The judging team
The IWC China has a staged level of experienced judges. The majority of these judges have been with us for many years and have moved up the scale. We not only judge wines but we judge judges too! We expect our Panel Chairman to report on each judge on their panels and also the judges to report on how the panel chairman leads the panel. We take action based on these recommendations, either promoting, demoting or de-listing judges based on their performance at the IWC China. We do not confine our judges to one area, region or style.
We expect our judges to have a global knowledge of wines and styles, and to judge them accordingly. If they are not certain on a style, they have their panels and co-chairmen to back them up. At the IWCC we believe in keeping your palate fresh and the day interesting. A typical day will start off with a flight of Sparkling wines, then a flight of reds, then whites, back to reds and so on. Then the day will finish with Sweets, stickies and ports. Then you can have a beer!
Tasting panels are usually made up of a Panel Chairman, Senior Judge, 2 Judges and an Associate judge. 5 people is the optimum number of judges to make the process quick and the discussions diverse. All communication is in English and we separate judges from the same countries so there is no country specific bias.
3 Co-chairs are responsible for all wine related matters. The Co-chairs are there as a safety net so that not one wine gets missed. In round one they taste all wines that have been given out or commended to check the decision is correct, and if required, give them another chance in round 2. In round 2 they re-taste everything for consistency. A Panel chair may see 2 flights of Chenin Blanc. The Co-chairs will see 20! The Co-chairs mostly agree with the Panel Chairs but if they think a decision by the panels is 'harsh' or 'over awarded' they can adjust the score up or down. But importantly they need to get another Co-chairman to agree and sign to say they agree before any change is made. Arguments are not uncommon. But this means the IWCC's judging is fair and consistent and every wine has a chance.
Kenichi Ohashi MW
Kenichi (Ken) Ohashi MW is a leading Japanese wine and Sake distributor in Tokyo with accolades from the industry. Awarded Best Wine Merchant 1999 by Japan Sommelier Association he has shown his intricate knowledge of the subject both at home and abroad. He is author of "Natural Wine" and is the online wine columnist of Japan's top wine publication 'Wine Report'. He holds a Diploma from WSET in London and He is a Master of Wine and was also awarded the Personality of the Year 2016 by the IWC. He has also been certified as a Master of Sake (SSI) and Sake Expert Assessor (NRIB). In addition, he has started exporting his selection of Sake and Japanese wines to the world market.
Yang LU MS
Iain Riggs AM
Australian Iain Riggs is a veteran of 47 vintages, including 36 with Brokenwood Wines, of which he is managing director, chief winemaker and part owner. Iain has had a wide and varied career in winemaking, judging, mentoring, educating, and as a thought pioneer in Australian wine.
He is widely recognised as one of the exceptional people of the Australian wine industry. His many achievements and accolades were crowned with an Order of Australia (AM) in the 2018 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
The recognition is for his significant service to oenology as a winemaker, to the development of the Australian wine industry, and to the promotion of the Hunter Valley region.
Other career highlights include being an inaugural board member of the Winemakers Federation of Australia and chairman of the Hunter Valley Wine Show, having taken over from Len Evans in 2002.
Iain was also chairman of the IWCC’s predecessor, the Shanghai International Wine Challenge, for eight years.
Iain’s current roles include chairman of trustees of the Len Evans Foundation that conducts the prestigious week-long Len Evans Tutorial.
Oz Clarke’s extensive knowledge and experience will be put to good use in his role as Godfather – the link between the judging panels and the co-chair team. The panel chairs will be able to call on him for advice on wines, styles and faults. He will also be the arbiter in times of impasse in deliberations.
