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A taste of a world class sommelier’s life, with Anantara’s Group Wine Guru Jirachai Sethisakko
Jirachai Sethisakko (better known as June) has been Anantara’s Group Wine Guru for five years. In between his travels, we catch up with him at his office in Bangkok to find out just what it takes to become a true wine expert.
“I started my career as a bartender in Bangkok 13 years ago, and became totally fascinated by the world of wines during my training to become a Wine Guru at Anantara Bophut Resort & Spa on Koh Samui in 2004. A year later I jumped at the chance to enter the Wine Professional of Thailand challenge and won runner up – which wasn’t bad for my first sommelier competition! The best part was the prize – a two week trip to an Italian vineyard, and from that point on I dedicated myself to becoming the best wine expert possible.”
Since then June has not only achieved this ambition, but also passes on his skills to others with the same dream. Most notably he created and now oversees Anantara’s Wine Guru Programme – an initiative with benefits that stretch well beyond classroom training.
“Anantara’s Wine Guru programme recognises that the role is just as much about personal interest and passion as it is about expertise,” enthuses June, “which is why we hire and train sommeliers that love sharing their knowledge and the stories behind the great wines we serve. As such the role is very interactive. Guests can call upon a resort’s Wine Guru to recommend the ideal wines and champagnes for their chosen meal. Tasting flights are one of our most popular experiences and these can be made even more intriguing by the fun twist of blind folding guests!”
Ensuring that each guest’s wine experience is guided by the best of the best, June is responsible for training Anantara’s elite team of Wine Gurus. “Anantara’s training courses are of the highest industry standards, and we do everything possible to encourage growth. The programme includes opportunities to learn directly from wine suppliers and winemakers to keep up to date with the latest methods, developments and trends. Our trainees travel to vineyards all around the world for authentic grass roots experiences. These combined educational elements provide a comprehensive approach to learning, and the success of our programme speaks for itself in the number of awards that Anantara Wine Gurus have won.”
In addition to training, June manages the wine lists and overall wine experience set up at new resorts, so that guests can enjoy Anantara’s impeccable standards whichever destination they travel to.
Indeed wine facilities and activities are an integral part of the Anantara experience. Much more than just a storeroom, Anantara cellars often feature a dedicated tasting area and a dining table for exclusive private occasions. Attention to detail extends to the finest crystal glassware for both technical and hedonistic purposes, with Wine Gurus selecting the perfect size and shape of glass to suit the bouquet, taste, balance and finish of each wine. Well stocked cellars house extensive collections of carefully selected New and Old World wines, rare and precious varieties, and also a private label – Anantara Art Wines from the Hua Hin Hills in Thailand, which is available in most locations worldwide.
As the conversation turns to the up and coming wines from his homeland, June is immensely proud. “The quality of Thai wines has been constantly improving over recent years and is now recognised as pairing well with international cuisines, as well as being accepted by international wine critics.”
Aside from his passion for Anantara’s wine offering, June is already dreaming of his next wine adventure. “The world of wines is an endless treasure trove that you can continuously explore, and I would love to visit Japan to learn more about sake, as well as Japanese whisky and beer.”
But that dream will have to wait for another time, and as June turns his attention to the task of fine tuning a new Anantara wine list, he pauses to give one final all important thought - “Life is too short to drink bad wine!”