Past

Past Events

The Vintage Port Academy Workshop, Hong Kong November 2016

The 23rd VPA workshop, the last one in 2016, welcomed 42 candidates on a wet Hong Kong day in November. Luckily the rainy conditions did not seem to dampen the spirits of the attendees.

There was a 100% passing rate on the examination with Carrie Wong, educator from Enjoy Wine, impressed the examiners by comparing vintage port with the life journey of a person, and won the special case of 6 half-bottles of 2003 Vintage Port from the VPA port houses. Her answer to the tie-break question, to persuade a fine wine collector to include vintage port in his collection was:

‘When we are young, we are full of curiosity, full of hope and dreams, and full of potential. As we become older and experience life, we gain maturity. Our minds become more complex but we are also calmer and no longer shout for attention. This is the story of a Vintage Port as well. Like a fine young man or woman, it only gets better with age. You will learn to appreciate it more and more, as you appreciate life and all that it has to offer.’

Well done Carrie! All candidates were awarded a VPA pin and Diploma.

 

The Vintage Port Academy will be conducting Workshops in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou during the 2nd week of March 2017. Please contact Tersina Shieh at tersinashieh@icloud.com to register your interest as soon as possible.

The Vintage Port Academy Trade Tasting, Hong Kong November 2016

This year, the theme of the VPA annual trade tasting was Aged Tawny Ports where 20 wines from the six member houses of VPA, Croft, Dow’s, Fonseca, Graham’s, Taylor’s and Warre’s were presented, including 6 x10YO, 6 x 20YO, 3 x 30YO, 2 x 40YO and three Single Harvest Tawny: Graham’s 1972, Taylor’s 1966 and Taylor’s 1965.  Guests enjoyed comparing the different ages of the wine as well as contrasting the different styles across the houses.

The VPA trade tasting has evolved to become ‘the’ port event in the city attracting sommeliers, restaurateurs and hoteliers, as well as wine writers, educators and wine connoisseurs. We were especially proud to have a Master of Wine and a Master of Sommelier among the 100 plus guests. 

The Vintage Port Academy Workshop, Guangzhou November 2016

The second VPA workshop in Guangzhou was held on 21st November and attended by 31 members of the trade from F&B, distribution and education sectors.

Candidates were enthusiastic and lively questions were thrown at the speakers during the entire workshop. All of them passed the examination with over 40% scoring full marks.

The winner of the unique case of 6 half-bottles of 2003 Vintage Port, one from each member of the VPA port houses, was Alan Zhong from Conrad Guangzhou Hotel. He persuaded his fine wine collector friend to include vintage port in his collection by expanding the word ‘PORT’, with ‘P’ standing for ‘passion’, ‘O’ for ‘Oh my God when he first tastes vintage port’, ‘R’ refers to ‘rarity’ while ‘T’ means ‘Time in ageing’.

The workshop ended with a buffet lunch where suckling pig, kung pao chicken, roasted beef and foie gras were served alongside various ports, and all candidates took home with them a VPA pin and VPA Diploma.

The Vintage Port Academy will be conducting Workshops in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou during the 2nd week of March 2017. Please contact Tersina Shieh at tersinashieh@icloud.com  to register your interest as soon as possible.

The Vintage Port Academy Launch 2010 November 2010

Vintage Port Academy 2010

The Vintage Port Academy was launched with much fanfare in Hong Kong on the 9th of November. The launch activities included two masterclasses for the F&B industry and a media tasting of 18 vintage ports from the last decade produced by Grahams', Fonseca, Dow's, Warre's, Croft's and Taylor's.

Vintage Port Academy Masterclasses November 2010

The Masterclasses were organized on 9th November 2010 at the Clube Lusitano where Directors from Symington Family Estates and Fladgate Partnership provided the participants with an insight into Vintage Port and Douro wines. Participants sat a short examination.

The top student, Chan Ka Wo of Wine Connection was awarded a rare six bottles case of 2000 Vintage Ports from Grahams', Fonseca, Dow's, Warre's, Croft's and Taylor's. His winning answer to question: How do you convince a friend who had never drunk Port before to try it? There are many ways to enjoy Port wines, from an aperitif to an after dinner wine. If it is a dry style one wants, try a dry white Port served chilled before a meal. This would make a great aperitif. Or have a red Port after dinner with dessert or on its own. Especially so just have a glass of vintage Port to savour and to round off a perfect dinner. It would be most pleasurable just to sit on the sofa with a glass of Port and forget all the worries!

