Hayato Kojima, a certified wine educator and specialist from Japan, is a judge in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA).
Hayato Kojima is the president of wine education company Wine and Newlife, which he set up in 1997. He is a wine educator (first CWE in Asia), a wine author and a regular wine competition judge. Starting his wine career at Japan Airlines, Hayato was a wine educator for cabin attendants, and a committee member of in-flight wine selection. He trained 700 certified sommeliers over a period of 10 years with the airline. As an author, Hayato won a Gourmand Cookbook Award in 2003 and 2015 with his wine text book “Test your knowledge of wine”, now published in Japanese and Korean. He judges in three major wine competitions in Japan. He is an official Sherry educator, a certified Sake taster, a beer judge and holds the title of Director Emeritus, Japan Chapter President of the Society of Wine Educators (USA) and has helped the foundation of Asian Chapters in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai. He has been a Chevalier du Tastevin de Bourgogne since 2000. Hayato Kojima has been a Decanter Asia Wine Awards judge since 2012.
Tell us a little about yourself – Where are you based and where do you work?
I’m based in Tokyo, Japan and I operate a wine education company, “Wine and Newlife”, where I manage four educational wine courses a year, mostly for the preparation of the JSA (Japan Sommelier Association) and SWE (Society of Wine Educators) wine exams.
I’m also an author and journalist: I’ve written two wine text books, one of which was awarded “The Best Wine Education Book in Japanese 2003” by GOURMAND Cookbook Award; co-authored and supervised another five wine books; and written articles for Japanese wine magazines.
How did you first become interested in wine?
In France when I was 20 years old. My first experience of fine wine was Champagne at Tour d’Argent restaurant and I realised I could learn about the culture to taste good quality liquor rather than just become intoxicated by it.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learn as a wine educator?
My most valuable lessons were learnt on an MW educational course in the USA where I gained a lot of tasting expertise from MWs. The SWE Annual Conferences have also been valuable.
Is there a person or producer you particularly admire within the wine industry?
In terms of MWs, maybe Jancis Robinson, Peter Marks and Patrick Farrel – Patrick was my MW mentor for many years. As for producers, I admire Mr. Shigekazu Misawa of Grace Winery in Japan as he is the most challenging and ambitious person among Japanese winemakers in promoting fine Japanese wines to the global market.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
I prefer better quality wines no matter where they come from – I’m attracted by well-balanced styles with pleasant length and good typicity.
What are your favourite food and wine combinations?
I believe that the best food and wine matching exists in personal taste but not in the theory. I prefer any wine if it matches well with food on my palate.
Is there a strong wine scene in your city?
The strong wine scene shows at the SWE Japan Chapter sessions which I organise four times a year in Tokyo. We hold innovative sessions every time which are not seen in other societies’ events.
Have you noticed any new trends emerging? What are customers asking for at the moment?
The evolution of Asian wines. I organised and was a key speaker at a “Japanese Wine and Chinese Wine” masterclass at the Hong Kong Wine & Spirits Fair 2011, which showed the tremendously high quality of Asian wine at the moment to many specialists from around the world.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards?
It is my pleasure to participate in the first judging of the Decanter Asia Wine Awards and I hope to help the judging with my skills and expertise in wine tasting, which I have gained throughout my career.