What is your full name and Job Position?
My name is Thierry Berno but you might also call me T-Bone, Tight T or Tigrou depending on how and where we met. I am the new Branch Manager for Italasia Hua Hin.
How long have you been with the company?
The team of Italasia welcomed me a couple of months ago. After a short training in BKK I moved to Hua Hin.
What do you like most about your job?
I love people and I love wine. I get to hang out with both in this job. Of course there is a reasonable amount of pressure associated to the position but for the most part it suits my personality very well.
Who or what led you to the wine industry?
I started in this industry in South Korea with my mentor Kwak Dong Young. She is an incredible woman, she’s the first Korean recipient of the French BP sommelier, and she still leads her company to success. I helped her build the first Korean importing company of Organic, Biodynamic and Natural wines, and as a result I was exposed to this style of wines early on and developed a fondness for them. However I appreciate traditional wines as well and I am willing to taste anything.
Another person that mattered to me was the legendary chef Pierre Gagnaire whose passion transpired into me when we worked together on some projects in Korea. He is a force of nature in the kitchen and an incredibly gentle human being.
What are the current market trends in wine?
The market is just recovering from a devastating blow in the past 2 years so it is still hard to decipher the general trends. We continue to see a push towards more premium products and we are slightly moving back from Off-trade to On-trade as people resume going out. It also seems that the RTD category (Ready-To-Drink) is popular with young Thai consumers who are attracted to the sweet and fruity flavor profile and the colorful packaging.
Interestingly we have local trends as well and in Hua Hin we can see some categories stand out. The wines from Puglia, and especially the Primitivo, are very strong and so are the bold wines from Veneto that use the appassimento method such as Amarone or Ripasso.
Finally, and probably due to the strong European community in Hua Hin, we have a lot of connoisseurs of white wines from Northern Italy and Austria.
Your Hua Hin store has hundreds of different wine brands, which ones do you think are the hidden gems, not yet generally discovered?
The wines of Alois Lageder are of fantastic value and it is a good example of a wine maker that can assemble traditions and modernity. We also have some 2007 San Giorgio by Lungarotti that requires a bit of decanting but is absolutely outstanding for the price.
Outside of wine, what will the first-time visitor to your store be surprised to find?
We actually carry a complete solution for the Food and Beverage business. We have Illy Coffee, Monin Syrup, San Benedetto Water, Chinaware and Stemware. I suppose a first-time visitor would be most surprised to find out that we distribute Plant-Based Milk with the brand Orasi.
How many locations does Italasia have in Thailand and do you have other locations in Hua Hin?
We have 9 branches apart from Bangkok and we expanded the number of showrooms to 24. 13 in Bangkok and 11 upcountry. In Hua Hin we have the Showroom in Sundance and a warehouse on Phet Kasem road. We plan on having some pop-up stores around the city this year as well.
What are your favorite wines and why?
Wine has the surreal ability to bring back some memories of places and people. I remember getting emotional just by sniffing on a Leon Barral Valinières. I hadn’t been home for a long time and the notes of Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender, Earth and Pine sap reminded me vividly of my beloved hills in Provence. More recently the Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs and the Alois Lageder “AM Sand” Gewürztraminer blew me away. And by the way, both can make an interesting pairing with Thai Food’s bold flavours.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to increase their wine knowledge?
Get yourself a crew of like-minded people to taste with. You will need to try a lot of wines on your journey to extend your palate and it is always easier to do so when you have people to share it with. Always welcome different opinions and stay open minded.
If you feel shy at first, join an introduction class. You will naturally meet up with your classmates and grow together.
What do you like to do in your free time and why?
I play the bass with various bands. I could find analogies between wines, music and cuisine all day. They are all a language in a way and the more you practice it, the more you become fluent in it.
By the way we have a project this year to open a place in Hua Hin that will appeal to all senses so stay tuned.
Tell us a surprising fact that the public might not know about you?
My Granduncle was a popular writer and one of his book received a cinema and a TV adaptation. First on the Rope (Premier de cordée) by Roger Frison-Roche.