The Vintage Port Academy Single Quinta Vintage Port Tasting October 2011

The Vintage Port Academy led by Nick Heath of The Fladgate Partnership (Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft) and Euan Mackay from Symington Family Estates (Graham’s, Dow’s and Warre’s) conducted a rare tasting of six 2004 Single Quinta Vintage Ports from six different houses: Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos, Fonseca Quinta do Panascal, Dow's Quinta do Bomfim, Warre's Quinta da Cavadinha, Croft's Quinta da Roêda and Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong on the 24th October.

It was attended by selected journalists and writers, who, after the tutored tasting, were asked to blind taste the wines in random orders. Both Jake Lee from Wall Street Online and Jakki Philips from Hong Kong Tatler identified three wines correctly and shared the prize of a bottle of Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos and Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas 2011.

The Vintage Port Academy Masterclasses October 2011

The Vintage Port Academy conducted two masterclasses on ‘The Essential Knowledge of Port’ at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong on the 25th and 26th October. The two classes were attended by over 50 F&B professionals and retailers all eager to learn the difference between wood aged and vintage ports. Participants sat a short examination consisting of multiple choice questions and a commentary on how to persuade customers to order a glass of Late Bottled Vintage Port.

The best answers were from Ian Wo of the Hong Kong Jockey Club who wrote ‘... This wine would pair perfectly well with heavy red meat dishes..... don’t forget to try this with a BBQ suckling pig. You’ll fall in love with it!’, and Leo Au from Peninsula Hotel, ‘... On the palate, nice balance between sweetness and flavour,...... wonderful mouth-feel with every sip....’. Both answers won approval from Nick and Euan for their enthusiasm and passion. Ian and Leo each received a set of two bottles of 2007 Vintage Ports. All those who passed the examination were awarded a VPA Diploma and a bottle of Late Bottled Vintage Port. The masterclasses were followed by a lunch paired with three different styles of port: Late Bottled Vintage, 20 Year Old Tawny and Single Quinta Vintage.

The Vintage Port Academy Trade Tasting October 2011

The member houses of The Vintage Port Academy, Croft, Dow’s, Fonseca, Graham’s, Taylor’s and Warre’s, held their annual Vintage Port tasting in the Pacific Bar at the Conrad hotel on 25th October. Each house showed highlights from the last three decades, including both classic and single-quinta Vintage Ports.

Euan Mackay of Symington Family Estates (Dow’s, Graham’s and Warre’s) and Nick Heath of The Fladgate Partnership (Croft, Fonseca and Taylor’s) had travelled from Portugal to welcome over a hundred Hong Kong trade and media representatives to the event. The annual Vintage Port Academy trade tasting has become a highlight of the Hong Kong wine calendar and attracts strong interest from both on and off trade, as well as from media and private collectors. Previous tastings have focused on new Vintage Port releases as well as specific themes. Last year’s tasting presented the outstanding 2000, 2003 and 2007 Vintage Ports from the six houses. Demand has been growing as Hong Kong collectors and consumers recognise the iconic status of Vintage Port, an indispensible part of any serious wine cellar.

The Vintage Port Academy workshops in Hong Kong and Shanghai October 2012

The VPA workshops for hoteliers, sommeliers and other members of the trade in both Hong Kong and Shanghai were oversubscribed with just over 100 places available in all three of the trainings. At the end of the class, participants had to sit a short examination. Students who passed the examination received an official VPA diploma certificate and a VPA pin. The top student from each class was also presented with a bottle of Graham’s 2000 and Taylor’s 2000 Vintage Port in a VPA wooden box.

The top students wrote creative and persuasive commentaries, guiding potential customers on how to enjoy the wine. Here are some extracts from their answers:

Anobia Lam, Assistant F&B Manager, The Hong Kong Cricket Club, Hong Kong: «A versatile wine for a special occasion with western or even oriental cuisine, especially Chinese cuisine from Sichuan and Shanghai, which its strong flavour and complex seasoning. »

Cindy Cheng, Director of Learning & Development, Hyatt Regency Shatin, Hong Kong: «A pleasant glass of LBV Port wine enjoyable on any occasions. It is not dominating so it's very enjoyable on its own or with some nice cheese. To be more adventurous, try it with the Chinese treasure duck. You may find some nice surprise.»

