Hiroki Matsumoto, a wine specialist from Japan, is a judge in the Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA).
Tokyo-based Hiroki Matsumoto was lead into the world of wine in 1988 after tasting a Château Mont-Redon in Hong Kong. After broadening his palate while studying a Masters degree in the US, Hiroki formally learnt about wine at Tokyo’s Academie du Vin before opening his own wine bar, where he was able to offer 400 different wines by the glass at any time. Now a lecturer at the Academie du Vin, Hiroki also operates wine website Barriqueville.com, publishing tasting notes and providing business services to web-retailers and mobile service providers. In addition, Hiroki has translated two wine books into Japanese, Napa by James Conaway and Heartbreak Grape by Marq de Villiers. Hiroki Matsumoto has been a Decanter Asia Wine Awards judge since 2012.
In September 2012, decanter.com spoke to Hiroki Matsumoto ahead of the first Decanter Asia Wine Awards, which took place in Hong Kong later that month.
Tell us a little about yourself – Where are you based and where do you work?
I live in Tokyo, write, teach about wine at Academy du Vin and run tastings for an online retailer and a mobile information service provider.
How did you first become interested in wine?
In 1988, when I drank Chateau Mont-Redon (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) and it was much better the second day than immediately after taking out the cork. It’s not the same for Japanese sake and so I became curious about wine. After that, I had a chance to live in the US for my Master’s degree and while I was there I tried various different wines before taking some courses at Academy du Vin and then opening my own wine bar.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learn as a wine writer/consultant?
General understanding about wine is the most important aspect of the lucrative gourmet scene and there is on-going interest in the subject. The industry itself is very dynamic, incorporating technology and science, with people’s lives and money invested.
Is there a person/producer you particularly admire within the wine industry?
Matt Kramer because he is one of the few fundamentalists.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
If I mention a region, it is Jerez. I always carry several styles of sherry and drink it after or during meals – it is definitely versatile. Sorry if it sounds like I have a bit of an older British palate but here is why:
In Japan we don’t generally eat Sushi, Kaiseki or Suiyaki, but instead usually eat a complete mixture of Japanese hamburgers with a thick source and Sashimi (raw fish) with soy source, with all of them served at the same time unlike in western culture.
So, what are the best value wines which can be paired with such mixed cuisine? From my experience, only sherry has survived the test. Champagne came second but it’s pricey! Maybe Christian Etienne, though.
That said, as well as sherry, I drink wines from the following vineyards when they are available: Kaiken (Mendoza), Mas del Périé (Southwest France), Catena Zapata (Mendoza) and Vina Ochagavia.
What are your favourite food and wine combinations?
Relatively mature Chardonnay, preferably from Europe or Sonoma, with fresh sea food or flavoursome grilled sea food. The umami combination generates a rich flavour, which is heavenly. Very Japanese!
Who was your most memorable customer, and why?
Once in a class, a student said “this is contaminated by Brett” and I said, “So?” – I lament that there are too many Japanese people who drink wines with their knowledge and heads instead of with pleasure and their hearts.
Is there a strong wine scene in your city?
In Tokyo there are many wine bars from authentic to very unique. The authentic ones have sommeliers serving wine and nice food, and the unique ones have devices to prevent the oxidation of open bottles of wine and serve Petrus by the glass.
Have you noticed any new trends emerging? What are customers asking for at the moment?
No. I talked to Mr. Justin Gibbs of Liv-Ex about this one month ago and we noted that the Japanese wine industry is extremely fragmented. There is no trend movement here, although general consumers are looking at value wines from South America. Wine beginners are keen to see points by whomever, whereas experienced drinkers are biased towards French wines, especially Burgundy and not Bordeaux. Oh, one thing I have to mention is that Japanese wines are becoming better and better as our producers are looking at overseas consumers who are influencing Japanese wine making.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards?
To be excited by wine and people, and be educated as to the Asian wine scene.