Name: Thomas (Hsin-Wei) Ho
At the moment: Taiwan
Head Sommelier – Best Sommelier of Taiwan 2011
Contestant at the 2016 World Best Sommelier Competition
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
My first interaction with wine was as a part-time server at Tayih Landis Hotel as a University student. My manager (Weber Huang) inspired and encouraged me to pursue more education in the wine industry.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
Enthusiasm. In my opinion, enthusiasm and love for wine is essential. Sharing that with the customers and inspiring the team bring life to the meal. Also, language skills are crucial in this environment to understand and serve the guests from all countries and cultures. Finally, I believe humility is key because there is always more to learn. The more wine you drink, the less you know.
Mr. Gerard Basset and Mr. Shinya Tasaki are the Sommeliers I respect and admire most.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
First,I would recommend getting your foot in the door in any fine wine environment, whether it be a chain restaurant, independent restaurant, or wine shop. Regardless of where it is, I believe it is very important that you gain service experience because the customer’s dining experience is of the utmost importance. Second, I would suggest you constantly grow your knowledge – wine knowledge, spirit knowledge, beverage knowledge, food and dining knowledge, customer psychology, staff training knowledge, etc. Never be satisfied.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what’s in your opinion would be the best approach?
There is no single bottle of wine suitable for everyone because every individual’s palate is different. As a sommelier, I try to pair wine not only with the meal, but also the customer. So I would get to know the customer first, then make a recommendation based on their tastes.
What’s your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well-known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
Wine glasses are a very important part of the dining experience, both statistically and practically. They aid in the presentation of the wine’s aroma and texture. However, the condition of the glass is the MOST important aspect, i.e. perfectly clean and odor-free.
I use the French brand “LEGLE.” We chose the “Ultimate” handmade version to give our customers a great tasting experience.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
Don’t overthink it. Wine is meant to be enjoyed, so when in doubt just stick to the basics, i.e. high tannin wine shouldn’t be paired with seafood. Let the sommelier worry about the details.
For basic pairing I recommend approaching wine as “a part of the sauce.” Then, for advanced pairings, you can consider the texture – oxidation – season – alcohol – history.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest’s wine?
Yes, the Sommelier should taste the guest’s wine. Especially if the wine is sold by the restaurant, but only if the guest approves, of course. It’s important to make sure the quality of the wine hasn’t been affected by storage or corked, no matter the price of the wine. I compare it to a chef trying the cuisine first to check the quality before presenting it to the guests.
Where would you suggest a young Sommelier start searching for Sommelier positions on the internet in your country?
joining wine tasting events or having a chat with wine lovers, they will know more than the internet.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?
The key ingredients revolve around the style of your restaurant, the drinking culture in your city/country, and the average dinner price. I would say “Suitable” is the primary ingredient.
Mr. Gerard Basset says “We want customers to come back again.” And he says “Creating a 20 label wine list is more difficult than a 100 page wine list.”
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I join as many wine seminars and expos as possible so I can follow the latest trends in the food & beverage industry. i.e. natural wines and zero-dosage sparkling wine. Because it’s always important to be prepared for the customers’ requests.
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what’s the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
I think joining wine expos, professional seminars or working with the Sommelier in a hotel or restaurant to present their wine would improve their chances of being listed.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain, because of its traditional, history, art culture and gourmet cuisine. Also, to me, this region represents the perfect meeting of good food + good wine + good culture + good art. It takes time to mature, like an artist.
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what’s your desert island wine?
My desert island wine would be a 1985 Richebourg Henri Jayer.
Any interesting suggestions about magazines or online platform?
I would recommend the Guildsomm website, it’s still important for sommelier carriers. Also, the Sommeliers International Magazine is a good read.
Thomas (Hsin-Wei) Ho
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers – International Sommelier Positions – www.sommeliers.at