Celebrating women in wine

The rise of Thai female sommeliers

Men dominate the world of wine sommeliers, worldwide. To shine a spotlight on the rise of female sommeliers in Thailand, Guru speaks to a few who have more than just a passion for good wines.

NUTAWAN "NUCH" JUMPANAK

Wine Guru and Bangkok's first female head sommelier Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel

How did you get into wine?

My passion for wine began with curiosity when I started working in the food and beverage industry. I was always intrigued -- and still am -- by the new flavours and new experiences in every sip and in every bottle. I want to experience more, from every terroir and from all corners of the world.

What are your thoughts on the Thai wine industry?

Thai wine is making a mark of its own as attested by the awards and honours bestowed on some of our vineyards and cultivars. We are also leading the way internationally in the production of New Latitude wines, but the high tax placed on wine in Thailand is hampering production. More Thai people are more educated about wine and are drinking it more socially.

What do you look for in a good wine?

A good wine has a great structure of body, sugar, acidity, alcohol and tannin in reds, and all these elements create complexity and harmony to make for great wine. I will take them all because wine, just like a dress, depends on the mood and tone of the occasion. For Champagne, Philipponnat is my go-to for freshness and complexity with a long-lasting aftertaste. Skywalker Chardonnay from northern California's Marin County brings back childhood memories of the beautiful scent of jasmine in our yard in the mornings. For rosé, I am happy to go local with the refreshing ripe berry notes of Sakuna Syrah Rosé from GranMonte. For a red with a fruity bouquet and expression of spices, the firm structure and depth of Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley is a winner.


ATCHARA "APPLE" WONGTHAI PALLEROS

Wine Sommelier Central Wine Cellar

How did you get into wine?

It all begin when I was offered the position of general manager at Riedel Wine Bar & Cellar Bangkok in 2017. By working at Riedel, I found my ultimate passion -- wines. I built on this passion through everyday work, interacting with customers, at wine events that we organised, by working with wine suppliers, importers and winemakers. This helped me to learn more and developed my sensory skills.

What are your thoughts on the Thai wine industry?

Thai wines have a lot of potentials to grow. One of the Thai wines I tasted is the Verdelho from Khao Yai, which is a white grape. I have read a few articles on Thai wines and they said Thailand has become a definite forerunner for wine-making in tropical conditions since the early 90s. Conventionally, wine-making grapes have usually been developed in the northern and southern hemispheres between the 30th and 50th parallels. Thailand has been able to lead the way in the production of wine that is now known as 'New Latitude' wines by growing grapes in a confined area in the North between the 14th and 18th parallels and now produces more than 1 million bottles of wine annually, such as red, white, dessert wine and even sparkling wines made in the traditional method. The variety shows great potential and surprisingly pairs well with Asian cuisine.

What do you look for in a good wine?

I always look for sweetness. I prefer different wines for different moods, different times and atmospheres. For reds, I love a Merlot from Saint Emilion, blending with Cabernet France and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. On the beach, a rosé, since I like sparkling rosé with soft bubbles and texture, like Dom Perignon Rosé or for well-structured wine, I like Vetrère Aureo Salento from Puglia, Italy. On my days off, I go for Riesling from Mosel Germany or Rheinhessen, Germany. Every time I drink orange, I always think of About Eatery where I learn more about such wines. Another favourite is the sweet wine from Klein Constantia from Vin de Constance, which is a natural wine from South Africa, made from Muscat de Frontignan. I called this wine 'a little magic' as it always makes me smile. I can sip it every night before going to bed.


PRAKAYDAOW "KAE" PHOOHUATALAT

Assistant restaurant manager and sommelier New York Steakhouse, JW Marriott

How did you get into wine?

My first job was as a bartender and I consumed a lot of beverages, but found I had a palate for wine. I saw a career in wine, because it has no one recipe. Everyone is unique in their own way.

What are your thoughts on the Thai wine industry?

The Thai wine industry is getting bigger and global. Thai wineries have a lot of potentials and a few are in the world-class range, having won gold medals. But it needs more marketing and a push from the government in the right direction. Thais have started to drink a lot more wine because the new generation is educated in it and knows how to drink it. Most important is the social network; most people like to have a glass with friends.

What do you look for in a good wine?

Mostly, I always look for its background -- the label, the winery, the winemaker -- and the most important thing is who you're drinking it with and what would you drink it with? The best wine that goes with Thai food is Austrian wines, even German like riesling. Though Thai wine isn't far behind. I prefer red wine, a full-bodied wine. I cannot drink much, so I enjoy a good red, like a Barolo.


SUDARAT "BELLA" JANKAEW

Wine Sommelier Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok

How did you get into wine?

I started my first hospitality job as a hostess in a semi-fine dining restaurant at Hotel Indigo Bangkok. I was wine trained daily by the F&B manager and that's when I realised that I really wanted to be a sommelier. I find wine to be a mystery and knowledge into it could not be obtained by everyday drinking. In 2019, I decided to move to Bordeaux, France, which is the wine capital to do my diploma. I returned to Thailand in November 2020.

What are your thoughts on the Thai wine industry?

I feel like Thai people love drinking wine, but we have so many limitations with regards to access to good wines. First, very high taxations which make people feel like it's not approachable. Second, the lack of knowledge. We need more people in the sommelier industry to drive the wine-selling business to educate people. Third, we need to free the advertising as Kae mentioned. Everything is so restricted in terms of not being able to show the labels, post pictures, etc. It doesn't make sense. Thais are starting but many of them are used to beer and sweet cocktails. But we are starting to sell more and more wine every day.

What do you look for in a good wine?

A good wine needs to accompany my food really well. It depends on who I'm drinking with and what I'm eating. If I'm drinking wine casually, I look for a well-balanced wine. The wine that doesn't have anything to exaggerate it; harmonious wine. If I eat Thai food, I would go for something off-dry and white, because of the spicy nature of the cuisine, which doesn't go well with the tanins in red wine. If people prefer red, then I would suggest a light-bodied wine. I don't have personal preferences when it comes to wine because being a sommelier one has to have an open mind.


CHANIDAPHA "SOMM" RAKPIROM

Sommelier and restaurant manager Ki Izakaya, Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel Bangkok

How did you get into wine?

I have been in the wine business for 10 years now, a career that started with being a waitress. My manager suggested that I study wine to further my career. I was a bit intimated because the study of wine never ends and I was quite young. But because I was given a chance to learn about wines, I pursued it.

What are your thoughts on the Thai wine industry?

Since Thailand is not a real wine-growing region, a lot of development has gone into making it. Right now, the quality of Thai wine has improved and people have discovered that it goes well with Thai food, as well as Western. Many restaurants have started to serve local wines and now Thai wine can be compared to international ones. In the last five years, Thai wine consumers have grown and 80% of the people seem to know their wine. It has now become a common drink.

What do you look for in a good wine?

The first thing I look for is purity, with the second thing being my preferred choice of wine. Expensive wines are not always the right choice. You have to drink what you feel like. I love a Pinot Noir and I am a big fan of sparkling wines, as they can be enjoyed at any time. I think sparkling wines pair well with Thai food or 'meaty' food. Riesling is a good pairing for larb or yum woon sen. Shiraz is good for Thai curry or grilled pork neck.



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