Wandering through Thao Dien one hot afternoon, I stopped at Red Apron at 49J Quoc Huong, and started talking to Nguyen Khac Huy, the business development manager.
Huy has plenty of wine experience and was Best Sommelier Vietnam in 2017. Inevitably we struck up an interesting conversation about the wine world.
“Storytelling is the key to developing an interest in wine here in Vietnam,” he said and explained how he was introduced to wine and its culture. “My girlfriend unfortunately had a heart attack when she was very young, and I learned from the Internet that red wine was good for her heart. Naturally I took it upon myself to help her with her recovery, so I started working extra hours so I could afford to buy her a glass of wine each day. As she started to recover, I began to get interested in my new hobby so I read avidly about the subject and was helped enormously by meeting Alfredo de la Casa (discoverspanishwines.com) and Jim Cawood (Lubu). They both took me under their wings and Jim gave me my first wine job. ”
Initially his friends were surprised by this career change. Huy was expected to go into music or the restaurant business, and no one had foreseen a move into wine. As Huy’s wine knowledge and love for the subject grew he went to work for Warehouse and finally, five months ago to Red Apron. Nowadays he can banter with wine connoisseurs visiting the shop about vintage characteristics, winemaking techniques and regional terroir whilst navigating the impressive Red Apron range.
He is also passionate about introducing more local consumers to the pleasures of wine and to the challenge of working with wine. “We Vietnamese will have to work hard at understanding wine and then I believe an appreciation will naturally follow. Education will also be important to facilitate this interest and I would urge people to take every opportunity to join appreciation and tasting events. People need to engage with this new culture.”
As we discuss favourite producers, he added: “I sense that the basic wine knowledge amongst the Vietnamese is improving. When I’m out and about, people are fascinated by wine production stories, wine styles and wine culture. In the future our focus will naturally start to shift towards the local population, spreading the story of wine.”
Nguyen Khac Huy’s picks are available from Red Apron stores.
2017 Villa Maria, East Coast Pinot Gris (New Zealand), VND699,000. Refreshing aromas of citrus, stone fruits with floral hints of honeysuckle. An off-dry and mild aftertaste.
2015 Camins del Priorat (Alvario Palacios, Spain), VND1,330,000. “Excellent value for a Palacios wine. Seductive floral notes of violet and rose with fresh red and black fruits, spices. A rich dry, medium-bodied wine with a lingering aftertaste.”