Walker feted as main­land’s first Master ofWine

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | DINING - By MIKE PETERS michaelpeters@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

The coun­try’s wine in­dus­try and me­dia gath­ered in Bei­jing last week to cel­e­brate with Fongyee Walker, who has be­come the Chi­nese main­land’s first Master of Wine res­i­dent. Walker is co-founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Dragon Phoenix Wine Con­sult­ing.

TheMaster of Wine qual­i­fi­ca­tion is set and as­sessed by the UK-based In­sti­tute of Masters of Wine, es­tab­lished in 1955. Can­di­dates must pass rig­or­ous the­ory and prac­ti­cal tast­ings ex­am­i­na­tions as well as do a re­search pa­per.

While study­ing for the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, Walker has worked across China as a high-pro­file wine ed­u­ca­tor, pre­sen­ter and con­sul­tant. She spear­heads teach­ing for the Wine & Spirit Ed­u­ca­tion Trust, es­pe­cially the WSET’s flag­ship diploma qual­i­fi­ca­tion, and is a well-known Man­darin-speak­ing opin­ion leader in the Chi­nese wine scene.

She also serves as a guest in­ter­na­tional judge for such shows as the Royal Mel­bourne Wine Show, AWOCA (Wines of Chile) and the Old Mu­tual Tro­phy South Africa, the in­sti­tute notes on its web­site, adding: “She was a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to the award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary film Red Ob­ses­sion and has ap­peared as a com­men­ta­tor on Chi­nese wine on CNN. She has writ­ten col­umns for De­can­ter mag­a­zine and The World of Fine Wine, and she re­views wines for RVF China and Wine in China.

On Sept 5, Walker passed all the re­quire­ments for the Master of Wine.

For the fi­nal stage of her stud­ies, Walker wrote her re­search pa­per on vine burial and sus­tain­abil­ity in Chi­nese viti­cul­ture in the Ningxia Hui au­ton­o­mous re­gion and He­bei prov­ince. Vine­yards in north­ern and western China must bury their grapevines in win­ter to pro­tect them from freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. The vines are care­fully dug up again each spring.

Walker serves as wine con­sul­tant to Air New Zealand and is co-chair of Shang­hai’s Wine 100 com­pe­ti­tion. She also chooses the wines for China’s first sub­scrip­tion­based wine club ser­vice, Sig­na­ture Wine.

“I am so hon­ored to be the first MW res­i­dent in China,” Walker said at the an­nounce­ment cer­e­mony at Bei­jing’s TRB-Cop­per res­tau­rant.

“I hope to take ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to share my knowl­edge with oth­ers. To­gether we can im­prove and drive for­ward the de­vel­op­ment of Chi­nese wine and the Chi­nese wine mar­ket.”

TheMaster of Wine qual­i­fi­ca­tion is of­fered only by the In­sti­tute ofMasters of Wine.

To be el­i­gi­ble, the in­sti­tute says, can­di­dates must have been ad­mit­ted as Master of Wine stu­dents and must com­plete three stages.

The first-stage assess­ment ex­ams as well as at­ten­dance at sem­i­nars in Europe, the United States or Aus­tralia al­low con­tin­u­a­tion to the sec­ond-stage ex­ams (five the­ory ex­ams and three tast­ing ex­ams).

Can­di­dates who have passed these ex­am­i­na­tions may then pro­ceed to com­plete a re­search pa­per re­lat­ing to the world of wine. Can­di­dates who suc­cess­fully com­plete this third stage may then be ad­mit­ted as mem­bers of the In­sti­tute of Masters of Wine. There are cur­rently 354 Masters of Wine in the world, in 28 coun­tries and re­gions.

Walker lived in Hong Kong and Van­cou­ver as a child. She be­gan to study wine while read­ing clas­si­cal Chi­nese at Cam­bridge, and be­came cap­tain of the Uni­ver­sity Blind Wine Tast­ing Team, lead­ing them to vic­tory in 2004.

In 2007, she moved to Bei­jing, and founded the Dragon Phoenix con­sul­tancy with Ed­ward Ragg.

“I’m re­ally lucky that I grew up on sev­eral con­ti­nents and had a fam­ily who ate ev­ery­thing from chicken’s feet to meat­loaf,” she told Wine-Searcher in a 2012 in­ter­view.

“I grew up hav­ing my palate ex­cited. That’s what liv­ing is about: ex­plor­ing the world. I can’t un­der­stand peo­ple who drink only one wine or eat the same food all the time.”


Fongyee Walker, a wine ed­u­ca­tor, pre­sen­ter and con­sul­tant.

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