Oz is one of the world's most recognisable wine experts. He’s a regular on television, appearing on BBC Two’s ‘Food and Drink’, as well as with James May on ‘Oz and James Drink to...’, and he currently has a weekly gig with celebrity chef James Martin. Oz is also a prolific author and has written “more books than I can remember” – including New Classic Wines, Bordeaux, The Wine Atlas, Grapes and Wines, The History of Wines in 100 Bottles, Wine by the Glass, and Red and White. Obviously, he also tastes and judges wine, most importantly as a co-chair of IWC (after starting as a judge in the very first IWC). When he has time, he performs concerts of Baroque music and wine with the Armonico Consort.
IWC China Judges
Judging is collegiate, which means at any one time a number of experienced experts are tasting and discussing the wines. At the helm of the judges are three Chairmen, each of them leaders in their field. Between them, they taste every single medal-winning wine, ensuring that only the best succeed. The majority of judges will be from China or based in Asia and familiar with the local palate. They will be supported by some of the most knowledgeable and trusted international IWC judges, including Sarah Abbott MW, Charles Metcalfe, Peter McCombie MW, Jennifer Docherty MW, Richard Bampfield MW, Brendan Heath and world-famous wine writer Oz Clarke.
Sarah Abbott MW - Panel Chair
Sarah Abbott has worked in the wine trade for 15 years, and became a Master of Wine in 2008. She comes from a noisy family of food-obsessed restaurateurs, and it is their heritage of gluttony and curiosity that inspired her passion for wine, and for sharing its joys. She is the director of Swirl, a wine events and education company, and a wine writer and judge. Sarah also works with companies in the wine trade, advising on wine sourcing, and marketing and communications strategy.
Charles Metcalfe - Panel Chair
Charles Metcalfe's tasting career started at university, where he captained the Oxford tasting team to victory over Cambridge two years running. He co-founded the consumer magazine Wine International with Robert Joseph in 1983. They started the International Wine Challenge in 1984. He is also in demand as an international wine judge, and has judged all over the world. As well as writing books on Spanish and Portuguese wines, and on matching wine with food, Charles has appeared on many UK television programmes, presenting drinks and and food items. His latest book is 'The Wine & Food Lover's Guide to Portugal', written with his wife, Kathryn McWhirter, with an update due shortly, and his website, www.charlesmetcalfe.com, allows him the occasional rant.
Peter McCombie MW - Panel Chair
Peter's career in wine started in sales working with legendary Winecellars that champion Italian wines. He now operates an independent wine consultancy service, focused on hotels and restaurants.
Born and raised in New Zealand, now resident in London, he speaks widely, hosting corporate and public events as well as industry seminars. He teaches at the Christie's Wine Course and the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, as well as conducting bespoke courses for anyone from beginners to MW students. He writes for a number of publications and has judged wine competitions around the world.
Jennifer Docherty MW - Panel Chair
Jennifer Docherty is a Master of Wine and a Master of Sake. She was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada but left at age eighteen to study fashion design in New York City. Her love of gastronomy led her to pursue part-time WSET wine courses which inspired her to change careers. After six years of study, she became a Master of Wine in 2015. Her love of Sake and learning has also earned her the WSET level 3 Award in Sake and the Master of Sake (SSI). She currently resides in London and is a buyer for Liberty Wines.
Richard Bampfield MW - Panel Chair
Richard became a Master of Wine in 1990 and managed Australian company Brown Brothers' UK office for 9 years. He now works in public relations for Yvon Mau in Bordeaux and Albert Bichot in Burgundy, and other clients include Leiths School of Food and Wine, Dom Perignon Champagne, Santa Rita Estates, Château Sociando-Mallet and the English Wine Group. He was European Champagne Ambassador 2009 and is currently Chairman of the Association of Wine Educators.
Brendan Heath - Panel Chair
Brendan is a Graduate of Charles Sturt University, where he studied winemaking and viticulture. He has been successfully making a diverse range of table wine styles for over twenty years, as well he is a blender and custodian of some of the oldest and richest fortified wine stocks in Australia. He is a passionate wine educator and regularly judges wines throughout Australia.
