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Unveiling La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore’s Masterful Wine Pairings

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In a place imbued with a great history in Singapore, stands La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore, a culinary haven that marries the art of gastronomy with the finesse of exceptional wines. At the helm of the restaurant’s extraordinary wine program is esteemed Chef Sommelier Justin Wee, whose expertise and passion for viniculture elevate the dining experience to unparalleled heights.

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To aspiring sommeliers, I strongly believe that self-belief and finding a supportive mentor are key. Never give up and relentlessly pursue what you believe in.
Justin Wee

Good morning Justin, could you start by introducing yourself?

Hello and thank you for welcoming me today. I’m Justin Wee, the present Chef Sommelier at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore. My role encompasses overseeing the extensive beverage program, which ranges from Sakes to Wines, beers, and non-alcoholic beverages

Could you tell us about your path at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore? How did this adventure begin?

My path at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore, began shortly before the Covid pandemic. Prior to that, I started as a junior sommelier at the American Club in Singapore, where I had the privilege of learning under the guidance of Alvin Gho. However, seeking a new experience, I decided to take a sabbatical and ventured to New Zealand.

During my time in New Zealand, I had the opportunity to work at Hawkes Bay Winery alongside Villa Maria, gaining invaluable knowledge and expertise in the field and in harvest. Additionally, I worked with Ata Rangi Winery, further expanding my understanding of the wine industry. After my enriching experience in New Zealand, I returned to Singapore with a fresh perspective and joined the reopening of the iconic Raffles Hotel.
As part of the reopening team, I was assigned the role of a commis sommelier at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore. This marked the beginning of my adventure at this esteemed establishment. Since then, I have been dedicated to providing exceptional service and curating an exquisite beverage program that complements the culinary excellence of La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore. It has been an exciting journey thus far, and I look forward to further growing and contributing to the success of this exceptional venue.

Could you tell us about your path at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore? How did this adventure begin?

Throughout my professional journey, there have been significant elements that have enriched my current career and shaped my personal experiences. One pivotal chapter was my time at l’institut Paul Bocuse, where I had a partnership with ITE Singapore. I was part of the inaugural batch, graduating in 2013, and we had the opportunity to reside in France for a considerable period. Additionally, I embarked on a personal exploration by living in Champagne and Bordeaux, immersing myself in the region’s vineyards and learning directly from winemakers.

Undoubtedly, my time in France has had a profound impact on my professional progression. Singapore, being a prominent tourism and international hub, offers a vast array of international varietals and labels. However, without our own vineyards, it is crucial for Singaporeans to venture abroad and immerse themselves in the tradition and vineyards of winemaking. I was fortunate enough to spend time with Chef Anne-Sophie Pic in the northern Rhône, working closely with her and her chef sommelier, Levinson. Together, we journeyed through the vineyards, engaging in conversations with winemakers in the Rhône Valley, Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, and Saint Joseph. Witnessing the breath-taking vineyards, exploring individual parcels, and being in the presence of the vines themselves was a truly magical experience.

These professional and personal endeavors have profoundly enriched my current career. They have broadened my understanding of wine, deepened my appreciation for the winemaking process, and provided me with invaluable insights into different terroirs and winemaking techniques. Ultimately, these experiences have shaped who I am as a chef sommelier, enabling me to curate an exceptional beverage program and offer unique experiences to our guests at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore.

Could you share with us your key milestones so far and the biggest challenges in your career?

Among the various challenges I have encountered, one particularly significant moment stands out to me, which occurred during the Covid situation in Singapore. At that time, we were required to clear all alcoholic glasses from the tables by 10:30 pm. This posed a significant obstacle for us as we take great pride in creating a holistic dining experience, complete with thoughtfully crafted beverage pairings. The necessity to remove the glasses temporarily disrupted our ability to provide that seamless experience, and it was quite unfortunate.

However, despite this setback, we adapted and found creative ways to continue delivering an exceptional dining experience to our guests. Today, I am delighted to say that many of our patrons are truly enjoying the dining experience we offer, despite the challenges we faced during that time. It serves as a testament to our resilience and commitment to providing an outstanding culinary and beverage journey for our guests.

Can you describe the role of a sommelier, and how someone becomes one?

