Five Minutes With… Debra, Master Of Wine

Debra Meiburg is best known in Shanghai as the blonde American beaming out at us from taxi television screens, giving us hints and tips about wine tasting, in order to save the un
(or under) educated from committing serious wine-related
faux pas. Recently in Shanghai for a wine tasting sponsored by Lucaris glassware, Meiburg, who has lived in Hong Kong for the past 25 years, took some time out from her busy schedule to tell Talk about being one of only three “Masters of Wine” in Asia. 

What’s the most common question you get asked by Chinese wine consumers?
I think people are very fearful about wine etiquette and I don’t know what I’m most commonly asked, but I’ll tell you what’s most commonly said to me: “I like wine, but I don’t know anything about it.” Although I fully support and promote wine education – it’s what I adore – I also fear that people feel they must be educated to taste wine and that’s not the case, it’s just that, the more you know the more interesting it is and more pleasurable it is. 


But surely you cringe when people mix red wine and coke?
I actually try to talk down this preconception. I think that it’s something people used to like to say about China, but I also think when it was common practice to mix red wine and coke, people were drinking very simple wines and the coke may even have improved them! I think the market’s become so sophisticated now, and so quickly, I think the last thing that needs to be eradicated is the ganbei. 


So is the key to incorporate wine into the existing Chinese food culture?

Most of us are very interested in getting people comfortable with wine at the dinner table, because it is a food drink. Of course sometimes we drink it in bars, but in the long run, it should be drunk with food, and if we continue to promote it with western food, that makes it quite limited, as the market is only going to eat western food so many times a month. 


Matching wine to Chinese food is notoriously challenging, is this a factor in the future of wine as an established part of dining here?
I think the food matching is not a big deal. I would say putting wine on a Chinese dinner table is important, matching dish to dish is just not. Pick one dish or one ingredient in a dish to match the wine with and make it work. 






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