Hak Soo Kim of NYC’s Per Se on the Suburbs of Burgundy and the Surge in Portuguese Wines - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Hak Soo Kim of NYC’s Per Se
on the Suburbs of Burgundy and
the Surge in Portuguese Wines

“I started as a captain at Jung Sik and was being trained in the by-the-glass program,” Hak Soo Kim said about his first job in the wine industry. “Then, as the wine program grew, our sommelier asked me if I could help him with deliveries, putting bottles away. A few months later, he needed to take a trip to Italy and suggested that I go for the certification so that I can fill in for him. Eventually, he ended up leaving the restaurant to further his study to be a Master Sommelier and passed me the baton.” Kim joined the team at Per Se in 2018, where, as head sommelier, he helps beverage director Michel Couvreux oversee a list of 2100 wines. —Joshua Greene

Hak Soo Kim

What region did you see gaining ground on your list in 2023?

I feel like there is a surge of wines from Portugal. And I have seen many more sommeliers talking about Portuguese wines in the past couple years, compared with seven years ago. That’s when I started paying attention to Portugal—when a friend of mine blind-tasted me on Niepoort Coche at Jung Sik. Then, I started getting some of the Niepoort wines at Per Se. I was just fascinated that wines of the Douro can actually be fresh and elegant. Now I have nine entries of whites from Portugal and eight entries of red. I have three vintages of Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Branco and also wines from Açores, Alentejo, Lisboa, etc.

Funnily, guests often associate wines with their vacation experiences. Some guests would want to drink Chianti, because they just came back from Tuscany. Because of the savory and bright flavor profile of Portuguese wines, they are quite versatile to pair with different ingredients. Though our wine program focuses on classics, we love introducing amazingly balanced wine from lesser-known regions. Portugal fits the bill in this sense, being a great vacation spot with excellent food and wine. Most of the guests do not remember what they drank but embrace our selections with open arms. Even Michel Couvreux—our Beverage Director—was open to me working with Portuguese wines after he came back from his vacation. I have never been to Portugal and will look forward to visiting there soon! In my case, it will be the other way around. Fall in love with Portuguese wines and then go on a vacation there.

You mentioned that a 2010 Vitovska from Edi Kante gave you a lot of satisfaction to sell last year.

Wines from Carso or even Slovenian or Georgian wines are some things that I am interested in exploring. And whenever I get a chance, whenever I can get my hands on older bottles, I would love to pour them by-the-glass. Nothing beats the work of time, because it brings so much depth and complexity. When a guest tastes a delicious wine from a place that they have not heard about, made with a grape that they never heard of, they get so excited! I enjoy seeing their eyes light up. Guests would almost never order a 2010 Vitovska on their own, but when they are looking for Chablis or even pinot grigio, we can easily suggest this wine. It has been a 10 out of 10. One of the sauces that challenges me on pairing is sauce bigarade [flavored with bitter orange]. Edi Kante and scallop a la plancha with sauce bigarade are a pretty mouth-watering combination.  

As Burgundy prices have skyrocketed, where are you finding alternatives?

Suburbs of Burgundy are really getting a great spotlight these days. Saint-Aubin used to be the Brooklyn of Burgundy. But now, Saint-Aubin has become more like DUMBO. I have been enjoying great wines from the Côte de Nuits Villages, Montagny and Rully; they have approachable price points and I enjoy the precise wine making. Jerome Galeyrand, Didier Fornerol, Bruno Lorenzon, Dureuil-Janthial…these are the folks that have proven their worth in my opinion.

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

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