Wine Tasting For a Living
BevMo evaluator Wilfred Wong talks wine.
Courtesy of Wilfred Wong
Wilfred Wong got his start as a wine connoisseur when working for his family’s Ashbury Market in the early 1970s. He was delivering groceries across town in San Francisco when he was invited to taste a 1968 BV Burgundy and a 1971 German Riesling, and decided he needed to know more. Since 1995, he has worked for East Bay–originated BevMo, first as a buyer and now as an evaluator of roughly 8,000 wines each year.
Q: Is there a difference between tasting wine and drinking wine, or should all of us who like to drink wine try to get a job like yours?
A: There’s definitely a difference between tasting and drinking. If I’m doing what I consider an analytical tasting, I spit out the wine. I spit out some of the most expensive wines in the world.
Q: Does that ever just about break your heart?
A: When I do supercool tastings, I’ll bring in some food, and we’ll do the analytical tasting first, and then actually drink the wine.
Q: Is there an East Bay wine that you like a lot?
A: I like one of the Zinfandels at Viano Vineyards in Martinez. It’s the Sand Rock Hill Zinfandel.
Q: Is it ever problematic to be a taster working for a big liquor store?
A: Yes, it’s always problematic, but I just do my due diligence and report accurately. If I kill a wine, too bad. If a buyer bought a lot of wine and made a hard commitment before passing it to me, then too bad.
Q: When you’re sharing wine with friends, not just tasting but drinking wine, has anyone ever told you that you look like the Dalai Lama?
A: It has come up. It’s a great compliment to be thought of in that class.