Ji Cheng Zhan
Ji Cheng Shan is the professor and doctoral supervisor of food science and nutrition engineering at the China Agricultural University. He is also deputy director of a key laboratory for fruit and vegetable processing of the Ministry of Agriculture, a member of the Chinese Wine Technology Committee, chief editor of ‘Wine in China’, a sommelier, a member of the geographical indication protection committee, director of the fruit and vegetable processing branch of the China Food Science and Technology Institute, and deputy secretary general of Food and Agriculture Resources Development Work Committee.
James is the founder of the wine community website www.gourmet114.com. He is a respected wine educator and served as a judge at the Shanghai International Wine Challenge, as well as other domestic and foreign wine competitions. In his early years, he toured many wine regions around the world and has an in-depth understanding of winemaking and brewing techniques.
Gus entered the wine world as an educator under the guidance of Fongyee Walker MW and Edward Ragg, the founders of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting. In 2017, he obtained the Master of Science degree in Viticulture and Oenology from UC Davis. During his time at UC Davis, he also gained winemaking experience as a cellarhand at Napa’s Cakebread Cellars. He specialises in wine education, English-to-Chinese translation of wine related materials, red wine colour chemistry and sensory science. In 2018, Gus passed the Stage 2 Master of Wine theory and tasting examinations on his first attempt. He is now working on his MW research paper.
Edward is a wine educator based in Beijing but with classrooms across China. He is also an experienced international judge, writer, academic and co-founder, with Fongyee Walker MW, of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting (est. 2007). He has passed the Master of Wine theory and tasting examinations and is currently working on his MW research paper. With Fongyee, he is the other official tutor of the WSET Level 4 Diploma in mainland China. Dragon Phoenix won the 2016 WSET Educator of the Year Award and is a leading education provider, both of WSET and its own courses. Edward is an experienced international judge and has judged at the IWC in London, as well as competitions in China and Australia.
As a wine educator, Sam Chen delivers WSET and other wine-related courses all over China. He is also the translator of ‘The Concise Guide To Wine And Blind Tasting’, an expert blind-taster and a respected international judge.
Tokyo-based Motohiro Okoshi is a wine and Sake consultant for several leading restaurant groups in Japan, as well as for a wine importer, a wholesaler and Japan Airlines. Motohiro, a trained sommelier, is also a senior wine and Sake judge at the International Wine Challenge in London and the author of ‘Wine note’, ‘Aromas of Wine’ and ‘Pairing with Japanese food’.
Desheng is the award-winning chief winemaker at Domaine Franco-Chinois and the Canaan Wine Estate in Huailai, China. He has Master’s Degree in Viti-vini Science from the China Agriculture University in Beijing and a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture from the Hebei Normal University of Science and Technology.
Zhang Jing is state-level wine taster and appraisal judge of wine in China. She graduated from the School of Agriculture, Ningxia University, and has been working as a winemaker in Ningxia Helan Qingxue Vineyard since 2005, after gaining experience in France, USA and Australia. Jiabeilan wines made by her team got very good reputation in the world. Jing was announced as Excellent Chinese Winemaker in 2017 by CFWC (China Fine Wine Challenge), in fact she has been honored with this title since 2007.
Shao, a member of the Chinese wine experts committee, has a degree in food science and trained in winemaking and viticulture in Australia. He has worked as a winemaker at Chateau Junding, Greatwall (Yantai), and Qingdao Huadong. Shao is also an experienced international judge.
Leon is the founder of the Shanghai Sannianjian Wine Club and the chief operating officer of Grapea Institute. He is a champion blind-taster, a tutor at ONAV CHINA, and translated the Concise Guide To Wine And Blind Tasting.
Chang Liu of Beijing-based Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting is a senior wine educator and has been teaching WSET courses in China for four years. Previously, Chang was a buyer at Pinshang Wine in Shenzhen and before that he was an assistant winemaker in McLaren Vale, Australia. He has masters’ degrees in wine business and oenology from the University of Adelaide, Australia, and a degree in agriculture from Henan Agricultural University, Zhengzhou.