In all honesty, becoming a sommelier is a path that anyone can embark on. However, it requires dedication, time, and perseverance, along with a resilient mindset. This is especially true in a market like Singapore, where alcohol and wines can be quite expensive. To navigate tastings and develop expertise, having a mentor is crucial, and I consider myself blessed to have had that guidance. Additionally, finding the right institution is essential to express oneself and gain a deep understanding of classic varietals.

There are several certifications available for aspiring sommeliers, such as the French Wine Scholar and the Masters of Champagne, which I am personally striving to pursue. Additionally, there is the renowned WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust), which is well-known among consumers and enthusiasts alike.

Becoming a sommelier goes beyond just acquiring knowledge; it is a journey that requires continuous learning, honing of skills, and a passion for the world of wines and beverages. It is through this dedication and exploration that one can truly excel in the field and provide exceptional experiences to guests.

What is your favorite wine region and why? Do you serve some at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore?

I have a profound appreciation for the region of Champagne due to its captivating culture, time-honoured traditions, and rich history. What fascinates me the most is the diverse range of wine styles produced in this region, each with its unique approach to winemaking. Moreover, the constant evolution and innovation within the Champagne industry make it a truly dynamic and exciting field to explore.

One particular gem that I am currently enamoured with is the Elise Dechannes “Essentielle”. It offers a delightful experience where one can savour the taste of steely style of Champagne. This represents an intriguing departure from the more traditional approaches, showcasing the region’s ongoing exploration and development.

What is your favorite wine region and why? Do you serve some at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore?

In my approach, I begin by studying the market and trends in Singapore to gain insights into what consumers truly enjoy. However, I also prioritize the quality and the story behind the wines I select. Our selection at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore, encompasses a wide range, including offerings from both renowned Maisons and small producers. We strive to showcase wines not only from Champagne but from every corner of the world, such as Japan, allowing our guests to embark on a journey of discovery.

In curating our selection, I emphasize transparency in production, ensuring that our guests can easily identify the origins and methods behind each wine, even extending to our offerings of Sakes and non-alcoholic options. Trends play a significant role as well, as they evolve over time. At La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore, we stay ahead of the curve by crafting a well-rounded experience that encompasses not just the wines but also the production of non-alcoholic beverages. It is about offering a complete package that aligns with the gastronomic culture and cuisine we embrace.

By combining our knowledge of market trends, the quality of wines and their stories, and the harmonious pairing with our culinary creations, we strive to provide a holistic and memorable experience for our guests at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore.

How many bottles are there in the wine cellar at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore, and how do you work with these?

Our wine selection here consists of just over 400 bottles, offering a diverse range to cater to various preferences. Understanding the needs and desires of our guests is paramount. When engaging with them, we ask relevant questions to ascertain their preferences and guide them accordingly. For instance, we may inquire whether they are seeking a gastronomic Champagne experience, such as Champagne Krug, to embark on their journey. Alternatively, we might suggest a refreshing option like a Blanc de Blancs. By asking these questions, we allow our guests to lead us in the right direction, ensuring a tailored and satisfying experience.

In terms of pairings, we encourage our guests to place their trust in our sommeliers. Our team possesses a wealth of knowledge and expertise in harmonizing wines with our culinary offerings. We carefully consider the flavors, textures, and overall composition of the dishes, making recommendations that enhance the dining experience. By fostering a sense of trust, we aim to create memorable pairings that elevate our guests’ enjoyment and further enrich their overall experience at La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore.

Do you have any future projects?

At La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore, we strive to be distinct by brewing our own beer, incorporating a unique beer identity into our fine dining establishment. This stems from the observation that in Singapore, diners at Hawker spaces often enjoy a delicious meal paired with a cold brew beer. We wanted to integrate this cultural aspect into our pairing experience. To achieve this, we produce our beers in small, exclusive batches exclusively for La Dame de Pic, Raffles Singapore.

As a conclusion, which advice would you like to give to wine drinkers?

Embrace the joy of starting with a glass of champagne and trusting your sommelier. These professionals have dedicated themselves to studying, passing exams, and competing, ensuring they understand our menu inside and out. Let go of the decision-making and allow the sommelier to guide you on a delightful journey.

What makes it even more exciting is that our menu is ever-changing. This presents an opportunity to taste a wide variety of wines from around the world and explore the possibilities. In curating this experience, I focus on elevation, contrast, and harmony, combining these elements to create a captivating journey for you to enjoy.

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