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Looking ahead: Winne Toh, The Aubrey at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

Published:  01 August, 2022

With the first half of 2022 already history, Harpers asked key trade figures to highlight the current challenges, ongoing trends and opportunities.

We continue our series with insights from Winne Toh, head sommelier, The Aubrey at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.

How ‘back to normal’ are you as a business?

Business is booming and the forecast for 2022 looks extremely optimistic. The hotel volume is back to pre-pandemic levels and the demand for fine wine and sake has been on the rise.

How, if at all, have drinking habits changed post-lockdown?

In general, I believe people have learned to live in the moment and are starting to enjoy rare and special bottles on a more regular basis, rather than to save it for the special occasion. This is excellent news for the industry!

How has the first half of 2022 been when compared to the same period in pre-pandemic 2019?

I wasn't based in London in 2019. But based on experience and having come out of lockdown earlier in the Caribbean prior to moving to London, I have noticed the same trends for premium wines on the rise; be it fine Champagne, cult reds or rare sakes.

What were the highs and lows for your own business in the first six months of 2022?

The winter months were slightly challenging as the industry recovered from Omicron. However, the international market has opened up and tourism has brought in a huge wave of thirsty guests seeking the best that London has to offer. We have also been involved in such major events this year, such as London Fashion Week, the relaunch of Evening Standar, and most recently, hosted Wimbly Wednesday. These events have created awareness for our venue and we see a good number of guests returning to wine and dine.

What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade in general?

Logistics, mature vintages and Burgundy. We also need more somms!

What are your priorities and predictions business-wise for the second half of 2022?

We are currently focusing on securing stocks for the winter festive season. Business-wise, the corporate bookings have been picking up and there will definitely be more group gatherings forecasted for the final months. 

What will the focus be on with regards to your portfolio and why?

We are continuously sourcing for fine and rare sakes to create moments for our clientele. In addition, we are also constantly on the lookout for high quality wines from lesser-known producers who display integrity in their production.

On the least fun end, we are competing with the masses to ensure we get allocations of fine Burgundian wines to meet the demands of the traditional crowd.

What are the most significant emerging trends in the wine & spirits worlds?

The heightened awareness of regenerative viticulture. As sommeliers, we can clearly observe the impact of climate change affecting the world of wine and the world we live in. With more producers leading the way forward to produce wine and care for their agricultural grounds, this is a moment for us to return to the community.

Also, the emergence of English wines. This is happening in correlation with climate change. But on a positive note, both the quality of still and sparkling wines emerging in today’s marketplace is largely admirable and exciting to watch.

The quality of non-alcoholic spirits and wines have also risen in the last years.

What innovations in the drinks world do you believe will have the most impact going forward?

Lighter packaging to reduce carbon footprint. This is a topic that has been discussed for years, but we are seeing larger brands take the lead and re-imagining wine packaging today. Definitely a brighter future ahead.

Lastly, if you could make one change in legislation/red tape/tax tomorrow, what would you choose?

I do not have much knowledge in the field of tax or legislation. However, free duty on wines in Hong Kong has put the country on the path to becoming one of the best in the world to invest, collect and consume fine wines. With London being a central hub connecting the east and west, this could be a beautiful implementation.

Quick-fire questions:

France, Spain or Italy?


USA, OZ or South Africa?


Cocktails or slow sipping spirit?


English fizz or Champagne?


Go-to drink to watch with the tennis / football / rugby?

Quaffable Bierzo reds, lightly chilled