With Decanter's first Asia Wine Awards taking place in September, find out more about new judge Yvonne Cheung, a sommelier based in Hong Kong.
Tell us a little about yourself – Where are you based and where do you work?
I’m based in Hong Kong, primarily at The Upper House hotel and I’ve been with the Swire Hotels group for the last two years. Before this I spent three years working in Napa Valley, California.
How did you first become interested in wine?
I actually fell in love with food first and after working in the food and beverage sector of hospitality an interest in wine naturally followed.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learn as a sommelier?
In work, as in life, we cannot be too quick to judge. This definitely resonates in our business
Is there a person/producer you particularly admire within the wine industry?
My mentor and friend, Steven Kolpan, who resides in New York, continues to play a fundamental role in my approach to the industry.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
I’m actually much less stringent about what I drink at home – I’m probably just happy to be there! I generally lean towards expressive, lean whites and red burgundy for my “comfort” wines. Last night I opened some dry Furmint from Hungary.
What are your favourite food and wine combinations?
I like to keep it simple – I enjoy a good cheese arrangement, a thoughtful white burgundy, Austrian Riesling or Loire Valley white. I also have a weakness for Champagne and Cheetos….
Who was your most memorable customer, and why?
I remember a very kind elderly woman when I worked in Malibu – she came to me and asked for “white zinfandel on the rocks with a packet of equal”. I walked away, thinking to myself, “at least it’s grapes…”
Is there a strong wine scene in your city?
There is an incredible wine scene in Hong Kong! I moved out here so I could immerse myself in it during this exceptional time, to learn and absorb as much as I can.
Have you noticed any new trends emerging? What are customers asking for at the moment?
I’ve noticed that the interest in and sales of new world Pinot Noir has increased relatively quickly. I’m also a huge advocate for white wine, so I want to help raise the status level of high quality selections. In Chinese, the term “red wine” automatically implies “western wine,” and the literal translation of white wine, or “bai jiu”, refers to distilled rice beverages e.g. mao tai, leaving it a confusing term that carries a different connotation. If anything, I’d like to try to set a new trend by clearly differentiating between the two.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards?
I feel fortunate to have this opportunity, and aside from the obvious excitement of trying and evaluating many wines, I’m greatly looking forward to discussions with others in the profession.
Written by Decanter