Uncorked: Melody Wong

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Melody Wong director of wine The Peninsula London

Related tags Melody Wong Uncorked Canton Blue Sommelier Hotel The Peninsula London Brooklands

The director of wine at The Peninsula London on 1928 Petrus, New Zealand Pinot and and Domaine Henri Jayer’s 1990 Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine
My mum used to own a book about wine tasting, which is where my early fascination with wine came from. Growing up in Hong Kong, wine was not as popular over there as it is now, and so this sparked curiosity and inspired me to learn more about it. My curiosity grew while I was at university in Switzerland. I decided to enrol in a wine course to learn more about the subject and eventually decided to pursue a career in the industry. My first sommelier job was as a commis sommelier at The Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to work at some of the best Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels across the UK.

Describe your wine list at The Peninsula London
We have a diverse and unique list of over 800 wines, ranging from classics such as a Pétrus from 1928 (a nod to the opening year of The Peninsula Hong Kong), to less obvious wines such as a Cabernet Sauvignon blanc de noir from China. Our drinks list is not only limited to wine – we’re also proud to have a selection of sake, baijiu (the Chinese rice spirit), and Chinese yellow wines. 

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters? 
Fortunately, I haven’t been involved in any major disasters, however I have experienced one or two accidental Champagne showers!

Name your top three restaurant wine lists
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Covent Garden, Cabotte in The City, and Hide in Mayfair.

Who do you most respect in the wine world? 
Small producers and winemakers – without a doubt. I feel very fortunate to exist in the same generation of winemaking as them – their wines truly capture a moment in time, and you can really taste their passion in everything that they produce.

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve come across recently? 
The 2016 Château Tinlot Grand Vin from Shandong, China – one of the oldest wineries in the country. It’s a blend of 40% Syrah and 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, and despite being aged for a couple of years, it still feels very youthful and has a lot of potential for ageing.

What are the three most overused tasting notes?
Low, medium and high were words that were used a lot when I first joined the industry. These days, I prefer using much more personal and emotive words to describe wine.

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment? 
There are a lot to choose from, but I would have to say a 1998 Nyetimber Classic Cuvée that is currently on the list at Canton Blue. It’s an excellent example of modern British winemaking.

What is your ultimate food and drink match? 
Champagne and French fries is my guilty pleasure.

Old World or New World?
For me, the lines have become blurred, so it doesn’t really matter. I prefer wines from cooler climates in either ‘world’.

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants?
Napkins with wine stains.

Who is your favourite producer right now?
Bodega Catena Zapata from Argentina. Not only is the producer a pioneer of Argentinian winemaking, she is also leading the country’s scientific wine research. Laura Catena is a true inspiration in the wine world.

As director of wine, what question do you most get asked by customers?
I get asked ‘what’s your favourite wine?’ every day. 

Which wine producing region or country is underrated at the moment
New Zealand, particularly for its Pinot Noir. Bell Hill from North Canterbury and Kusada Wines from Martinborough are some of my all-time favourites.

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why?
I’m going to go all out and choose a 1990 Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux by Domaine Henri Jayer. I didn’t get the opportunity to cross paths with Jayer as I joined the industry after he had passed, so this would truly be the perfect accompaniment to my last meal.

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