Rossie Huang, Manager, Cheers, Shanghai: «Good pair with black chocolate or cigar. It's a very elegant LBV Port, good to drink one glass after meal or before you go to sleep. Meanwhile, you can share it with your friends.»

The Vintage Port Academy press lunch in Hong Kong October 2012

The final VPA event took place at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong for selected members of the Hong Kong press introducing one of the fastest growing sectors of the Port trade, Aged Tawnies from 10, 20, 30 to 40 Year Old. This was followed by a style tasting of the six member houses 20 Year old Tawny and a Chinese lunch, where participants were able to experience and debate the pairing of 10 and 20 Year old Tawnies with hairy crab. The lunch finished on a high note with everyone savouring the Graham’s 1952 single harvest Tawny produced specifically to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee served at the Sovereign’s lunch at Windsor castle with the Kings and Queens from all around the world and the extremely rare pre-phylloxera Taylor’s Scion from 1855.

The Vintage Port Academy trade tasting October 2012

The VPA annual trade tasting in Hong Kong was also well attended for the third year running showcasing 12 vintage ports (vintage and Single Quinta Vintage) from the six members of the Academy: Croft, Dow’s, Fonseca, Graham’s, Taylor’s and Warre’s. Members of the trade and media were busy comparing and contrasting the different house styles while Euan and Nicolas explained the unique attributes of the Douro Valley.

The Vintage Port Academy Trade Tasting, Hong Kong October 2013

Over 120 guests attended the 2013 VPA trade tasting where the 2011 Vintage Port of all six members of the Academy: Croft, Dow, Fonseca, Graham, Taylor and Warre were presented alongside 12 aged tawnies and late bottled vintage ports. Guests busily compared the house styles under the guidance of Euan and Nicolas.

The Vintage Port Academy Workshops – Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing Ocotber 2013

This year, for the first time, the VPA workshop was extended to Beijing. Over 160 members of the F&B trade attended the workshops in three cities: Hong Kong (2 workshops), Shanghai and Beijing. All participants passed the examination at the end of the workshops with over 30% of students scoring 100% on the multiple choice questions. Each was awarded the VPA Diploma Certificate and a VPA pin.

The top student from each class was also awarded a bottle of Graham’s 2011 and Taylor’s 2011 in na exclusive VPA wooden box. They impressed the examiner with the following arguments to persuade a fine wine collector's friend to include Vintage Port in his or her wine collection:

Maurice Low, Watson’s Wine Cellar, Hong Kong, “… To drink a vintage port can take you back to your old memories. You can enjoy it with an old friend, father, wife, having a nice dinner with old memories. Besides, young vintage port can perfectly match with chocolate that you can celebrate your new marriage or daughter’s wedding party. Actually, young or old vintage port can give you a totally different good, sweet memory when you enjoy it.”

Kelly Schneider, Team Leader, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, “… Vintage Port is a wine that I promise cannot disagree with you…. It can appeal to your collectors by sharing your passion for an understated product that the current market is overlooking. If you don’t have any Vintage Port, your collection is truly incomplete.”

Butt Tang, Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen, Shanghai, “... If you collect a vintage, for example, of your kid’s birthday, your wedding year, this will be a special surprise to your family in the future, around 20 years or even 100 years.”

Nicolas Carre, Wine advisor, Beijing, “… You may also buy Vintage Port for your next kid’s birthday. He will be happy to remember you in 40 years or even more years…Port is a great wine with so many possibilityes to pair with food or a nice cigar. The sweetness, the fruitiness and the mellowness will please the palate of your guests. Aren’t we all more sensitive to sweetness?”

​Aged Tawnies Media Workshop, Shanghai October 2014

10 selected media members were invited to take part in this journey of aged tawnies, in which Euan and Nick explained the different styles of wood-aged ports. Guests then tasted and compared the evolution of 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old aged tawnies, followed by two single harvest tawnies, Graham’s 1969 and Taylor’s 1964. Discussions were lively with each guest having his own preference.

The Vintage Port Academy Alumni Celebration, Hong Kong October 2014

To celebrate its fifth anniversary, VPA invited all its alumni, numbering 449 including the 2014 graduates in Greater China, to a late night gathering at Mayta Peruvian Restaurant in Hong Kong. Four ports were selected to pair with four typical dishes: Dow’s 10 YO tawny with deep fried pork belly steamed bun, Taylor’s 20 YO tawny with lamb empanada, Taylor’s LBV 2009 with Wagyu beef anticucho, and Graham’s Vintage 2000 with braised veal. The pairings won applause from both guests and chef. There was also a quiz to win an all expenses paid, five-day trip to Porto and the Douro. Chan Ka-wo, who was also a top scoring student in the 2010 VPA workshop, was the lucky winner, answering all the questions correctly. Well done and congratulations Ka-wo!

