Thomas Johns: “It's a very exciting time to be in restaurants in Dubai”

Thomas Johns.
Andreas Grube
Published 03-October-2022
Interview / Dubai

Star Wine List is launching the wine lover's guide to Dubai. The guide is created by our ambassador Thomas Johns who describes the city as a "melting pot".

Star Wine List's guide to Dubai is presented by Nyetimber.

"There is always a new place to visit and old gems being revamped, so it is a very exciting time to be in restaurants," he says.

Australian-born sommelier Thomas Johns moved to Dubai in 2018. Since then, he has worked at both restaurant COYA and Atlantis Hotel, as Head Sommelier at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. His career in the business, though, started around ten years ago when he was working behind the bar in Tasmania.

"One of the Co-Owners/Head Sommelier invited me for a trade tasting at one of the local wineries to try their new premium range. In the lead-up to this day, he had me taste and try all kinds of bottles that were opened on the floor. The wine bug really bit me hard on the tasting day, where we compared the estate's new world sparklings, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs against their old world counterparts. I still to this day have that tasting sheet," he recalls.

Today, he has taken a step back from the night shifts to assume the role of Riedel Glassware specialist for Truebell, one of the region's leading suppliers.

Being part of such a big wine movement is a fantastic step not only for Dubai but the United Arab Emirates region as a whole

Now, he's also taken on the role of Star Wine List's ambassador in Dubai.

"It feels awesome! Being part of such a big wine movement is a fantastic step not only for Dubai but the United Arab Emirates region as a whole. I am extremely excited to be on board for this launch," says Thomas.

What are you looking forward to the most in your ambassador role?
"For me it would have to be the promotion of great wine venues here in Dubai. There are already so many restaurants doing great things in the region, so to be at the forefront to help shine the spotlight on them is a real honour."

What makes a great wine list, in your opinion?
"I have always believed that a wine list should be ever-evolving and changing. Wine lists with great focus and identity are few and far between but for me is something I look for."

BOCA in Dubai, where the launch of the Dubai guide is celebrated.

When it comes to the wine scene in Dubai, Thomas describes it as vibrant and vivid.

"With a plethora of restaurants and bars to choose from, Dubai really is a huge melting pot of different exciting cuisines, which lends their hands nicely to wine. There is always a new place to visit and old gems being revamped, so it's a very exciting time to be in restaurants in Dubai."

When Thomas Johns first moved to Dubai four years ago, he says that the first thing he noticed was that most restaurants prioritised bar programs rather than wine programs and that it was uncommon for wine to get much focus.

"This has changed over time, with a lot more emphasis on this aspect. There is also a serious collection of Dubai elite sommeliers who are driving this development."

Any specific trends when it comes to wine venues in Dubai right now?
"I wouldn't say there are any specific trends. However, I believe many smaller producers will see their way onto the market."

Thomas Johns during the launch in Dubai. (Photo: LeeRoy Boucher)

Anything you would like to see more of
"I would like to see more smaller producers and regions being represented. I am aware this is changing, and I can't wait to see this reflected on the lists around town."

Anything you would like to see less of?
"I think there is still so much to be done and explored in the market that to want to see anything less at this stage is counterproductive. The wine scene in Dubai is really starting to explode."

Check out Thomas Johns's guide to Dubai below!

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