Manoj Jaiswal , sommelier at Catalunya, is a techie who once dreamt of working in the IT industry. But the passion for the service industry proved to be too great to resist.
What made you want to be a sommelier?
My interest to become a wine sommelier started about 5 years ago when I was working at the Marina Bay Sands with some really talented sommeliers from Europe. Paco, Gianni, Juan and Marc guided me and encouraged me to learn about wines, since then there was no looking back. I went to educate myself and signed up for couple of courses with the assistance and encouragement from my supportive employers at Catalunya Singapore. I wanted to explore how a simple grape could become something so much more when poured in a glass! I’ve also learnt that as a sommelier, we have to keep ourselves constantly updated with what’s happening in the wine & spirits business, and in fact anything related to food & beverage!
What is so special about the wine list at Catalunya?
Catalunya Singapore’s wine list has over 300 references to date with at least 70% of our wine list comprising of Spanish wines and the rest from different wine growing countries around the world, ranging from old world to new world. We have allocated wines and special label that are made exclusively for Catalunya from some of the premium winery in Spain, you will also find few indigenous grape varietals that are from Spain. It’s special to me because before I list a wine, I get to try them and evaluate how it will make an experience for the guest, then only would I be able to recommend them confidently. Lastly, the wine list is special by the categorisation, I have separated them according to their climates, so you will find Continental, Mediterranean and Atlantic.
What are the plus points of being a born and bred Singaporean sommelier like yourself? Are there any challenges?
I have got the privilege to work with expat sommeliers and also local sommeliers. I feel that perhaps due to the lack of easy access to vineyards (to have first-hand experience about cultivating and producing wine) and less prominent wine culture (as compared to the expats’ wine culture), local sommeliers display a greater hunger to learn and that’s good! It’s a big ocean of knowledge out there and wine appreciation is a neverending learning process, every day you learn something new so what’s important is to be able and willing to learn all that we can. I also feel very lucky to have support from the Sommeliers Association Singapore as they continuously encourage the young and learning sommeliers like myself – thanks Indra, Fazil, Gerald!
What is your happiest moment as a sommelier?
My happiest moment is always when a guest tells me that the wine selected by me is the right choice. It encourages me and makes my day! It really puts a smile on my face when guests puts their trust in me, invests their money in my recommendation and when ultimately that it’s met with positive response!
What is your favourite food and wine pairing?
I would love to pair our Octopus Catalunya Style with my favourite Pazo Senorans – Albarino White Wine from Rias Baixas! It’s an ingenious varietal found in the Galician Region. The octopus comes with a crispy pork belly and potato foam which goes really well with Albarino, they complement each other with the right balance of freshness and acidity!
Share with us 2 interesting thing that is not often known about you.
I would like to travel to more wine growing regions and work during the harvesting period. Winemakers, if you are reading, you have 1 volunteer for your next harvest!
Before coming into the food and beverage industry, I always thought I would be in the IT industry, since I had a strong background in computers since young but I found my passion in the service Industry – making people smile gives me the motivation to do even better!