishing glasses - and making them streakier.
At home, I use linen tea towels, which I launder only in Napisan, applying a small amount of steam if the glasses are dry. The steam loosens the spots and makes the glass easier to polish. Napisan doesn't contain fabric softener, which would make the glasses cloudy and streaky. In a restaurant, there should be linen that is designated for polishing glasses only. It sounds simple but, all too often, I see glasses that are not up to par.
Some people collect corks as mementos of good bottles they have consumed, but they tend to collect dust. The sommeliers at the Langham Place Hotel, in Mong Kok, donate used corks to St James' Settlement. Volunteers at the NGO upcycle the corks into trivets for pots and pans, which are then sold in the hotel gift shop - the proceeds going back to St James' Settlement.
Other uses for corks? Put them into the bottom of a plant pot to aerate the soil and prevent it from becoming too compact. At Halloween, burn one end of a cork; the charcoal can be used to paint faces (this was how actors "blacked up" for theatre performances in the 1800s).
And what to do with all those empty wine bottles? Sadly, many go into our landfills - more than 100,000 tonnes per year. A number of hotels, however, recycle their bottles with support from the Environmental Protection Department. The glass is ground into a sand (a substitute for river sand) and used to make paving blocks for public projects.
Nellie Ming Lee is a food stylist and part-time sommelier studying with the Court of Master Sommeliers.