MASTER OF VIN
Introducing Sarah Heller, Asia’s newest Master of Wine
The primary objective of attaining the Master of Wine title has always been to help build a healthy culture of wine consumption in Asia: less ganbei, less price speculation, more drinking for pleasure.
The biggest misconception about being a MW is that it means you’re familiar with every vintage of every brand of wine available anywhere and can thus serve as some kind of wine Google. I only wish I had that level of recall!
At the first wine trade fair I ever visited,
I remember nervously telling this winemaker her white reminded me of pineapples. To my relief, she was delighted; it was exactly the aroma she’d had in mind, but nobody had yet picked it up. As an art student, I recognised that electric thrill you experience when someone “gets” your work.
Over an afternoon of drinking, this thought morphed into fantastical notions about wine’s preternatural ability to connect people and cultures, bring about world peace, et cetera. Even the ensuing hangover did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm.
When dining out, I look at the bottom end of the price scale; if I see wines around the HK$500-800 mark from non-standard, trendy regions – say Yarra Valley in Australia, Rias Baixas in Spain or Wachau in Austria – I know I’m in safe hands.
I derive immense enjoyment from slightly irreverent wine pairings— at one point I discovered that Chachawan has Bollinger at an almost outlandishly reasonable price, and since then it’s my go-to. With the smokiness of Chachawan’s chicken thighs and crab fried rice, a deliciously toasty Bolly is just magnificent.
Champagne is the white silk blouse of wine pairing, and so the easy choice for a BYO option. I’d pick a pinot noir-dominant grower champagne, maybe Champagne Dosnon or Charles Dufour: both have little or no sugar and have sourdough, berry and turf profiles that will wrap themselves gorgeously around whatever you throw at them.
Delicious as French reds are, I think our sultry climate in Hong Kong demands something designed for humidity and heat: Sicilian reds from Etna or Vittoria, Cornelissen and COS are perfect.
If I were a wine, I’d love to be Aldo Conterno Granbussia Barolo Riserva 1988 – layered and intriguing, with lots of life in it yet.
Asia’s newest Master of Wine is none other than 29-year-old Sarah Heller— a Hong Kong native, beverage consultant and champion of using the digital landscape to open up the world of wine appreciation. She speaks to T.Dining about life behind the rosé-tinted glasses