Kasaun­dra Howard, a self-de­scribed ‘wino’ abroad, talks about love of wine

The China Post - - LOCAL - BY CHI- HAO JAMES LO

Peo­ple drink al­co­hol for var­i­ous rea­sons. We drink to cel­e­brate, we drink to so­cial­ize, and we some­times drink to for­get. Drink­ing is also a rite of pas­sage that is ex­pe­ri­enced by peo­ple from many cul­tures when one fi­nally hits the legal drink­ing age. Of the var­i­ous kinds of al­co­hol, beers, vod­kas, cock­tails etc. con­sumed, none could be called a form of art more than wine.

Though lovers of whisky and brandy would likely ar­gue that the tast­ing of those two liquors could like­wise be listed as art, nei­ther whisky nor brandy pro­vides its avid fans with rec­og­nized man­tels; un­like wine tast­ing, which clas­si­fies its pro­fes­sion­als into dif­fer­ent ti­tles such as masters, con­nois­seurs and som­me­liers.

The art of wine is so pro­found that in­sti­tu­tions cul­ti­vat­ing peo­ple into pro­fes­sional wine masters are set up all over the world to pro­vide wine ed­u­ca­tion. And, with the var­i­ous in­tri­cate as­pects of the liq­uid it­self, the study of wine tast­ing is no sim­ple task that can eas­ily be ac­com­plished half­heart­edly.

Such schools are also avail­able in Tai­wan, like the Wine & Spirit Ed­u­ca­tion Trust ( WSET) cer­ti­fied Tai­wan Wine Academy (

) led by lo­cal cer­ti­fied ed­u­ca­tor, founder and pro­gram direc­tor Naseem Chen ( ) . The WSET is a Bri­tish or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides classes and ex­am­i­na­tions in the fields of wine and spir­its, and is also known as the lead­ing provider of wine ed­u­ca­tion.

From the Tai­wan Wine Academy, is WSET Level 2 cer­ti­fied wine con­nois­seur Kasaun­dra Howard, whose pas­sion for wine has made her the go-to per­son peo­ple want to talk to while at­tend­ing lo­cal wine tast­ing events and ex­pos. “Based on the cour­ses I have taken with the WSET, you can say that I am a wine con­nois­seur,” Howard said. “But I don’t re­ally de­fine my­self as a wine con­nois­seur, I just de­fine my­self as a wine en­thu­si­ast; some­one that im­mensely en­joys wine and has a need to learn more.”

With her love of wine, Howard can be found at lo­cal wine events where her ex­per­tise and pas­sion en­able her to ed­u­cate am­a­teur drinkers seek­ing out a wine that fits with their in­di­vid­ual needs, while aid­ing sea­soned lovers of the drink in try­ing out new bot­tles that are oth­er­wise rare in Tai­wan.

The cat­a­lyst that started Howard’s ini­tial in­ter­est in wine was a wall found in the home of her great-grand­par­ents. Howard said she re­mem­bers that the wall was filled with a col­lec­tion of ob­scure wine la­bels from winer­ies found in Cal­i­for­nia. The vis­ually stunning la­bels, which Cal­i­for­nia wine com­pa­nies are known to do ex­cel­lently, were works of art in the eyes of the young wine en­thu­si­ast. “To a child, it wasn’t about the wine at the time,” Howard re­mem­bered, “it was just about the pic­tures on the wall, and that was cu­ri­ous to me be­cause I was a in­quis­i­tive child.”

Howard’s first sip of wine, how­ever, came at the age of 21 when, in ac­cor­dance with fam­ily tra­di­tions, she re­ceived a bot­tle that shared the same birth year as her­self. Though the spe­cific bot­tle was spoiled be­fore it was opened, Howard nonethe­less de­vel­oped a spe­cial in­ter­est in wine, es­pe­cially those made with the red wine grape va­ri­etal of pinot noir. “I tried mer­lots, I tried caber­net sau­vi­gnon, and I’ve tried other things,” Howard said of her per­sonal choice of wine, “but I started to be­come fond of pinot noir. Pinot noir a ter­roir ex­pres­sive easy drink­ing wine, that isn’t too dry and low in tan­nins. For a be­gin­ner drinker at that time, it was some­thing that pleased my palate.”

