Interview with Iaro Kazachenko, Sommelier for Salt Grill Singapore and visitor to Churton
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Ukraine but live in Singapore and work as a Sommelier at Salt Grill and Sky Bar in ION Orchard.
Can you tell us about your Family?
Elder brother, Mum and Dad are all still living in Ukraine.
What made you choose wine as your passion?
I have worked in F&B for a long time, since University when I worked part time. It is something very interesting in the F&B industry for me to learn because if you have some plans to open your own place or you want to move into management then you need to know all the aspects of the work like starting from the dishwash to the front of house, like reception, working as a Sommelier, as a waiter and so on and so on.
It is your ambition to open your own place?
Yes, for now I have an idea, working in F&B to maybe one day I’ll try to open something. Mine. Like a kind of not really big place, with nice food but make it very simple with fresh food, good wine, good selection of drinks and beers, so something that makes a place not really big but cosy. Simplicity but quality.
How did you become a sommelier?
I was just keeping working and when I joined Salt Grill I got an offer from the head Sommelier Fazil Mohamed, he said “I see that you are interested in wine” (because I was always asking him a lot of questions about wine, how it is made and so on) and he said “I need a person to work in the wine department with me would you like to join me” so I joined and he is teaching me what he knows and he got the title for the Best Sommelier in Singapore in 2014 so he is a quite a good person to work with and learn from.
What is your Sommelier qualification?
For now I am just planning to study in the future and learning as much as I can from our head Sommelier, as he is a member of the Sommelier’s Association. Sometimes it is not necessary to have the qualification if you have a lot of experience working on the floor with the wines, and it means that you can even join the competitions without the certification. Like for example if you want to enter a competition you must have certificate of Sommelier or you must have at least two years experience of work. Which means it allows you to join the Master Court of Sommeliers.
How long have you been a Sommelier?
For quite a long time already, like one year. Working with the wines, working in F&B for much longer but at Salt Grill I really get involved in everything, from making the wine list, arranging everything and so on and so on. Behind the work of Sommelier – a lot of people see the person only serve the wine on the floor, but behind this – there is a lot of other things because you need to keep your cellar in a good order, you need to arrange everything properly so it makes your life and the life of the staff easier, because you are not the only person in the place who is selling the wines.
Where/when/how did you first discover Churton?
Sam was visiting Singapore and they had a tasting at Salt Tapas and after this Churton appeared on our wine list as a house pour. Churton was and still is our house pour Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. We are serving quite a lot by the glass. We have quite a large wine list and a range of prices and the Churton wines are really very good and for that price what we have and the quality is much higher.
What was your impression of Churton before your visit?
Very good wines, they don’t look like all the other wines from Marlborough. They are slightly different and now I understand why, everything is made in a very traditional and classical way and it’s biodynamic, they don’t use any chemicals and all the other wineries they grow their wines on the flat and the quality of the fruit is totally different from the flat than from these hills. So the wines perform much better than even the famous names from Marlborough like Cloudy Bay, Oyster Bay and some other wines.
How did you come to be at Churton for harvest?
Because Salt is part of an incentive program and we are buying quite a big amount of Churton wine, Berry Bros & Rudd (Churton’s distributor in Singapore) with whom we are working with said that “We would love to send one of you to visit the Churton winery”.
Is there anything about Churton vineyard that has surprised you?
I am really surprised how it is made, because I was thinking that it would be more industrial and more commercial but when I came here it is like, more like not a business but a family farm. You know, all the family working on it. They have the vineyard & they have the house on their land and everything is quite close on their land and Mandy has the office, just at the house and she is coming back to work in the vineyard. It is surprising that nowadays when wine becomes more industrial such a kind of winery is still able to survive and this makes them unique. It’s something that makes them very different to all these big companies.
Favourite Churton Wine?
Yesterday we tried the Petit Manseng and I really liked it. I hadn’t tried it before because we have only Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc on our list but this Petit Manseng is really great! It’s something that you wouldn’t expect from this wine the level of sugar of 83 grams per litre but when you are drinking it you don’t feel this and the wine is Great!
What dish would you pair with it?
It might be quite good with Foie Gras because it is quite sweet and the classical pairing with the Foie Gras is with Sauternes. It might also work quite well and nice with some Asian food, something like for example Sashimi, but with some spicy dressing for example we have such a dish at Salt; Sashimi with spicy dressing its with red and green chili, with palm sugar, with lime so this dish is not too spicy, its just lightly spicy but it might work well with the Petit Manseng. Something that is not going to overpower this flavour, so it will be nicely balanced by the concentration of acid and sugar in the wine and the slight spiciness in the food. So with Asian food it might be quite good.
Where would you be enjoying this dish and with who?
With my girlfriend in Singapore.