Hans Ong

Hans Ong, Manager of Hank’s Malaysia

Hans Ong, Manager of Hank’s Malaysia

In this interview, Hans Ong, Manager of Hank’s Malaysia, gives some insight into the wine industry in Malaysia.

What do you do?

I am a Group Category Manager at Hank’s Malaysia, and I have accumulated over 10 years of experience in this role. I specialise in wine, spirits, and sake, encompassing everything from operations to the behind-the-scenes management of Hank’s Malaysia. Additionally, I proudly carry the titles of Certified Sake Sommelier and Prud’homme du la de Jurade de Saint-Emilion, highlighting my extensive expertise in the world of beverages and alcoholic products. In addition to my work, I also hold the position of Secretary at the Sommelier Association of Malaysia (SOMLAY), where I actively contribute to the association’s endeavours.

How did you get into the industry?

I entered the wine industry in 2009, initially working as a wine promoter while pursuing my STPM and Business Management Degree. During this time, I had the opportunity to work in various esteemed wine retail outlets in Kuala Lumpur, including supermarkets, standalone wine shops, and even a medical hall. It was during this period that I discovered my enjoyment in sharing wine knowledge with customers and listening to their feedback about their wine-drinking experiences. Over time, and somewhat unexpectedly, my interest, curiosity, and passion for the wine industry began to grow and develop.

Share a story from behind the scenes.

One story from behind the scenes that I’m grateful for is the support and guidance I received as a part-time wine promoter. It was my cousins who introduced me to the wine industry, and I had never anticipated that I would become so deeply involved in this field. Their encouragement and mentorship played a pivotal role in shaping my journey within the industry. I’m thankful for their belief in me and the opportunities they provided. It’s a reminder of how sometimes unexpected connections and opportunities can lead to fulfilling and rewarding paths in life.

What memory from your travels stands out?

One of the standout aspects of my life is the opportunity to immerse myself in the world of wine and embark on memorable wine tours over the past decade. These journeys have taken me to various wineries and chateaus, allowed me to stroll through vineyards, participate in grape harvesting, engage in the process of punching down grape skins into the juice during fermentation, and provided the unique privilege of listening to the insights of experienced winemakers. These travel experiences have left an indelible mark on my appreciation for the art and craft of winemaking.

What’s the best/ worst part of your job?

The most enjoyable aspect of my job involves indulging in wine, savouring delicious cuisine, and exploring various destinations. Through these experiences, I’ve gained a deeper insight into the world of wine, comprehending the nuances of why, what, where, when, with whom, how, and how much to imbibe. On the flip side, the most challenging aspect of my profession is navigating the fast-paced and ever-evolving wine industry. At times, it leaves me with limited personal time. Perhaps it’s time for me to prioritise self-care. “I can’t change the direction of the wine, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” It’s a wise reminder of the importance of adaptability and resilience in navigating life’s challenges.

What’s one of your favourite food and beverage pairings?

One of my favourite food and beverage pairings is the classic combination of Port wine and Blue Cheese. The rich and sweet characteristics of Port wine complement the pungent and creamy flavours of the blue cheese perfectly, creating a delightful and harmonious taste experience. The sweetness of the Port balances the saltiness and intensity of the cheese, making it a well-loved pairing among many wine and cheese enthusiasts.

What’s one of the funniest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?

The funniest moment in recent years that continues to bring a smile to my face is when I pretended to be asleep on a large rock at Table Mountain in South Africa. As I playfully rolled around, I couldn’t help but feel like a carefree child. It reminded me that this is the true essence of who I am.

The perfect day off would be…

The ideal day off for me would involve spending quality time with my family. This could mean having a simple dinner together, working on projects as a team, sharing family stories, and being a good listener to their experiences and thoughts. Ces’t La Vie, embracing the simple joys of life!

A day in the life of Hans Ong is…

… starting the day by delving into a multitude of sales reports, including the daily sales report. I analyse these reports meticulously because I firmly believe in the importance of self-awareness and preparation. This practice aligns with the wisdom of Confucius, who once said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be failure.” So, my daily routine emphasises thorough preparation and self-awareness before embarking on new plans or strategies. And enjoying a glass of wine in the evening is not just a personal pleasure but also an integral part of my job!

