Expand your wine repertoire at wine/coffee omakase mato, where sommelier Wallace Lo showcases bottles from more unusual grapes and independent wineries.
A self-styled wine/coffee omakase in Central, mato invites guests to go beyond their usual Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs and sample bottles from up-and-coming independent wineries alongside classic old-world vintages. As they debate the finer points of the wines, diners can seek clarification from Wallace Lo, a certified advanced sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers, who was crowned Best Sommelier of Greater China by the Hong Kong Sommelier Association in 2013 and ranked #23 in the Association de la Sommeliere Internationale Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World 2016.
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What makes mato different?
There aren’t a lot of different wine bars in Hong Kong, and they tend to focus only on, say, French or natural wines, but for us, so long as they taste good, we’ll put it on the list regardless of where it comes from, or what type of wine it is. Mato takes an omakase approach, where we recommend things, so it’s quite educational.
We want to encourage diners to realise that wine pairing is not just for fine dining but can be something casual too. To us, wine is something you need to compare: what is full-bodied, acidic, what’s a high-altitude wine, and so on, which is why we introduce six different wines at the “all you can taste” sessions. Guests still look at the wine list, but I’ll make recommendations based on what they usually like to drink. We want them to try something they wouldn’t drink at home.
Do you offer blind tastings?
Yeah, a lot of guests do a blind tasting to see if they can work out the geographic area and so on. If people know wine a little already, the blind tasting will help them focus, and really think about the flavours. Coming to mato is a chance for people to learn a little bit more about wine without going to wine school.
“We want to encourage diners to realise that wine pairing is not just for fine dining but can be something casual too.”Wallace Lo
Which wines are going down well?
It’s the Australian and Spanish wines that aren’t so widely available in the market. Mencia, a full-bodied red from Spain, and Durif, a spicy red from Australia, are doing well, as they’re not super-pricey, and stylistically they’re very complete and they’re suitable for everyone from wine geeks to beginners. Our German wines are also going down well, especially dry wines like Riesling.
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What are some of your favourite wine-food and coffee-food pairings?
We have a very popular small bites dish – Black Angus beef balls served with a black truffle sauce – that pairs well with an Italian wine, Ada Nada, which has a floral tone. Our crab dish, served with the head of the crab and crab roe, is my favourite dish, and that goes well with Australian wine Unico Zelo. If I’m having a port, I like to have some chocolate, and we’ll host a single-origin chocolate pairing platter this month. We’ve teamed up with the Chocolate Club Hong Kong, and guests can sample brands including Taiwan’s Fu Wan, Dandelion from the US, and Solkiki from the UK.
A lot of people in Hong Kong, especially the younger generation, think wine costs a lot, and it’s just for businesspeople or birthdays. The craft beer scene is going strong in Hong Kong, and we want wine to be the same.
Are there any wine-food pairings that we should avoid?
I wouldn’t say there is any you should avoid, as unless you taste the mistakes, it’s hard to understand what works and what doesn’t. I think you can find a suitable wine for any dish. It’s best to go for a straightforward, simple wine, and don’t overthink it.
What’s your go-to coffee?
I prefer washed coffee from Ethiopia and Kenya. The language of coffee with food is very similar. Coffee is an agricultural product, and the taste reflects where it’s from. Coffee can offer some very beautiful acidity. We’ve discovered that a barbecue platter, including pork trotters, paired well with a single-origin Kenyan coffee.
How should we nose and taste wine?
We focus a little too much on the fruit when we’re drinking, but if you do a blind tasting, then it’s more about tannin and structure, the acidity, and its body, that’s what makes wine enjoyable. The structure is very important. If wine doesn’t have that acidity, it’s very flabby, and not easy to drink. As you smell the wine, think about how intense the nose is. Swirl, smell, and then analyse what the wine is trying to say.
“The language of coffee with food is very similar. Coffee is an agricultural product, and the taste reflects where it’s from.”Wallace Lo
You’re a frequent judge for global wine events. What has that experience taught you?
It’s very good training, and it’s great to meet sommeliers from around the world, all of whom have different palates. During one of those experiences, I was working with Decanter magazine, and we had to be very precise in our assessments. It’s about the difference between a 90+ wine and an 88 and working out what’s missing and why one bottle is slightly better than the other.
What’s coming up for mato in 2023?
We’re going to do some crossovers with different chefs from Italian and French restaurants, and some snack menu platters. We want to deliver solid assessments of our wines without being too much like a classroom and spread the joy of drinking wine.
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