​The Vintage Port Academy Trade Tasting, Hong Kong October 2014

Over 100 guests from the trade attended this VPA tasting, where 12 vintage ports from the six members of the Academy—Croft, Dow’s, Fonseca, Graham’s Taylor’s and Warre’s—were presented alongside the Graham’s Single Harvest 1969 and Taylor’s Single Harvest 1964. Euan and Nick mingled among the guests who were going back and forth to find their favourites. Now in its fifth year, this annual VPA trade tasting has become one of the pillar events in the Hong Kong wine trade calendar.

​Vintage Port Decanting Challenge, Macau October 2014

Eight two-person teams from hotels and restaurants competed in the first ever Vintage Port Decanting Challenge held at the IFT Restaurant in Macau. One team member watched a professional demonstration on how to decant a vintage port properly in a closed room, and then he had to instruct his teammate how to decant a bottle of vintage port in front of judges and audience. The decanted wine was judged according to clarity, wastage and speed. After careful evaluation, the prize went to Nuno Miguel Gomes and Erlito Sogelio Penido from Hard Rock Hotel, who received a unique VPA vintage case. All contestants were awarded a certificate and a VPA cork puller.

The Vintage Port Academy Workshops, Shanghai, Beijing, Macau and Hong Kong October 2014

The VPA welcomes 132 new members into the Academy this year, all of whom attended the annual workshops and successfully passed the examinations. This fifth running of VPA workshops were conduced in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and for the first time in Macau. The examination consisted of multiple choice questions plus a tie-break written question in which the candidate had to persuade a fine wine collector friend to include Vintage Port in his collection. The best answers were those that added a personal touch rather than merely stating the facts:

James Teng, Hakkasan, Shanghai, “… A wine that is age-worthy, a living wine that is ever-evolving in its bottle which just gets better and better as it is aged…. And very importantly, a wine as old as you that you can enjoy on your 90th birthday!”

Jin Bin, Jubilant Nova Wine Culture Development, Beijing, “…. But what is the most important thing, you will see the beauty of time changing in a vintage port…. You don’t have to learn to appreciate vintage port under pressure, because you already love it when you drink it.”

Silven Wong, MGM Macau, “Well my friend, little needs to be said and let the port itself tell you what it is worth…. At the end of the day, as a true wine connoisseur, you do want your cellar to look great, don’t you? Now, jump on board the train of fine vintage port and show others your fine taste in great wines by a good vintage port selection!”

Vincent Chue, FoFo by el Willy, Hong Kong, “A gift for the current/next/next next generation …. An excuse to tell your wife to buy a nice ‘hoggit’…. You drink vintage port and don’t need to order desserts, coz this is the best dessert!!!”

Congratulations to all new members, who each received a VPA diploma and a VPA pin.

Vintage Port Academy 2014 Highlights October 2014

The Vintage Port Academy Workshops, Shanghai, Beijing, Macau and Hong Kong

The VPA welcomes 132 new members into the Academy this year, all of whom attended the annual workshops and successfully passed the examinations. This fifth running of VPA workshops were conduced in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and for the first time in Macau.

The examination consisted of multiple choice questions plus a tie-break written question in which the candidate had to persuade a fine wine collector friend to include Vintage Port in his collection. The best answers were those that added a personal touch rather than merely stating the facts:

James Teng, Hakkasan, Shanghai, “… A wine that is age-worthy, a living wine that is ever-evolving in its bottle which just gets better and better as it is aged…. And very importantly, a wine as old as you that you can enjoy on your 90th birthday!”.

Jin Bin, Jubilant Nova Wine Culture Development, Beijing, “…. But what is the most important thing, you will see the beauty of time changing in a vintage port…. You don’t have to learn to appreciate vintage port under pressure, because you already love it when you drink it.”

Silven Wong, MGM Macau, “Well my friend, little needs to be said and let the port itself tell you what it is worth…. At the end of the day, as a true wine connoisseur, you do want your cellar to look great, don’t you? Now, jump on board the train of fine vintage port and show others your fine taste in great wines by a good vintage port selection!”