What does Hans Ong do for fun?

For recreation, I enjoy playing golf. Golf is a sport that offers a unique blend of mental and physical challenges, and it provides an opportunity for self-reflection and personal improvement. Sometimes, my focus is more on competing with myself and improving my own performance rather than competing against friends. It’s a sport that allows me to test my skills and work on self-improvement.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about Hank’s Malaysia?

Hank’s Malaysia is the premier retailer in Malaysia for beer, wines, spirits, and sake, offering an impressive range and expert knowledge to cater to both wine enthusiasts and the general public. With a growing presence and a dedication to ensuring customer happiness and premium product quality, Hank’s stands out as the ultimate and reliable choice for all your wine and alcohol requirements. Hank’s also offers Wine Masterclasses, providing everyone with the opportunity to become an expert through a wine-tasting journey, gaining knowledge from experts, winemakers, and winery owners. You can spot our logo in our outlets with the message, “Become an Expert with Hank’s!” 

How have you grown in your profession? What are your key learnings from your start in the industry until now? Any misconceptions?

Over the years, I’ve experienced substantial professional growth within the wine industry. This growth has been driven by various factors, such as pursuing formal education through courses like WSET, Cheese Academy, and the Saké Sommelier Academy. Additionally, I’ve actively participated in local and international wine shows, which has broadened my knowledge and network.

My journey has been marked by continuous learning, adapting to changing consumer preferences and staying updated with industry trends. I’ve developed a deep understanding of wines, spirits, and sake, from production to consumer experience.

What do you want people to know about being in wine sales as a profession?

Some key learnings from my journey include the importance of staying open to new experiences and continuously expanding my knowledge. Building strong relationships with customers, suppliers, and industry experts has been crucial. Adaptability and flexibility have been valuable assets, given the evolving nature of the industry.

One common misconception in this field is that it’s all about sipping wine and enjoying the good life. While there are enjoyable aspects, it’s also a profession that demands dedication, extensive product knowledge, and a strong work ethic. It’s about curating experiences and helping customers make informed choices.

Hans Ong’s view on the wine scene in Malaysia?

The wine scene in Malaysia is evolving and becoming more diverse. Traditionally, grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc have been popular choices. However, there’s a noticeable shift towards exploring lesser-known grape varieties and wine regions. Wines such as Albariño from Uruguay and Nero d’Avola from Sicily, Italy, are gaining attention.

Malaysian consumers are developing more discerning and sophisticated palates for wine. Quality is a paramount consideration, and they are increasingly open to exploring wines across various price points. There is also a growing interest in wines with unique and distinctive characteristics. This evolving landscape in the Malaysian wine market reflects a positive trend towards diversity and appreciation of different wine styles.

What practices do you currently implement or hope to implement to work towards social responsibility and sustainability in the future?

Currently, our efforts towards social responsibility and sustainability primarily revolve around reducing plastic usage. We’ve replaced plastic shopping bags with recyclable kraft paper bags for wine purchases. Additionally, we offer consumers the option to purchase a reusable Hank’s woven bag for six bottles, further promoting sustainability and eco-conscious choices. These initiatives are aimed at raising awareness about sustainability and minimising our environmental footprint. In the future, we plan to continue exploring additional sustainable practices and making a positive impact on the environment and society. 

What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?

In the upcoming months, we have some exciting plans in the works. We’re actively working on transforming our shelf displays to prominently feature the “Hank’s 5-Star Wine Award List.” This list has received an endorsement from SOMLAY (Sommelier Association of Malaysia), which is a pioneering achievement for a wine retailer in Malaysia. This recognition marks a significant milestone in the country’s wine industry. The endorsement from a reputable Sommelier Association of Malaysia enhances the credibility and trustworthiness of the wine recommendations we provide to our customers. We believe that this initiative will empower consumers to make more informed choices and contribute to the broader appreciation of high-quality wines in Malaysia. Now, everyone can enjoy quality wines curated by experts!

Read more interviews similar to this one with Hans Ong here, and stay updated with the latest gourmet and travel recommendations here and here.

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