A splash of red or white: How Papua New Guinea is catching on to wine


With wine appreciation on the rise in Papua New Guinea. Loloata Island Resort’s Sommelier, Kannapan Jayakumar, tells PNG Now why wine has become such a sensation and why the Highlands could be a good place to start a winery.

wine sommelier Loloata

Loloata Resort’s Sommelier, Kannapan Jayakumar. Credit: Loloata Island Resort

Wine appreciation is on the rise in Papua New Guinea, so we asked Loloata Island Resort sommelier and food and beverage manager Kannapan Jayakumar about what people are drinking and his favourite drops.

Jayakumar was born in India, but it was when he ended up working at a wine bar in Dubai that he discovered a love of wine that has become his career. In typical Dubai extravagance, the Oeno wine bar in the Westin Hotel had over 800 bottles of wine for him to recommend and 80 different kinds of cheese to pair it with.

After being promoted to wine supervisor, he moved to Savannah, Georgia, in the US where he decided to commit to studying wine and is now a certified sommelier from the Court of Master Sommelier in the US.

‘There are more wine options available in the PNG market than ever before.’

Jayakumar is very happy with his role at Loloata. ‘This job is a dream,’ he says. ‘Working on the island, especially in these tough days where people can’t travel outside of PNG, and meeting new people every day and talking about wines and their travel experience, is the best part of being a hotelier.’

Kannapan Jayakumar on …

More people in PNG are switching to wine from the usual beer and cocktail culture. What is driving this change is that there are more grape varietals available in the PNG market than ever before. Also a lot of people are learning about wine from the expats who they work with, at team dinners and cocktail receptions.

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The biggest challenge has been getting over the mindset that wine is for the rich.

Most wine drinkers in PNG prefer Australian and New Zealand wines especially shiraz, cabernet and sauvignon blanc. Most wines in PNG are imported from Australia, New Zealand and also a few South African ones. There is a small share of European wines as well.

Penfold’s and Jacob’s Creek tend to dominate the market and are very popular in this part of the world as they have almost all grape varieties in their portfolio with a wide price range.

Customers are also asking me for pinot gris, viognier and a few have even asked for Californian zinfandel. Zinfandel usually means a rosé, or blush, wine. It is a unique grape that I enjoyed when studying in the US. It is light and high in acidity and I like to have a glass with my lamb rack.

My favourite wines at Loloata Resort (loloataislandresort.com) include Cloudy Bay pinot noir with salmon, and Veuve Cliquot by the pool.

PNG has a diverse climate and rich soil in the Highlands region. I would love to see someone who really has a passion for wine-making take the first step towards a local winery with small-batch production

Wine class

Learn these well-known wine styles and you are on your way to being your own sommelier.

Shiraz – Very popular in Australia, shiraz (or syrah) is bold and fruity but is also known to be peppery. It goes well with spicy food.

Cabernet – This French varietal is popular in Bordeaux and the most planted variety of grape worldwide. Cabernet is the go-to wine if you are having steak.

Sauvignon blanc – Originating in Bordeaux, but popularised in New Zealand, sauvignon blanc is crisp, dry and refreshing.

Pinot gris – A German variety of white wine, pinot gris is a spicy, full-bodied wine.

Viogner – A French white wine variety, viognier is light and pairs very well with seafood.

Zinfandel – Popularised in the US, zinfandel has notes of strawberry or cherry and is great in the sun.

The article ‘A splash of red (or white): How PNG is catching on to wine’ first appeared in the October 2021 issue of PNG Now, PNG’s leading lifestyle magazine

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