David Liu is a wine training lecturer at JD University and the founder of www.winespice.com. He has a degree in oenology from Northwest A&F University of China and a WSET diploma.
Yin Lixue, the founder of Godolphin Wine Service, is a wine writer and wine educator. She authored ‘The Wine Planet’ and is a professor at China’s leading culinary college, PICH in Shanghai. With a Msc in international marketing from Strathclyde University in Scotland, Yin is one of the few wine educators in China who has a deep understanding of both wine and wine business. Yin was involved in the set-up of several big wine platforms in China, including Yangshan international wine exchange and YOUGARDENS wine and sprit cultural park.
Benny Lee is a wine and sake enthusiast and an educator of wine and sake. He has worked for wine importers as a marketing manager and is experienced in organising professional wine events with wineries and winemakers, and now he is sharing his love for wine and sake in various social media platforms. He holds WSET Level 3 certificates in both wine and sake, since 2011 he has been teaching professional wine and sake courses in Hong Kong, Macao and mainland China. He has also been a judge at the International Wine Challenge since 2015.
Ningbo is a wine consultant and wine writer based in Shanghai. He gives suggestions to restaurants and wine importers on wine selections and writes for different publications on wine and food. He is also a content contributor for Michelin Guide Shanghai and an expert in wine tasting. He frequently travels the wine world to meet producers, especially in France, Italy and California. He is also the founder of Burgundy Guide, an online blog on Burgundy wines.
Elliot, a certified sommelier, is the beverage director for Yardbird, RONIN, and Sunday’s Grocery in Hong Kong. He is also the founder of Sunday's Distribution and The Kura Collective, both of which offer beverage distribution solutions featuring a curated selection of wine, sake, and spirits. In 2017, Elliot co-founded Sake Central – a multifunctional retail space and bar that aims to provide an authentic understanding of Japanese food and beverage culture to people around the world. Elliot is also a senior whisky advisor to Zachys Wine Auctions, a contributing editor to JamesSuckling.com, and the co-author of SAKE: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan’s Artisanal Breweries.
Dr Ruyi Li
Dr Ruyi is a lecturer in wine at the Ningxia University in China. She has a PhD in wine science and business from the University of Adelaide, where she is now an honorary associate. She was an associate judge at the International Wine Challenge in London in 2018.
As executive director of beverage operations at Wynn Palace and Wynn Macau, Paco Galdeano oversees the property-wide wine and sake programme, working closely with the head sommeliers. Originally from Spain, Paco brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, having worked in the industry for more than 15 years, across eight countries. Prior to joining Wynn Palace, Paco was group beverage director at Roberto’s Restaurant & Lounge in Dubai. His career also includes sommelier and head sommelier positions at prestigious hotels in Singapore, Dubai, and London. He is currently also one of the judges for the International Wine Challenge in UK and Japan.
Arneis Wu is the head sommelier at Joel Robuchon China Group and responsible for all the restaurants' beverages, including at the two-star Michelin L'atelier de Joel Robuchon. Arneis graduated from Shandong Agriculture University, where he studied vine and wine engineering. He is the 2017 China Sommelier Competition champion, and is currently preparing for the Master Sommelier exam, having already passed at advanced level. In 2018 he picked up two awards at the China Wine List Awards – for Best Wine List and being the Best Sommelier in Mainland China.
Christian Zhang is chief sommelier at Noah’s Yacht Club on the Bund, Shanghai. He has been working in the hotel F&B industry for ten years, and helped launch several top hotel brands in China, including the Amanfayun Luxury Boutique Resort and JW Marriott in Hangzhou, and the Park Hyatt in Ningbo. Christian has a WSET diploma.
