Ho Chi Minh City is such a vibrant high-speed place that I consider myself lucky to have caught up with Joan Ibanez, director of food and beverage at the JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, during his recent visit here.

Joan has been working with wine for more than 20 years in three-starred restaurants in Spain, as well as stints in well-known hotels in Asia.

“Now is an exciting time in Vietnam for wine drinkers as more and more famous and interesting wines become available each year,” he said. “Certainly in the two years that I’ve been here, the interest in wine in this country has continued to grow. We naturally witness a preference for red wine in the domestic market and maybe as much as nine out of every ten bottles sold at our restaurants are red, whereas with our foreign guests, the reverse is true.” He went on to add that “I also notice an interest in wine and wine knowledge in particularly the 30- to 40-year-old age groups. I believe that prestige and aspiration are key drivers of this interest, but I also recognise a developing interest in the pairing of wines with food. At JW Marriott we run food and wine experiences to capitalise on this. This involves showcasing selected wines with southern Vietnamese cuisine and these events have become very popular.” “Currently full-bodied red wines from southern Italy and Bordeaux are the most popular with our guests plus reds made from the cabernet sauvignon, malbec and shiraz grape varieties. These are generally wine styles with soft tannins and ripe fruits. In the white wines we find that the sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio are the dominant grape varieties but we are noticing a growing interest in regions such as Burgundy. Wines with a small level of residual sugar are also relatively popular, but unfortunately we do not see much interest in sparkling.” Finally, I wanted to understand Joan’s opinion of the future development of wine culture and professional service in Vietnam. “I believe we will continue to see a growing interest in wine and this will diversify into other regions and styles. Regarding the wine service, Vietnam is already showing a great potential in this area and it would not surprise me to witness high quality wine services here in the future, with world class Vietnamese sommeliers emerging,” he said.

Joan and I selected two wines of the month:

La Cour des Dames Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Pays d’ Oc, France). Elegant, complex and velvety with good intensity. VND430,000.

Le Paradou Viognier 2016 (Ventoux, France).Great choice for pairing with Vietnamese food; slightly sweet, fresh, zesty and mineral. VND450,000.

WHERE TO FIND: Wine Embassy, 41 Quoc Huong, Thao Dien, D2.

Rupert Dean worked in the wine industry and now lives in HCMC working for Regency International. He can be contacted on rupertdean@regencyint.com