Melody Wong, director of wine at The Peninsula, London – the most awaited hotel opening in 2023 – explains the importance of sensations and how to enhance your wine experience.
Fine wine and dining are Melody Wong’s life. With over a decade’s experience in buying wines for some of the most renowned 5-star hotels, she has just designed the drinks portfolio for London’s new Peninsula hotel.
Impeccable both in the way she presents herself and her knowledge of wine and hospitality. Melody Wong is admired by peers and guests and there’s not much she doesn’t know about wine in a high-end hospitality environment. Her experience saw her recognised as the top first female sommelier in the UK at the Top 100 Sommeliers this year.
While London is a mature market, often we sommeliers know what works and what doesn’t. It is important for me to have the courage to not play it so safe. Be more creative. Braver.
“After opening three top hotels and restaurants, I feel that the biggest challenge is to challenge myself,” she reveals with characteristic humility. “While London is a mature market, often we sommeliers know what works and what doesn’t. It is important for me to have the courage to not play it so safe. Be more creative. Braver.”
When setting about building a new list for such a prominent launch Wong says that she “invests lots of time focussing on layout and design. I believe in the visitor experience¡ which is often underrated. Attention to the wine list’s layout, font size, texture and thickness of the paper, all enhance the overall experience.” She emphasises, “For the wine selection – quality is always the key.”
She also believes that “balance is extremely important. You have to include a range of prices, preferences, and at the same time, satisfy a vast range of palates. While creating a wine list, I like to have a fresh pairs of eyes to look at the draft. They have to be wine connoisseurs and occasional drinkers’ because their opinions help me to understand what a wine list lacks.”
Sensations of belonging
When it comes to enjoying a glass of wine at The Peninsula, London Wong hopes that “all our guests feel a sense of belonging. We focus a lot on the detail. Sensations; what they see, lighting and wine list layout. Touch; texture and paper thickness. And what they hear; the music and how we present the list. These are all little steps before the guest enjoys their first sip of wine.”
It is essential to add value to the whole wine experience.
For Wong, her job always makes her feel special. “We are able to create memories and emotions thanks to our work – this applies to both guests and colleagues.” Her ideal team has to be “very passionate about perfection and detail, whilst still being open-minded, not fearful of change. They have to have a “let’s do it” approach.” She feels that everyone in the team should be free to share their ideas and suggestions. “It is great to create a healthy environment where a sommelier is encouraged to have personality and passion when dealing with the guests,” she adds.
Memories of mother
“My first memories of wine are of my mother, ” Wong reveals when asked about how she got into wine. “When she ocassionally drank she always had a little pocketbook on hand on how to taste Back then it was rather unusual, wine was not a popular beverage in Asian back in 90s.” This ignited a curiousity in her about the flavours in wine “leading me to become interested in learning about it,” she says.
Following a stint at university in Switzerland, she moved to London with the aim of becoming a sommelier. “Despite having very little knowledge and experience, I was very fortunate to be offered my first position as commis sommelier at a 5-star hotel,” she says. Her journey in wine had only just begun. Ten years later she is at the helm of the entire wine experience for The Peninsula, London, who knows what her next 5-star challenge will be.
Where you can drink at The Peninsula
Guests can enjoy a glass at one of 3 restaurants and 2 bars.
Offering a wide range of Chinese Baijiu (traditional rice-made beverage). The most popular spirit consumed in the world but yet to be introduce to the UK market from the Far East. Wong has designed a number of Baiju Flights and by-the-glass options, alongside the wine list it is packed with wines from small, quality producers to discover, plus The Peninsula signature pairing of Peking duck with aged sherry. “Not to missed,” says Wong.
The heart of the hotel. The restaurant offers a great list of rare and unique champagne and English sparkling wine. Wong reveals, “We also have some interesting projects in discussion which will provide dynamic experiences soon to be announced.”
Brooklands Restaurant & bar
An extensive list with plenty of classic regions but also some fun wines to discover and old vintages.