SINGAPORE: Mason and Alexander might seem like the title of a speakeasy you vaguely glossed in excess of on Instagram and manufactured a mental take note to visit when Friday comes all around. But, no. They are, in fact, two of the most talented and assured young sommeliers primarily based in Singapore who are transforming the experience of wine appreciation and enjoyment on their personal terms.
MASON NG, HEAD SOMMELIER, ATLAS
Constantly impeccably set collectively, Mason Ng, 22, cuts a polished figure as the head sommelier of ATLAS and presides in excess of its substantial Champagne selection. Wine has a specific place in his heart. “It’s a vessel that connects enthusiasm, discussions and associations,” he reported. And it’s also a philosophy grounded in personalized encounter.
“When I was fourteen, my uncle from Johor would visit us in Kuala Lumpur numerous moments a yr and carry together wines from Singapore. I commenced to obtain textbooks by Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, and that is how my desire grew,” he reported.
Eighteen and refreshing out of large college, he appeared destined for daily life as a vocation accountant. With only a months prior to he was because of to enroll in a Hong Kong university, he took a gamble and utilized for work opportunities at in excess of 30 eating places in Singapore. “I imagine my moms and dads were being thinking that no a single would want me in any case,” he reported.
In April 2014, he gave up his degree with his parents’ blessing, and commenced his vocation in fine food stuff and wine.
Ng first minimize his enamel at the Les Amis Group for practically 3 years, through which he lived and breathed wine. In just six months of work, he grew to become the youngest Licensed Sommelier in Asia at the age of 19 – no imply feat for a rookie.
“I examined each working day, did break up shifts, survived on coffee and attended instruction sessions at work. It was a single of the most tiring moments of my daily life,” Ng reported. “I learnt to decant from YouTube and I viewed each one online video to figure it out.”
A very important portion of the exam is the blind tasting element, which means he experienced to obtain and test as several wines as humanly probable. “And I expended all my savings on wine.”
His greatest assets would transform out to be the associations he cultivated.
He credits his mentor Yeo Xi Yang, head sommelier at the Black Swan, for influencing his heat and impeccable support design and style.
“He taught me a good deal on how to converse to company,” Ng reported. “We experienced distinctive approaches to work but he would constantly seek my impression. Devoid of him, I would not be exactly where I am now.”
As time went by, company grew to become agency mates who valued his wine tips. A person working day, in excess of meal, someone questioned him if he has any intention to shift.
That established in movement the subsequent chapter of his wine experience as Singapore’s youngest head sommelier in November 2016. ATLAS would only re-open in March the next yr after renovations, but the clock was ticking.
“We commenced from scratch producing the wine list. The thought was to create a Champagne campaign,” Ng reported.
Alongside one another with Jack Cheung, the family members sommelier of the ParkView Group, he finally sourced a stunning list of in excess of 250 Champagne labels that is basically spectacular.
His still wine variety, however, was initially constrained to a incredibly complicated 20 reds and 20 whites.
“It took a while for me to figure it out,” he reported. “I commenced with two hundred bottles every single and experienced to minimize it down. For the reason that I’m incredibly familiar with the Old Entire world, I resolved to do some thing enjoyment and experimented with anything from Savoie and Coteaux Champenois to Ratafia de Champagne and Grüner Veltliner.”
His intuition paid out off. His still wines were being so well known that he got the go in advance to extend his selection to 50 reds and 50 whites.
Ng strongly believes that wine need to be accessible. “Anyone who comes in need to be equipped to purchase a bottle of wine that is reasonably priced,” he reported.
And simply because the list has handed his exacting specifications, you know you’re in great fingers.
“For my technology, info is just clicks away,” Ng reported. “Eight or 9 years back, the sommelier was king, but not anymore. But it’s been great for sommeliers, as well. We can discover a good deal on line incredibly quickly.”
And if he could have a single previous bottle of wine, what would it be?
“The 1961 Haut-Brio,” he reported. “It was the farewell wine I experienced with Yang when I remaining Les Amis, and it is till this working day our finest wine.”
The 22-yr-aged will be getting on the rigorous Sophisticated Sommelier exam subsequent yr, which only has a 30 for every cent passing amount. Outside of that, he has established his sights on the best badge of honour – Master Sommelier – prior to he hits 30.
ALEXANDER PEH, Meals & BEVERAGE Manager AND TRAINEE, 4 SEASONS Hotel SINGAPORE
Alexander Peh, 24, caught the vinous bug when he turned 19.
“It was my 19th birthday and my dad proposed a great cafe,” he shared. “I experienced the beef ragù and the sommelier recommended a Barbera.”
He added: “It was like I’d been punched in the experience! I didn’t know what was occurring, what I was executing.”
Right after that pivotal, daily life-transforming second, things moved incredibly swiftly. Peh enlisted for Countrywide Assistance and commenced researching wine, getting WSET (Wine & Spirit Instruction Trust) courses in Singapore. By his 20th birthday, he experienced turn out to be the youngest Licensed Sommelier in Singapore. “Until Mason came together!” he exclaimed.
YouTube would the moment yet again confirm indispensable. “I would research in camp through breaks and observe films on How To Open A Champagne Bottle,” Peh reported.
This April, he was the runner-up in the Southeast Asia and Taiwan Greatest Sommelier Competitors 2017. 4 months earlier, in December, he edged out additional seasoned sommeliers and positioned second in the Singapore Countrywide Sommelier Competitors 2016.
Gerald Lu, a great pal and an achieved regional sommelier, took Peh beneath his wing and encouraged him to go after his enthusiasm for wine, support and hospitality, and he has been a single consistent in Peh’s daily life.
“I experienced an accelerated, fingers-on encounter understudying Gerald,” he reported. “I owe him a good deal.”
Peh came back to Singapore earlier this yr after graduating from the Les Roches Global College of Hotel Management in Switzerland and he now plays a part in shaping and producing 4 Seasons Hotel’s wine list a good deal additional attention-grabbing for company, most of whom he states are incredibly new to the wine scene. “I like the thought of a buffet wine flight exactly where we introduce them to vintage pairings like Bordeaux by the glass, to complement the menu of the working day at A person Ninety,” he reported.
His would like is for any person to stroll into a lodge like the 4 Seasons for distinctive wine experiences, without the need of having to stress about the invoice, and that is exactly what the lodge is providing – ‘100 Beneath $100’.
He reported: “I see it as finding to a amount exactly where company come to feel they do not have to stress about selling prices.”
“I’d also like to create an exclusive list of rare vintages that just can’t be located or are in constrained portions for our eating places A person Ninety and Jiang Nan Chun,” he continued. “These specially curated lists would feature rare producers at a great price ratio.”
Becoming a specialist sommelier, however, is not the aspiration. “I come to feel the sommelier vocation is a incredibly specialised industry in terms of vocation decision. I’ll have the prospect to interact with wines in my F&B part. So I see myself using the services of someone much better than myself to help with the wine list, simply because I will fully grasp the individual that I retain the services of,” Peh defined, stating he envisions this to be a complementary partnership.
“Wine is about experiences and the men and women it delivers collectively,” Peh reported. “Sometimes, the earth seems a little bit nicer with a little bit of alcohol.”
What information does he have for aspiring sommeliers?
“Don’t be frightened of difficult work. If enthusiasm calls, go for it. It may possibly not be the most celebrated of work opportunities but in the extensive operate fulfilment is additional essential.”