2020 官网升级中!现在您访问官网的浏览器设备分辨率宽度低于1280px

Latest News

In Limelight | Exploring more possibilities of the wine world

China: 2023.04.24

Talking with Asia-Pacific’s Youngest MW

Sarah Heller MW is a wine expert, visual artist and television host. Having graduated from Yale University with a fine art degree, Sarah began her career in the New York and Hong Kong wine trades and wineries in France and Italy. She is wine editor for Asia Tatler and the wine columnist for Club Oenologique, host of the television series Wine Masters, and faculty of the Vinitaly International Academy. Her series of online educational videos has over 9 million students.

Her return to making art is the series Visual Tasting Notes, which explores the possibility of expressing sensuous experience through visual media. The works are created by digitally combining photographic, hand-painted and digitally painted fragments to mimic the experience of smell, taste and recollection.


© Sarah Heller MW


Through an interview with WINWSA, Sarah shares her thoughts on the development of Asian wine industry and her confidence in the future of the business.


ML: How many years have you been in the wine & spirits business?

SH: I got my first part-time role in wine in 2009, while I was still in university, so it is coming up on 14 years.


ML: What makes you devote yourself to the wine and spirits sector?

SH: I was initially more interested in food and had dreams of opening my own restaurant. However, in the process I was exposed to the wine world and could hardly believe that traveling around tasting wine and selling it to people was a real job! Of course I would learn later that there is a lot more work involved, but what has kept me engaged is the fact that in Asia in particular there have been so many opportunities to explore different facets of the industry — media, education, competitions — so that I have yet to get bored.


© Sarah Heller MW


ML: What are the main transformations & changes in the industry you have experienced so far?

SH: I have seen a dramatic maturation of the market in Hong Kong and the rest of Greater China. When I started out, collectible wine was only Bordeaux and “everyday drinking” wine was very unexciting. Now Burgundy is king, but Italian fine wine has gained ground, as have champagne and Napa cult wines; and the more affordable end of the market is hugely varied, natural wine has fully taken hold and even white wine has become more popular. On the industry side, there has been a lot of consolidation and professionalisation in distribution channels, and our somms are now competing successfully on the world stage.


ML: What do you enjoy most in your career? The biggest challenge you have encountered as a woman in the industry? What drives you to keep going?

SH: What I enjoy most is the opportunity to learn new things all the time; because we have been growing so quickly as an industry, I have taken on roles and projects that I might not have gotten in a more developed market. That’s an incredible motivation to improve, keep growing and believe in myself. At the beginning of my career, I definitely felt that I was taken less seriously for a number of reasons — being a woman was one along with being Asian in a still very Euro-centric industry — but now that I’m a little bit older and the industry has shifted those factors have, if anything, been strengths. When I see the number of women coming up behind me facing fewer barriers it encourages me that we are making progress and that absolutely keeps me going.


© Sarah Heller MW


ML: What are the main distinguishing merits or qualities in women attributing to the career success?

SH: Without generalising too much, I think women are more disposed toward working together rather than fixating on individual success. Most the most successful women I have met in our industry have gotten to where they are by acknowledging their own strengths and weaknesses and partnering with others to fill whatever gaps they may have. Because of this I think we are able to build lasting networks of trust and get ahead through mutual support.


ML: Any advice to your peers?

SH: Tempting as it can be, don’t have a zero-sum mindset; the more we work together to grow the pie, the more opportunity there will be for everyone.


© Sarah Heller MW


ML: Using visual elements to convey your feelings about a wine is such a novel idea, how did you come up with it?

SH: Thank you! Because I have a background in fine art, my tendency has always been to try to use visualisation to grasp abstract concepts. After I completed the Master of Wine, which is all about objective, “accurate,” tasting, I felt a strong need to re-inject some subjectivity and more nuance into the way I was communicating about wine. It began as a small, experimental project but has really evolved into a cornerstone of my work. The reality is that we all bring our personal and cultural experiences, not to mention the circumstances of a particular moment, to tasting wine; I feel that the use of visuals, especially more abstract forms, has given me scope to acknowledge that.


ML: Since you were previously based in Hong Kong and you are quite young as a MW, what is the future Asian wine landscape like in your mind?

SH: There have undoubtedly been some setbacks in the last few years, but given the maturation of the market we have seen over the course of my career I am encouraged that growth going forward will be real growth built on genuine interest from a diverse group of consumers, not purely speculative. The increased involvement of younger people and women, a trend that has continued throughout my time in the industry, is one of the reasons I am most optimistic, along with the genuine embrace of domestic wine in the Chinese market.


© Sarah Heller MW


ML: You have multiple roles in the wine industry, you work as a communicator, visual artist, television host, editor, etc. Which do you enjoy the most and why?

SH: I think of them all as being synergistic. In personality tests, I almost always find I am on the borderline between introvert and extrovert, which I think is why I like to be able to retreat to my studio or to the relative solitude of wine regions to do a lot of research or introspection and then go out and share what I’ve learned with the world.


ML: What is your understanding of pairing wine with Chinese cuisine?

SH: My overall view is that applying the western idea of matching individual wines to individual dishes or even ingredients is not the best approach to pairing with Chinese cuisine(s). Instead I try to look at the overall intensity level of the meal, the common flavours and textures and then I pick three wines (one lighter, one medium, one heavier) that I think will broadly accommodate the meal’s characteristics and have them all on the table at once.


© Sarah Heller MW


ML: Who will you recommend to us for interview as the next WWS figure?

SH: If you have not yet featured her, I would recommend Luma Monteiro.



– END –