Meet Jeannie Cho Lee, Master of Wine

Jeannie Cho Lee is the first Asian Master of Wine (MW) and an award-winning author, wine critic, judge and educator.  Jeannie’s pioneering book, Asian Palate, exploring Asian food and wine pairings in ten Asian culinary capitals, won the Gourmand award for Best Food and Wine Pairing Book in the World in 2010, as well as the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award and the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV) award in 2011.

Jeannie was born in Korea and has lived in Hong Kong since early 1994 where she started her publishing career with financial publications, before moving on to lifestyle and wine publications such as Wine Spectator, The World of Fine Wine, Wine Business International, Revue du Vin and Tatler. Currently, Jeannie is Contributing Editor for Decanter UK and a weekly columnist for mainland China’s China Business News, as well as the largest English newspaper in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post.  She pens monthly columns in Noblesse China, Noblesse South Korea and Decanter Taiwan.

She is also a Wine Consultant for Galaxy Macau, responsible for the master wine list of nearly 50 F&B outlets, as well as for Singapore Airlines, involved in selecting all the wines served on all routes. Recognised for her contributions to the wine industry, Jeannie won the Vinitaly Award in 2009.  She is 26th on the Decanter Power List 2011, a biennial who’s who of the most influential personalities in the wine world.  Jeannie is also the Co-Chair of the Decanter Asia Wine Awards, a sister competition to the Decanter World Wine Awards launched in 2004.

Jeannie holds a Certificat de Cuisine from Cordon Bleu and her love for food and wine inspired her to found, a site that celebrates the confluence of Asian food and wine.  Jeannie is a Master Sake Sommelier from Japan’s Sake Service Institute, and is a Certified Wine Educator from UK’s Wine & Spirits Education Trust as well as the US Society of Wine Educators.  Jeannie’s interest in wine began at Oxford University where she spent her junior year before returning to Smith College where she graduated with a dual degree in Government and Sociology.  Jeannie then went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Public Policy & International Relations from Harvard University.

What are you most excited about with regards to participating in this year’s World Gourmet Festival?
I am really excited to work with the chefs who will be coming from all over the world.  I love food as much as wine, and being able to exchange ideas and thoughts with so many high accomplished chefs is very exciting.  It will be wonderful to be in an environment where everyone is celebrating the best of food and wine.

What is the one combination of wine pairing you’ll be preparing that visitors to the festival shouldn’t miss?

We haven’t decided on the pairing yet but I can offer one hint: It will be innovative and very exciting.  Don’t expect a typical wine tasting and wine and food pairing dinner.

Describe your philosophy.

It is to respect the balance and celebrate Asia’s rich, multi-faceted food heritage.  Wine is a wonderful accompaniment to our unique and vibrant cuisines here in Asia, but by no means should it take centre stage and alter the flavours we enjoy from local, ethnic ingredients.  I want the pleasure of wine to be celebrated alongside delicious Asian food; one of my ways to encourage this is by suggesting Asian ingredients to describe wine — it is fun, novel, more relevant to our life and culture and makes wine more accessible.

Are there any wines or anything special you’ll be bringing with you from home?

I won’t be bringing anything from Hong Kong since Four Seasons has all the right equipment including wonderful glasses to use for the tasting and dinners.

What do you never travel without?

I never travel without water.  As much as I enjoy wine, when traveling, especially on an airplane, I need a bottle of water to keep hydrated during the flight.

I also never travel without my MacAir – it is essential to stay in touch and on flights, I like the quiet time and confined space to write.

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