If Christmas comes with the dreadful task of impressing your snobby wine-drinking buddies, then let wine expert Justin Wee do the job for you.
The Singaporean sommelier might know a thing or two. He is armed with a qualification from the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers, and a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts with restaurant management from Paul Bocuse Institute. He was part of BBR by Alain Ducasse’s opening team. Now chef sommelier at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore, he helped the French restaurant win its first Michelin star this year.
In his current role, Wee curates a wine list that leans towards French regions, with a focus on chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s birthplace in the Rhône Valley. He is also equally adept at stocking the menu with other varieties, including a vibrant Portuguese white wine and a broad-shouldered cabernet sauvignon from California’s Alexander Valley.
With Christmas looming, we pick his brain on affordable alternatives to expensive wines, styles that go with a variety of dishes, and how to put a smile on your obnoxious wino friend’s face.
Sommelier Justin Wee’s tips on picking wine for Christmas parties
For an affordable wine that still impresses
“We always need some bubbles! Gramona Corpinnat Imperial Brut from Spain brings the fizz to any party, and it’s best to bring it in a magnum bottle so everyone has a glass. For someone that doesn’t take bubbles, a sauvignon blanc from Domaine Vacheron is always a delicious way to begin any celebration.”
For a wine that pairs with seafood and meat
“A mouth-watering, savoury pinot noir from Martinborough, New Zealand always does the job for me, and my personal favourite is the 2018 Ata Rangi. It is absolutely delicious. Alternatively, bubbles from Champagne house Jacquesson Cuvée 745 is an absolute stunner with the long finish and depth in flavours.”
For a wine that matches local dishes
“To go with local spices, I always talk about drinking something that I have on my selection by the glass and wine pairings at La Dame de Pic. I would choose a beautiful glass of viognier from Condrieu, Domaine Pierre Gaillard.”
For a wine that shakes up the omnipresent New Zealand sauvignon blanc
“From the Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan, Grace Wine has a delicious gris de koshu. Delicate fruits and fresh with a lively acidity.”
For a natural wine that will convince your old school wine-drinking friends
“If it’s a red, I would bring a bold and elegant syrah from the region of Cornas, part of chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s selection. The Northern Rhône wine is savoury and opulent in flavour. A white would be a savagnin from Les Dolomies, Jura. Great with food and something fun to explore away from familiarity. And for a bottle of bubbles, I would introduce a champagne from Elise Dechannes, Rosé de Saignée Brut Nature with zero sugar. The sexy, deep red hue, prolonged maceration, and fine bubbles make it delicious whether accompanied by food or not.”
(Main and featured images: skynesher / E+ / Getty Images; Raffles Hotel Singapore)