Choi Kam Fung, Reeze
Reeze is vice-president of the Hong Kong Sommelier Association. Qualifications include WSET Level 3, Certified Specialist of Wine, and Advanced Sommelier of The Court of Master Sommeliers. He has worked in the F&B industry for 10 years, with roles at prestigious restaurants and hotels such as L’atelier de Joël Robuchon Hong Kong, Upper Modern Bistro, and Mandarin Oriental Hotel. In 2018, he was first runner-up in the ASI Asia-Oceania Best Sommelier Competition. He won the Championship of The Best Sommelier Greater China in 2016 and 2017, and represented Hong Kong in the Asia Best Sommelier in French Wines Competition.
Bruce is the head sommelier at Shangri-la's China World Summit Wing in Beijing. That means he is the custodian of a cellar which holds more than 650 labels and stocks more than 9,600 bottles – one of the most diverse ranges of wines in Beijing. A sommelier certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, Bruce is also armed with WSET Level 3 and nine years’ experience.
‘Jack’ is the chief wine educator at COFCO W&W International, delivering WSET and ISG sommelier courses and purchasing advice for the group.
Deng is a highly respected international judge, a freelance wine writer and columnist, and a winemaking consultant for Chateau Lansai, Estate of Rongyuanmei, Domaine Charme, Malan Flower Vineyard, and Chateau Yunling. He studied in Burgundy and has worked at Chateau Lascombes, Domaine des Lambrays, and Domaine de Vincent Girardin. Deng is also co-founder of Ningxia Wine Art Land.
Since 2002 Denis has been working as a wine journalist. He moved from Taipei to Shanghai in 2007, and since then has been traveling between different cities in China, leading wine education courses and promotions. During his travels, he has met many winemakers and visited many wine regions. “I always enjoy finding out the stories of people and the terroir hidden inside the bottles and barrels,” he says. As well as writing books and magazine columns, Denis also co-operates with importers and wine trade bodies to organise tastings and other wine events.
Wine educator Tai Kang of LITS Wine & Spirit Training has a master’s degree in economics and a WSET Level 4 qualification. His work in the wine industry includes marketing roles at Contina Wine Distribution Corporation and Berryfield Wine & Spirit Corporation. Tai was a judge at the International Wine Challenge in London in 2018.
Wine Educator of Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting. Yonan has obtained WSET Diploma with DPWC. As a WSET certified Educator, Official Educator of Wines of Hungary, New Zealand Wine Professional LV2 Educator and Certified Educator of Wines of Chile; Yonan excels at teaching multilingually in Mandarin, English and Cantonese due to her overseas study experience in the UK for many years. Yonan is active in Wine, Art & Design fields as well as charity work.
Shanghai-based Michelle has been working in the wine industry for eight years and has a WSET diploma. Currently she is a Wine and Spirits Institute wine trainer at Grapea & Co.
‘King’ is head sommelier at the JingAn Shangri-la Hotel in West Shanghai. He has won several sommelier awards, including champion of the 2017 China Sommelier Challenge Competition. His wine lists have also won many awards, including China’s Wine List of the Year (Mainland China) 2017. After graduating from Shanghai Normal University in 2013 with a degree in tourism, King went to Dubai to work as a waiter in the Burj Al Arab Hotel. He returned to Shanghai to become the wine adviser – and then sommelier – at The House of Roosevelt, in the Bund 27 building. Qualifications include WSET diploma and Certified Sommelier Certificate of Court of Master Sommeliers.
Feifei Liu is a certified sommelier. She studied at the Cafa Formation in Bordeaux, France, and now works at The Middle House hotel in Shanghai. Before becoming the hotel’s sommelier in 2017, she was the sommelier at The Temple House in Chengdu.
Echo is a WSET Diploma candidate and was an associate judge at the International Wine Challenge in London in 2018. A former airline crew member, she is also a former member of Singapore Airlines’ WAG tasting group and an airline wine trainer.