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The Wine Team at the Raffles Singapore

The Raffles Singapore's Wine Director Stephane SORET has worked in Georges V, Le Meurice restaurant and with Anton MOSIMANN. Prior to joining the Raffles Singapore, SORET was working in New Delhi and, before that, in Dubai.

Eric Li is the first mainland Chinese to be working as a sommelier in Singapore. He had joined the Raffles Singapore from the Grand Hyatt Beijing. LI is also a member of The Chinese Panel 2011/2012 (see story inside).

Dheeraj BHATIA hails from Mumbai and has worked in South Africa, the Oberoi New Delhi, Burj Al Arab in Dubai and Saint-Julien restaurant, Singapore, prior to joining the Raffles.

Story By Ch'ng Poh Tiong
Photos By Courtesy Of Lianhe Zaobao

The Raffles Singapore can boast one of the most international line-up of sommeliers in Asia. Their nationalities include China, India, the Philippines, and the home country. It can also lay claim to having the first and only sommelier from mainland China in Singapore.

The Raffles also possesses one of the most impressive, deepest wine lists in Singapore (the other great list, of course, is at Les Amis). A wine list, no matter how extensive or salivating is, of course, only the hardware. No matter how impressive the bottles (or magnums), you will still need good people – and attractive prices – to sell great wines.

Enters a pragmatic professional.

Stephane SORET – Director of Wine

Frenchman Stephane SORET is Director of Wine at the Raffles Singapore. He has a most impressive track record and six sommeliers under his charge.

A graduate from the CMH Hotel Management school in Paris with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management, Soret had grown up near Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the famous wine region in the Rhone Valley. He had obtained his French Sommelier Diploma in 1989 from the city of Nimes in the south of France.

"I worked for five years in New York and then four years in Napa Valley. After being away from France for nine years, I returned to work at the Georges V in Paris with Enrico BERNARDO (who won 'The World's Best Sommelier' title in 2004)."

After the stint in one of the world's most famous addresses (the legendary Georges V – a Four Seasons hotel – is owned by Saudi Arabia's Prince AL WALEED), Soret joined the Michelin starred Le Meurice restaurant, also in Paris. Later, he crossed the English Channel to work at the famed Anton Mosimann in London. After that, the Frenchman went east, first to Dubai then to Delhi and later, Singapore.

Given his vast experience, Soret adds a refereshing approach to his role as director of wine.

Don't Rip the Customer Off

"I'm a traditional French guy but, at the same time, I also explore New World wines and bring something new to those French sommeliers who only concentrate on French wine. It's a bit like Apple vs Macintosh.

"I want to bring the wine culture here but, at the same time, I'm not going to rip the customer off. So, for example, you can have a bottle of Champagne Delamotte at the Raffles for only S$120. At this price, when I sell 10 bottles, the other guy will only be selling one. It's important that your customer has some wine, any wine

"Apart from pricing, I also make things user-friendly. So, I market a Petit Chablis as a Chardonnay and categorise the wine list by grape so as to make it easier to understand. We also have 'Signature Wines' that go well with food, for example, an Austrian Gruner Veltliner at S$78 a bottle."

Soret also emphasizes the importance of those perhaps unseen factors that surround a bottle of wine.

"Anybody can put a Premier Cru on a wine list. I don't do just that but am looking at the temperature of the storage of the wine; its serving temperature; and the service. Quality control is the number one concern of my job."

"Being a wine director is to be a shrink. When I speak to the customers, I need to analyze what their experiences, expectations and perceptions of wine are in order to give them 100% satisfaction. Only after coming up with a profile of the guest, then I will recommend something. And it will always be a wine that is 20% less than what the guest expects to pay. This is what my training is all about. And it's important to remember, 'Don't be arrogant, don't rip your customer off. Work within their budget'."

Eric LI - Sommelier

The first mainland Chinese sommelier in Singapore, Eric Li was sommelier of Grand Hyatt Beijing before joining the Raffles Singapore. Originally from Hunan Province, Li remembers very well his first day on the job. "It was 23 February this year. I saw the wine list and couldn't believe we had Chateau Margaux 1900 on it (S$26,000++ or S$65,000++ in magnum). As for the difference between working here and back home, there are more opportunities to recommend wine pairings with food for the customer in Singapore, than in China where guests usually go for brands. It's a wonderful feeling that customers trust me. It adds to my job satisfaction."

Dheeraj BHATIA - Sommelier

Dheeraj Bhatia hails from Mumbai India and has worked at the Oberoi New Delhi, Burj Al Arab in Dubai, and also in South Africa. Amongst his many memories at the Raffles, "the one that struck me most is the winemaker who was as sweet as the wine, Sandrine GARBAY, winemaker of Chateau d'Yquem. When she was leaving, I had tears in my eyes. I was very impressed by her passion and philosophy of winemaking. Another memory was La Tache 2003 (S$7,800++) from Domaine Romanee-Conti. Tasting something that I had only previously read about in books, I was on Cloud 9. Two months later, I was very lucky to visit the vineyard itself in Burgundy."

(US$1 = S$1.30 • Euro 1 = S$1.75 ++ signifies 10% Service Charge and 7% GST)

NV Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs @ SGD 148 ++
NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé @ SGD 195 ++
1997 Salon « S » Blanc de Blancs @ SGD 600 ++
1995 Krug Clos d'Ambonnay Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs @ SGD 7900 ++

2007 Domaine Vincent Girardin Meursault Les Narvaux Cotes de Beaune Burgundy @ SGD 198 ++
2005 Comtes Lafon Le Montrachet Grand Cru Cotes de Beaune Burgundy @ SGD 6400 ++
1973 DRC Le Montrachet Grand Cru Cotes de Beaune Burgundy @ SGD 32000 ++ (EXCLUSIVITY RHS)

1900 Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes Premier Cru Classé Supérieur Bordeaux @ SGD 19000 ++ (EXCLUSIVITY RHS PURCHASED DIRECT FROM CHATEAU, RECORKED IN 1996)

2007 Domaine de l'Aurage Cotes de Castillon Caroline & Louis Mitjavile @ SGD 188 ++
2005 La Goulée by Château Cos D'Estournel Bordeaux @ SGD 195 ++
2005 Chateau Lascombes Margaux Deuxième Grand Cru Classé @ SGD 248 ++
1928 Chateau Beychevelle Saint-Julien Quatrième Grand Cru Classé @ 3100 ++
1947 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac (first growth since 1973) @ SGD 23100 ++
1900 Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classé Half Bottle @ SGD 18000 ++
1900 Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classé Bottle @ SGD 26000 ++
1900 Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classé Magnum @ SGD 65000 ++

All Rights Reserved · The Wine Review · 2013