Head Sommelier – John Chan
Francophiles and oenophiles alike may be surprised to learn that Head Sommelier John Chan actually discovered his love for the fruits of the vine on the sandy shores of Oahu, where he bartended his way through University of Hawaii. Riding a wave of local interest in wine, the Hong Kong native returned home to train under leading French sommeliers at high profile and Michelin-starred restaurants. During his ten years as sommelier, Chan’s professional achievements include winning first place in the 2006 Hong Kong Sommelier Competition. Known in the industry for his encyclopedic knowledge and creative pairings, Chan also has a reputation among Amber guests for his poetic descriptions such as one Pinot Noir which he calls “a most charming lady in a silk dress.”
Wearing a mischievous grin, Chan refers to his wines as his “toys” although he takes his work very seriously. “Wine is elemental to the Amber dining experience because of our Culinary Director Richard Ekkebus is as much a wine guru as a great chef,” Chan explains. “We spend quite a lot of time tasting together. Richard is as passionate about matching wine as he is with creating his award winning dishes.”
Working closely with the Amber Culinary Director, Chan has created a masterful wine list of 1,100 unique labels, focused on Old World French wines but with a strong commitment to discovery. Amber’s location in Hong Kong helps, Chan says, because the abolition of import tax on wine has “literally opened up a world of choices” previously unavailable to diners in Hong Kong.
“Diners here possess sophisticated palates and a willingness to explore. I like to surprise them by introducing wines I believe will be the next mainstream. Wines from Germany excite me right now, not just Rieslings but wonderful red wines as well.” Chan nurtures his passion through extensive travels across wine regions on every continent in search of new vintages. Diners back at Amber benefit from his insatiable curiosity. “I’m amazed by the port wine culture around Douro in Portugal that they are using to make dry reds,” Chan says of his recent travels. “This is an exciting transition I’ll be watching for my Amber guests.”
Asked to select only one wine to bring with him to a deserted island, Chan opts for Chateau Musar without hesitation. The winery, just north of Beirut in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley may represent an unheralded contemporary viticulture but Chan points out that the Merwah and Obaideh grapes that go into his beloved white 1989 and red 1970 vintages are the same as those enjoyed by the ancient Romans.
Here in the modern world, Chan actively nurtures rising Hong Kong wine professionals as one of the few facilitators for SOPEXA and also serves as a jury member for Everyday Bordeaus, organized annually by Bordeaux Wine Council, in which a panel of wine experts is carefully selected to blind taste and select 100 quality Bordeaux wines of great value and pleasure.
Of pairing wines from around the world with Amber’s innovative dishes, Chan insists “I’m equally excited to share my knowledge with wine connoisseurs and neophytes alike. The potential for anyone to enhance their Amber dining experience with the right wine keeps me motivated every day and late into the Hong Kong night.”