Vincent Chue, FoFo by el Willy, Hong Kong, “A gift for the current/next/next next generation …. An excuse to tell your wife to buy a nice ‘hoggit’…. You drink vintage port and don’t need to order desserts, coz this is the best dessert!!!”

Congratulations to all new members, who each received a VPA diploma and a VPA pin.

Vintage Port Decanting Challenge, Macau

Eight two-person teams from hotels and restaurants competed in the first ever Vintage Port Decanting Challenge held at the IFT Restaurant in Macau. One team member watched a professional demonstration on how to decant a vintage port properly in a closed room, and then he had to instruct his teammate how to decant a bottle of vintage port in front of judges and audience. The decanted wine was judged according to clarity, wastage and speed. After careful evaluation, the prize went to Nuno Miguel Gomes and Erlito Sogelio Penido from Hard Rock Hotel, who received a unique VPA vintage case. All contestants were awarded a certificate and a VPA cork puller.

Aged Tawnies Media Workshop, Shanghai

10 selected media members were invited to take part in this journey of aged tawnies, in which Euan and Nick explained the different styles of wood-aged ports. Guests then tasted and compared the evolution of 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old aged tawnies, followed by two single harvest tawnies, Graham’s 1969 and Taylor’s 1964. Discussions were lively with each guest having his own preference.

The Vintage Port Academy Trade Tasting, Hong Kong

Over 100 guests from the trade attended this VPA tasting, where 12 vintage ports from the six members of the Academy—Croft, Dow’s, Fonseca, Graham’s Taylor’s and Warre’s—were presented alongside the Graham’s Single Harvest 1969 and Taylor’s Single Harvest 1964. Euan and Nick mingled among the guests who were going back and forth to find their favourites. Now in its fifth year, this annual VPA trade tasting has become one of the pillar events in the Hong Kong wine trade calendar.

The Vintage Port Academy Alumni Celebration, Hong Kong

To celebrate its fifth anniversary, VPA invited all its alumni, numbering 449 including the 2014 graduates in Greater China, to a late night gathering at Mayta Peruvian Restaurant in Hong Kong. Four ports were selected to pair with four typical dishes: Dow’s 10 YO tawny with deep fried pork belly steamed bun, Taylor’s 20 YO tawny with lamb empanada, Taylor’s LBV 2009 with Wagyu beef anticucho, and Graham’s Vintage 2000 with braised veal. The pairings won applause from both guests and chef. There was also a quiz to win an all expenses paid, five-day trip to Porto and the Douro. Chan Ka-wo, who was also a top scoring student in the 2010 VPA workshop, was the lucky winner, answering all the questions correctly. Well done and congratulations Ka-wo!

To see photos of each event, click here.

 

Aged Tawnies Media Workshop, Beijing March 2015

Following the success of the media workshop in Shanghai last year, VPA conducted it again for 14 media members in Beijing, including special guest, Emma Gao, owner and winemaker of Silver Heights in Ningxia. Emma was visiting Beijing and we had the pleasure to have her with us. Euan and Nick talked at length about the different styles of wood-aged ports. The evolution of 10, 20, 30 and 40 year old aged tawnies was an eye-opener to most, while the two single harvest tawnies, Graham’s 1969 and Taylor’s 1964, won applause from everyone in the room.

The Vintage Port Academy Shanghai and Beijing Workshops March 2015

This year Vintage Port Academy (VPA) kicked off its activities in Beijing and Shanghai in March. As in the previous years, both workshops were fully booked with enthusiastic attendees. Most of them members of the F&B industry as well as educators, writers and importers.

The workshops were completed with the VPA examination consisting of a series of multiple choice questions plus a tie-break written question in which the candidate had to persuade a fine wine collector or friend to include vintage port in their collection. The best answers were those that added a personal touch rather than merely stating the facts:

Aerin Shi-Lin, Kempinski Beijing, “When your sons/daughters grow up, it will be the best meaningful gift for them on their wedding/graduation ceremonies… Every woman will fall in love with the taste of port wine… and it is the best gift you can bring to your beloved.”

Julie Guan-Xiaoyu, Noahs Yacht Club on the Bund Shanghai , “Vintage port is a symbol of ‘patience and eternity’. It is the epitome of your life…

As a brilliant collector, you deserve it;
As a wine lover, you must own it;
As a connoisseur, you can try it and keep it.
That’s Vintage Port.”

