Wine discovery, wine learning?

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Tersina Shieh   January 2017
Learn to drink? 

2016 came and left. Thankfully, it was another fruitful year for me although it was also a tough year for some in the trade. Let’s hope the year of Rooster will be better for everyone. 

Business might have been slow last year but I noted that more average consumer—by this I mean local people who don’t know a lot about wine, can only describe a wine as pleasant or not, drink wine very occasionally and are highly likely, largely ignored by the trade, are curious about wine. This is encouraging as we need full support from them not only to grow the wine market, but to build a solid foundation.

There are more and more lifestyle-cum-wine events that attract consumers who would not go to wine dinners or serious wine tastings. I grab every opportunity to talk to them and learn that while they might not be able to tell a Chardonnay from a Riesling, and often find wine too complicated to understand and consume, they would like to discover more given the right setting. Some may argue for more wine education but if we don’t need to learn to eat, why do we need to learn to drink? It is precisely this ‘learn to drink’ attitude that intimidates these consumers. Therefore, our job should be to help them explore wine. We need to position wine as a desirable and an accessible beverage by linking wine to their lifestyle, hobbies and enjoyment. This is like a kindergarten that provides a fun and friendly environment to encourage kids to discover. Once they develop a genuine interest and passion for wine, they would, at will, continue with the more structured WSET courses that are the primary and secondary levels of wine education. In fact, a few WSET diploma students I know are exactly like this. Their wine journeys started with discovery, then drinking, enjoying, and eventually studying. They didn’t take up WSET courses to learn to drink. I just came across an article about a coffee flavoured red wine from The Drinks Business. Perhaps this is the trick to get more consumers to try wine? Certainly food for thought for us. 

Wine Music Jam is my own lifestyle project to introduce wine to average consumer in a fun and relaxed environment through music. We had four sessions in the last two years and each time we attracted around 100 guests. Every time, a few more people would ask me about wine in general and I feel I am a small step closer to bringing wine to the mass. Seeing people’s eyes sparkle when I speak with them about wine gives me the most satisfaction, apart from getting my hands dirty in the vineyards. That's why I don't teach. I just want to encourage as many kindergarteners as possible to discover and like wine for what it is. 

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What I failed last year was to successfully persuade a local fast food chain to serve wine with their set dinners. A lot of trade friends told me this is close to impossible but I firmly believe this could be done. We only need around 20 outlets from one chain to run a pilot scheme for say six months and I’m sure the results would convince all other chains to follow. This would open up the ‘average consumer’ market and make wine accessible. Well, I’ll keep trying. If there is a will, there’s a way!
2017 Preview

The Vintage Port Academy

13th-16th March: ‘The Essential Knowledge of Port’ workshops. Over the past seven years, the VPA has organised 23 workshops in 5 cities and awarded certificates to 731 alumnus. This year, the Greater China workshops will be held in March in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The workshops are primarily open to F&B personnels and retailers. Please reserve your seat here.

13th March: Vintage Port Decanting Competition Beijing. Following the success of the port decanting competition in Macau, Hong Kong and Shanghai, this year will be Beijing’s turn. It is open to hotel and restaurant teams. Please contact me if you want to take part.

Follow Vintage Port Academy on Facebook

Wines of South Africa
International critics including Neal Martin and Tim Atkin MW are all excited about South African wine. Here are your chances to sample some of these great wines at WOSA’s events.
16th-20th March: Taste of Hong KongDrop by the South African wine bar at this premium restaurant festival for a glass or two of premium South African wine. Biltong, games and more are waiting for you. 

April: Discover South African Wine MonthAn annual, market-wide campaign to celebrate South Africa’s Freedom Day on 27th April. We welcome F&B outlets and retailers to participate. Last year, over 80 outlets took part. You can find out more about the 2016 campaign here. Please contact me if you want excite your customers’ palates with these amazing wines. 

20th April (Thursday): SAVE THE DATE. A fun and relaxed setting at Renaissance Harbour View for you to discover and taste over 100 South African wines, talk to winemakers and representatives, and experience the South African vibe. Tickets available in March. Wine lovers, please leave your details with us to receive the latest updates.

Autumn: South Africa Braai monthCelebrate South Africa Heritage Day with a South African style barbecue in October and November. Watch this space for more information.

Follow WOSA Hong Kong on Facebook

Wines of Germany

June: Riesling Weeks. Riesling Weeks Hong Kong will be returning in June for the fifth edition. Join the German Wine Princess at Renaissance Harbour View for the kick-off tasting on 2nd June (Friday) where over 100 German wines will be featured. The Princess will also conduct various wine tastings during her stay. Please leave your details to receive more information on the event.

The entire month of June will see hotels, restaurants and retailers devising various German wine promotions to cool down the summer heat. The best performing outlets will have a chance to win a Sommelier trip to Germany, amongst other prizes. Past winners included Watson’s Wine Cellar, KO Dining, Cuisine Cuisine ifc and Hoi King Heen. Interested parties who would like to participate can contact me now.

Follow Riesling Weeks Hong Kong on Facebook

Last but not least...
I’m looking for vintage work at small, hands on wineries. If you need a pair of hands during harvest, I’m ready. Please get in touch.

Here are a few wine joints that I like to hang out. Hope to see you there some time. 

Magazines and websites that I am contributing:
Spirito diVino, Asia Pacific
Foodie, Hong Kong
OpenRice, Hong Kong
Global Gourmet, China
WINE, China

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