Reeze Choi :
“Fine Bordeaux wines are iconic”
A finalist in this year’s Best Sommelier of the World competition, Reeze Choi has a unique background. Growing up in Hong Kong, he began his career as a waiter and worked at KFC before joining the world of sommellerie. Since then, he has had the chance to taste many fine Bordeaux wines, and it’s always an emotional experience. Interview with a Pauillac and Saint-Julien wine lover.
How did you get into wine?
I wasn’t at all destined for a future in wine. I left school early because I didn’t enjoy learning maths or English and began doing odd jobs here and there in a bakery, a convenience store and at KFC. I then started working in the restaurant industry as a waiter. One day, my manager suggested I take a closer interest in wine and that’s how I became a sommelier! I've been in the wine industry for 14 years now. In particular, I have worked at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong and other gastronomic establishments, as well as in several bistros. I tried various types of restaurants to see what would suit me the most. And in the end, a few years ago, I decided to start my own business, Somm’s Philosophy (https://www.sommsphil.com/). I now offer my consulting services to clients including restaurants and bars, helping them to create their wine lists. I also offer conferences and training programs for sommeliers.
Your unique background has not stopped you from triumphing at competitions.
I have indeed taken part in many competitions. I've been crowned Chinese sommellerie champion four times and I even came third in the Best Sommelier of the World competition in Paris this year. My next challenge is the Master Sommelier diploma, which I am currently preparing for ahead of next year’s exam.
"Fine Bordeaux wines are iconic for all sommeliers. When you begin studying wine, you always start with Bordeaux, which seems to offer a window onto the rest of the wine world (...)"
What do fine Bordeaux wines mean to you?
Fine Bordeaux wines are iconic for all sommeliers. When you begin studying wine, you always start with Bordeaux, which seems to offer a window onto the rest of the wine world because it is very traditional. During the blind tasting of the Best Sommelier of the World competition finale, we were given two glasses. One contained a 2003 Petrus, the other, a 2012 Petrus. Having the chance to taste this wine on stage was a wonderful and surprising moment for me! However, I haven’t had the chance to go to Bordeaux often. I've only been once to accompany one of my clients. I really appreciated the architecture and atmosphere. People should know that beyond its incredible wines, the city of Bordeaux is really nice. It is very clean and the people are lovely. Which is quite different from Paris (laughs)
How popular are fine Bordeaux wines in Hong Kong?
It is very important for restaurants in Hong Kong and on the Chinese market to have fine Bordeaux wines on their menus. Since working in the field, I have noticed that people in Hong Kong enjoy ordering fine Bordeaux wines in restaurants. In recent years, Bordeaux wines have been joined by other wines from other regions, since people also like discovering new things. The new generations are always on the quest for new regions and grape varieties. They are eager to try little-known wines.
What are your favourite Bordeaux wines and appellations?
I love the Pauillac and Saint-Julien appellations. But I am also a fan of Graves & Pessac-Léognan white wines. Bordeaux is often exclusively associated with red wine but white wines are wonderful. I particularly enjoy wines from Domaine de Chevalier, Château Pape Clément and Château Olivier.
© ASI / HrvProd