With Decanter's first Asia Wine Awards taking place in September, find out more about new judge Liwen Hao, a wine journalist based in Shanghai.
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you based and where do you work?
I am based in Shanghai (a big city which is sometimes just too big) and I’m Editor-in-Chief of Wine Press magazine.
How did you first become interested in wine?
I became interested in wine in 1999, when I stayed Northern Italy for a month and a half’s training.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a wine journalist?
The wine world is so big. The more you drink, the less you feel you have drunk before. The more you learn, the less you feel you know. Lots of wine courses are really helpful – among them, the WSET Diploma classes were very useful for me, not necessarily for the qualification, but rather for the learning process and experiences I gained while studying.
Is there a person or producer you particularly admire within the wine industry?
I have met many great people in the wine industry but unfortunately I haven’t spent enough time tasting with most of them in order to learn from them. However, the one person I spent some time with and learned a lot from is Michel Bettane. He is a great taster with a very interesting character and he brought a bottle of Jean Louis Chave Hermitage 1990 to Shanghai for us to drink together. A great wine can change ones understanding, in the same way a great person can.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
That’s a difficult question! I like to try different wines so I don’t normally keep more than one bottle of each wine in my fridge, unless it’s a wine I particularly like. Sometimes I’ll want to drink a wine on its own, sometimes it depends on the food my wife has cooked, or I might just have a glass to help me sleep.
What are your favourite food and wine combinations?
I like pair wine with Chinese food. As Chinese foods are so complicated, the pairings are mainly about the experience. But it does provide a lot of fun for me and my friends. With each pairing you gain more of an understanding about both wine and Chinese food. Even though I’m Chinese I still have a lot of things to learn about our food. One of my favourite pairings is a young Vosne-Romanée red with steamed abalone (an edible mollusk) in red sauce.
Who was your most memorable customer, and why?
I was in charge of Wine Education before I joined Wine Press magazine and the most memorable students become close friends in the end. I like people who are passionate about wines and eager to learn. One of my friends is an engineer, but she spends all her spare time learning about wine. I think even she’s a good example for me to follow.
Is there a strong wine scene in your city?
Yes, in Shanghai more and more people becoming interested in wine. There are lots of reasons for us to drink wine – the most popular ones are to be healthier and more sophisticated. There are many wine lovers in our cities and some are particularly interested in specific regions. Wine is for sharing, so it is a great thing to be able to easily find people to drink with and share the experience.
Have you noticed any new trends emerging? What are customers asking for at the moment?
The market here is becoming more diverse. It’s increasing rapidly, but the gap between consumption and wine knowledge is getting bigger, as the knowledge level is not increasing as fast as the market is growing. But consumers are eager to learn about wine and are acquiring information from every resource. Not only are they drinking, but they’re also getting to know about what they are drinking. I like to organise tastings and I’m happy to see loads more new friends join the tastings and express an interest in wine.
Finally, what are you looking forward to most about judging at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards?
For me, it should be a great experience. To give each wine a fair chance during the competition is a huge challenge but I’m sure that with the system and my fellow judges we will make it a success. I am looking forward to working with the team and sharing a great experience with them.
Entries for the Decanter Asia Wine Awards have been extended for a short time, and will now close on 26 July. To enter, click here
Written by Decanter