Justin Ho Li Vern joins the jury panel for Asian wine list awards

Andreas Grube
Published 16-March-2023
Interview / Malaysia

Malaysian top sommelier Justin Ho Li Vern — a three-time Best Sommelier of Malaysia – has more than 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Now he is preparing to take on jury duty for Star Wine List of the Year Asia, which will be held at Vinexpo Asia in Singapore.

Justin Ho Li Vern was born in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, in 1987. He holds a Master's Degree in International Hospitality Management. Apart from having won Best Sommelier of Malaysia three times (2015, 2016 and 2018), he also came in third in the Best Sommelier of Asia Oceania in 2018.

Star Wine List is now preparing for the first-ever Star Wine List of the Year Asia on 23 May — read more here! – where Justin will join as a part of the jury panel.

"I am absolutely thrilled and honored to be part of the Star Wine List jury, and I can't wait for the time to come. One of the reasons I agreed to be a part of the team is that I will work together with all the top sommeliers from around the world, sharing thoughts and exchanging points of view with them. Besides, I would also like to see how much I can contribute my efforts to such a prestigious event organized by Star Wine List," Justin says.

Justin says that he enjoys reading wine lists himself because he thinks it is interesting to see how other sommeliers with diverse backgrounds in different restaurants create their wine lists.

"I believe I will be able to learn a lot from all the professionals around the world, and this is definitely my utmost priority now."

What is "a great wine list" for you? What do you look for?
"I think every sommelier is making a great wine list as long as they are able to express their thoughts and beliefs through the wine list they create for their guests. It can be a wine list where the sommelier worked together with a chef to form a harmonious pairing with the food of the restaurant, it can be the passion and focus of a sommelier that wants to exhibit and introduce a compulsive wine list, or it can be wine list that follows the direction and vision of the restaurant. As long as it contributes to the greater good of the wine industry, it is a great wine list."

And the opposite — what is a bad wine list?
"As long as the wine list has a story behind it or focuses on contributing to a better wine scene, it won't be bad. Of course, some restaurants or owners might take the wine industry for granted for many reasons, but I still believe that the sommeliers working in those restaurants will be able to turn the direction and shape into a good wine list."

What is your view on the overall Asian wine scene right now?
"Compared to 10 or 15 years ago, the Asian wine scene has improved so much and so fast thanks to the technology and globalization of the world. Information needed for a better understanding of the culture of drinking wine is now on the tip of our palms thanks to technology, and perhaps Asian teenagers furthering studies abroad to Europe, Oceania and the Americas is a norm; hence, that contributed to increased consumption of wines in Asia countries after the completion of their studies."

Justin Ho Li Vern.

What do you hope to see coming through on the wine lists you'll be judging?
"Anything! I want to see diversity, I want to see out-of-the-box ideas, I want to see how far a sommelier's focus and passion contribute to a better wine industry. I believe this is what all the wine industry players would also like to see."

Apart from being a Star Wine List of the Year judge, Justin has a lot of other things on his plate.

"I was given the nickname 'man that is too busy' recently because I am trying to maximize the full potential of my time in contributing to education and the wine industry. I am currently a food and beverage lecturer at a university, focusing on guiding future hospitality leaders. At the same time, I am the WSET-certified educator in an approved program provider, a weekend sommelier for a Michelin one-star restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, and a consultant to numerous food and beverage outlets in the city that wish to enhance their skills and elevate their level of contribution to the scene."

Anything you want to add?
"I hope everyone in the wine industry will continue their passions, beliefs, and contributions for the greater good of the industry."

Do like the Pros - search 2500+ wine lists


Did you know?
You can search for tens of thousands of wines and see where they are listed in restaurants and wine bars.
Search for wine lists on Star Wine List