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From Singapore to Switzerland, with a healthy detour in Portugal… Pek Zhi Xiang’s journey in wine has mirrored the globetrotting educational experience that is studying at Les Roches.
Today Pek is President of Les Roches Wine Club. And he is putting all his oenology expertise to the test, as he spearheads the biggest event in Les Roches’ wine calendar: WOWExpo.
Held this year on 13 April, WOWExpo is a celebration of the quality and diversity of Swiss wines. It features workshops, tastings and lots more for the wine enthusiast.
For Pek, leading WOWExpo is one of the privileges that come with the presidency of the Wine Club, a 100% student-run society that helps to bring the passion and delight of winemaking alive across campus.
“As a club, our core message is not to be afraid of wine,” he explains. “We know it can seem a scary subject, and there is certainly a bit of snobbery around wine, but it is something that everyone should enjoy.”
You don’t need to study wine to appreciate it.
Pek admits that he had only a passing knowledge of wine when he arrived at the Bluche campus, although the fact that his father enjoyed a glass of something nice with dinner meant it wasn’t totally unfamiliar territory.
“Once I came here my eyes – and taste buds – were truly opened,” he says. “We are lucky that in our first semester we concentrate on the practical arts. This includes the excellent wine classes led by our Service Instructor Vincenzo Aiosi (you can hear more from Vincenzo ).
“I was also introduced to the Wine Club in my first semester, since the president at that time was another guy from Singapore called Alexander Peh. Now I’m in semester six and I’m the President!”
Pek’s current favorite in the world of wines is Portugal. “People know the fortified port wine, but the Portuguese also make great reds, whites, rosés and sparkling wines,” he says. “In fact, the country has the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, in the Douro Valley. Whether you tend to favor French, German, American or other producers, I would wager that you’ll find a Portuguese equivalent that’s just as good – and maybe for a third of the price.”
It’s Swiss wines, however, that are the focus of WOWExpo. The 2019 event has managed to attract an outstanding array of wineries – around 20 at the last count – with the organizing team on track to achieve their ambition of having every one of Switzerland’s six winemaking regions represented.
For Pek, the highlight of the day is going to be the opening workshop focused on the growing phenomenon of natural wines.
He explains, “We will get to hear from both traditional and natural winemakers, as well as having the chance to experience a guided tasting. This is a direction that the industry is heading, so it will be an excellent opportunity to tackle some of the misconceptions that exist.”
As for his own future in wine, Pek is keeping his options open. He says he thoroughly enjoyed his first internship opportunity, which saw him pitched into the role of assistant sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Portugal.
He has also completed his WSET Level 2 Award in Wines & Spirits, and is heading to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) School in London to take his WSET3 in the summer.
“After that I’m thinking of doing the Court of Master Sommeliers qualifications too. When I get home to Singapore it could be interesting to set up some sort of wine club concept similar to the one we enjoy here. But that’s for the future. For now, we’re all 100% focused on making this year’s WOWExpo the biggest and best ever.”
· Find more information and book your tickets here: WOWExpo 2019
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