Howard would later travel to Hong Kong be­fore com­ing to Tai­wan’s Chung Yuan Chris­tian Uni­ver­sity ( ) in Zhongli for her study abroad tour. The wine en­thu­si­ast said that she had never imag­ined her­self get­ting back into learn­ing about wine again when she first came to the county five years ago, at a time when wine was not as com­mon­place in her eyes. It was not un­til af­ter be­friend­ing a fel­low ex­change stu­dent from San Fran­cisco that Howard truly be­gan to in­dulge and dis­cover the pro­fun­dity wine has to of­fer. Howard said that at that very be­gin­ning of her wine ca­reer, it was all about dis­cov­er­ies of the taste of wines based on the con­cept of “ter­roir,” the taste of place, which came about af­ter pur­chas­ing a bot­tle of French wine that had the fla­vor of the earth.

Howard said that the ex­pe­ri­ence was so mem­o­rable that it prompted her to want to learn more about the enig­matic al­co­hol, which led to her en­roll­ment in wine school pro­grams. “One could take the WSET, the ISG, the In­ter­na­tional Som­me­lier Guild, or the MW Ex­am­i­na­tion — the In­sti­tute of Masters of Wine, among many oth­ers. For me, I chose the WSET be­cause it fo­cused on wine, wine re­gions and the build­ing of one’s wine palate.”

Her enrolment into the Asia Wine Ser­vice & Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter wine school in Hong Kong for the first level of her WSET ed­u­ca­tion gave Howard the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the tip of the ice­berg that is the art of wine tast­ing. The ex­pe­ri­ence so­lid­i­fied, if not el­e­vated her de­ter­mi­na­tion to pur­sue the art as her ca­reer of choice, which drove her to con­tinue her sec­ond level stud­ies back in Tai­wan, where she is a familiar face at lo­cal wine events. More than of­ten, Howard is seen us­ing her ex­per­tise avidly help­ing dif­fer­ent peo­ple find the most suit­able wine for each per­son’s re­spec­tive palate.

With her now en­hanced pal­let for wine, Howard con­tin­ues to fol­low her path on the road to wine tast­ing mas­tery, now ready­ing her­self to pur­sue the next level of her WSET stud­ies. “Wine is a living or­gan­ism,” Howard said in con­clu­sion. “As soon as you pop the cork it reacts to its en­vi­ron­ment, it starts to breathe and it starts to change, just like a per­son. How many drinks, if not things, in this world can do that? It in­trigues me and en­light­ens me, it brings the ad­ven­tur­ous­ness out of me, be­cause ev­ery­thing I taste is al­ways dif­fer­ent and is al­ways a new ex­pe­ri­ence. Just when you think you know it all, some­thing new al­ways hap­pens, and it’s flab­ber­gast­ing to me, I love it, I love be­ing in this in­dus­try.”

Lili red pour

1. Kasaun­dra Howard poses for the cam­era in this un­dated photo. With a pas­sion for wine, Howard is a WSET Level 2 cer­ti­fied wine con­nois­seur who is also the go-to per­son peo­ple want to talk to while at­tend­ing lo­cal wine tast­ing events and ex­pos. 2. Kasaun­dra Howard pours red wine with her co­work­ers. With her love for wine, Howard could be found in lo­cal wine events where her ex­per­tise and pas­sion en­able her to ed­u­cate am­a­teurs drinkers in seek­ing out a wine that if fit for an in­di­vid­ual, while aid­ing sea­soned lovers of the al­co­hol in try­ing out new bot­tles that are oth­er­wise rare in Tai­wan. 3. Kasaun­dra Howard pours white wine into the glass of her cus­tomer. Howard said that at the very be­gin­ning of her wine ca­reer, it was all about dis­cov­er­ies of the taste of wines based on the con­cept of “ter­roir,” the taste of place, which came about af­ter pur­chas­ing a bot­tle of French wine that had the fla­vor of the earth.

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