DAWA Judges Interviews: Working in the Wine Scene in Hong Kong


Decanter Asia Wine Awards, the sister competition of international wine competition Decanter World Wine Awards, launches this month in Hong Kong. Focusing on wines aimed specifically at the Asian market, the tastings from the 17th to the 20th of September will be conducted under co-chairs Jeannie Cho Lee MW and Steven Spurrier, along with their chosen top team of judges. Read below to find out more about our selection of Asian judges based in HK on their role as key figures in the burgeoning Asian wine industry and new wine trends emerging in major cities across Southeast Asia.


Yvonne Cheung



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.


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…


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.


Ronny Lau



Tell us a little about yourself – Where are you based and where do you work?


I’m a freelance wine writer based in Hong Kong. I started writing wine columns in the 1980s, and I now write for around ten magazines and newspapers in Hong Kong, mainland China and Malaysia. I’m the Chairman of the Greater China Wine Critics Association and the author of five wine books: “In Love with Wine,” “Le Dialogue du Vin ,” “Around the Wine World,” “All About Wine” and “It’s a Wine, Wine World.” My latest project, “Music & Wine – The Perfect Matching,” is a six-CD compilation boxset pairing music with wine. I’m also a tutor for certified wine courses operated by the Hong Kong Vocational Training Centre and Institute for Tourism Studies in Macau.


How did you first become interested in wine?


When I was nine-years-old, my father passed me his wine glass and brought me to an eye-opening new world.


What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a wine writer?


Wine articles are not for the writer to show how knowledgeable he is, which can drive people away, but rather to evoke his readers’ interest in wine.


Is there a person or producer you particularly admire within the wine industry? 


Mario Ercolino from Italy, not only is he the person who brought Campania to the wine map, but also he gave me a chance to produce a wine together with him. It was the most amazing and rewarding experience of my wine career.


Is there a strong wine scene in your city?


After the wine tax was abolished in 2008, the wine scene is stronger than ever in Hong Kong – there are major wine auctions every month and wine events almost every day. Hong Kong is now the wine hub of Asia and the gateway to the huge mainland China market as well. Both markets have shown tremendous growth in the past few years and Hong Kong consumes the largest amount of wine in Asia, even more than the Japanese.


Have you noticed any new trends emerging? What are customers asking for at the moment?


More than 80% of wine sold in Hong Kong is red but over the past few years there has been a gradual growth in the sales of white wine. Actually, white is more suitable for the long hot summer in Hong Kong but chilled wine cabinets or ice buckets were not common in restaurants and it prevented the popularity of white wine. The growth in white wine sales means that restaurants are now better equipped with wine accessories and it also reflects that the market has matured.


Reprinted with permission from Decanter and Decanter China