Anty Fung is a certified sommelier, DipWSET-qualified and a Certified Specialist of Wine. She currently divides her time managing professional wine storage Hip Cellar plus wine-and-dine concept AnOther Place; developing portfolio depth for online wine trading platform WWXplorer and teaching WSET courses at MWM Wine School by Debra Meiburg.
She has diversified her global understanding of wine and F&B management with work exposure in Hong Kong, Las Vegas and Maldives. When not drinking wine, she lavishes her attention on her corgi Yoda. We invite Anty to share a few thoughts on wine education, the F&B culture in Hong Kong and abroad, and also her Corgi.
Tell us about your journey into wines? Has it always been your dream job?
AF: I stumbled into the world of wines right upon graduation from the University of Hong Kong. By then my business and law background did not actually help me much in figuring out what I really wanted to do. There were a lot of conventional choices at the time, yet it was a fine wine event and website management role at Asian Palate that I found myself happiest with. It started there and eventually I found myself wandering into the world of food & beverage with a focus in wines. One year into switching over to being wine buyer for 1957 & Co restaurant group, I was offered the opportunity to go to Las Vegas for a 1-year externship with Charlie Palmer Group. End of that year I went on to work for Cheval Blanc Randheli in Maldives as their Assistant Chef Sommelier. I returned to Hong Kong in 2015 when I had a brief stint somming at Man Wah of Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. Combo of mere luck and destiny landed me on to Hip Cellar and AnOther Place as General Manager. I have been happily running the fine wine storage facilities and wine-friendly dining outlet since then.
In a way I’ve never known any other jobs (except for brief finance and business internships during university days) other than a career in wine. That’s my dream and I am living the dream!
Your experience has taken you to both Maldives and Las Vegas, how do you think the wine culture differs in those places compared to Hong Kong?
AF: Maldives wine culture is shaped largely by international luxury visitors as the country itself is largely Muslim, meaning most of the population cannot drink due to religious beliefs. Mainstream wines are often the fine and rare from classic wine regions, with a focus on France (in that sense, it’s very much like Hong Kong). During my time there we also sold some South African wines as well – their presence being influenced by my then-Chef Sommelier preference and the overall great quality and value-for-money that they deliver.
Las Vegas – that was a completely different scene. Californian wines dominate naturally – given the proximity of Sin City and California; and the population’s nationalistic preference. Having said that, Las Vegas, or US by and large, is truly a mature market. By that I refer to the general perception of wine as a daily staple (thus guaranteeing a vital level of consumption volume to justify the role of highly specialised wine professionals). Different dining culture between US and HK also bring about a very different level of openness to try exotic wines among diners. In US the dining (and wining) experience is often orchestrated by the service team; whilst in HK the flow of a wine-and-fine evening tends to be slightly more rigid and diner-led. It’s a chicken or the egg causality dilemma – presence of highly specialised wine professionals, or an open-minded, sizeable group of wine drinkers and consumers first?
It must be tough to juggle your MW studies along with working in the hospitality industry. How are the studies going and has it been as tough as you expected?
AF: I must admit I have not devoted as much time as ideally required towards my studies. Having said that I’ve decided not to adopt a defeatist attitude; nor trying to use my work situation as an excuse for not having worked harder. When I get time to study, I enjoy it very much. Learning more about wines from all possible directions effectively helps me appreciate wine more.
I am also fortunate enough to have an in-house (literally!) Master Sommelier. My husband Darius has provided indispensable support and extremely high-quality perspectives for me. It does make a tough journey feel less like a solo combat and more like an accompanied pursuit of knowledge, and excellence.
We are big dog lovers here at Ginsberg+Chan. Tell us about your Corgi! Does he ever have to listen to your wine rants at home?
AF: Let me start by saying: My corgi Yoda could really be a top-notch hospitality professional in his next life. By that I mean he’s incredibly good at reading people and gauging someone’s moods. Often-times when I am doing blind tastings or studying at home, he will know that he needs to be quiet. Most of the time he’d be adorably snuggling down at my chair, resting his chin on one of the caster feet.
Though if Darius is around, he tends to get a little more restless and start whining and making small barks every 10-15 minutes or so. Can’t blame a dog for being attention-seeking!
People often talk of pairing music with wine, which is quite fun and quirky. What kind of music do you enjoy listening to when you have a glass of wine yourself?
AF: I tend to like to space out, relax and chill. Ludovico Einaudi’s minimalist music has been my favorite recently. Otherwise, any music our operations manager at Hip, Taka, puts into the playlist of AnOther Place will work well for me.
Finally….if you were a bottle of wine, what would you be?
AF: Riesling. Perhaps not so much Prum (I certainly won’t even come across that elegant!) but maybe a Spatlese Riesling from fruit-expressive, larger-framed styles from sites like Niederhauser Hermannshohle or Hochheim Domdechaney. I like these two terroir’s warmth, diversity and generosity. And I ask myself to remember how Riesling is versatile whilst more importantly, always approachable. I’d expect myself to be so as a wine professional.