With the first Decanter Asia Wine Awards under three months away, find out more about Hayato Kojima, a certified wine specialist from Japan, who joins Decanter's first panel of judges in Asia.

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.

Entries for the Decanter Asia Wine Awards close on 19 July. To enter, click here

Written by Decanter