Congratulations to Aerin and Julie who, in addition to the VPA diploma and pin, also each received a special case of 6 half-bottles of 2003 Vintage Port from the VPA port houses.

Alumni trip to the Douro April 2015

The VPA celebrated its 5th anniversary last year with a late night gathering in Hong Kong. The highlight of the evening was a quiz where the winner would win an all expenses paid, five-day trip to Porto and the Douro. Chan Ka-wo, who was also the top scoring student in the 2010 Hong Kong VPA workshop, answered all the questions correctly and won the prize.

Ka-wo just took the trip in mid-April, spending a few days in the heart of the Douro and tasting with Nick, Euan and their teams, as well as a couple of relaxing days in Porto. Here is what Ka-wo has to say about his experience:

‘It is always a pleasure to visit Porto and the Douro but this time, at the invitation of the VPA, it was absolutely eye-opening and utterly unforgettable.

Not only that I had the chance to visit private institutions, vineyards, wineries, estates, etc., it was an one-to-one experience (sometimes many-to-one!). With such intimate guidance, many of my questions and uncertainties regarding Port wine making and the region were answered and clarified. Not to mention the fact that I had tasted/drunk more Port in the 5 days I was there than the total I had ever drunk in my entire life to date. It really had elevated my knowledge and perception to another level.

I must express my heartfelt gratitude to the VPA for the opportunity and especially to Chris, Jackie, Henry, Nick and Euan who had spent their valuable time with me and further my Port wine experience. It was definitely an experience of a lifetime.’

The Vintage Port Academy Trade Tasting, Hong Kong October 2015

The theme of this much anticipated annual trade tasting was single quinta vintage port. Each house presented two vintage ports: one young and one old so that the guests could not only compare and contrast the styles from different houses,but also see the evolution of the wine over time. The oldest ones presented were the Graham’s Malvedos 1965, alongside its younger 2004 vintage, as well as the Fonseca Guimaraens 1976, showcased next to its 2013 vintage. The tasting was well attended by over 100 guests, which has become a networking activity among port lovers.

Vintage Port Academy 2015 highlights, Guangzhou and Hong Kong The Vintage Port Academy Workshops Guangzhou and Hong Kong

Following the success of the workshops in Shanghai and Beijing earlier this year, VPA returned to Asia again in October for its first workshop in Guangzhou and the sixth in Hong Kong.

The attentiveness and attitude of the candidates in Guangzhou impressed Euan Mackay and Nicolas Heath, tutors of VPA workshop, most. Over 1/3 of them scored full marks in the multiple choice questions in the examination. In Hong Kong, the workshop was oversubscribed and a bigger alternative venue had to be used in order to accommodate 60 candidates. To win the top prize, candidates had to answer a written question, where he had to persuade a fine wine collector to include vintage port in his portfolio. The winners were:

Ken Law from Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou, who used the word, ‘VALUE’ to persuade the connoisseur. He elaborated, ‘V stands for Vintage, A stands for Amazing, L stands for Luxury, U stands for Ultimate, E stands for Eye-opening’. Ken did a perfect job to explain Vintage Port.

In Hong Kong, Chester Grucza from Buzz Concepts wrote the answer in the format of a letter, successfully adding a personal touch. At the end of the letter, he wrote, ‘I have enclosed one of the latest heavyweights, 2011 Vintage Port, 7 bottles: one for you now, rest to keep and drink the first on your son’s 18th birthday.’

Well done Ken and Chester, and big congratulations to all candidates who passed the examinations. Each of them received a VPA diploma and VPA pin.

Vintage Port Decanting Challenge, Hong Kong October 2015

The most exciting VPA event was the Vintage Port Decanting Challenge, held for the first time in Hong Kong. The eight two-person teams from hotels and restaurant had to decant a vintage port in front of the judges, Euan Mackay and Nicolas Heath, who evaluated the wine based on clarity, wastage and speed. The winning team was Conrad Hong Kong, represented by Andrew Lee and Lucas Law. They decanted the port in 1.25 minutes, the second fastest, and the wine was one of the clearest. Andrew and Lucas each received a unique duo vintage case, consisted of a bottle each of Dow’s and Taylor’s 2003 vintage.


The eight teams taking part in the challenge were Conrad Hong Kong, Hotel ICON, Hyatt Regency Shatin, Metropark Hotel Wanchai, New World Millennium HK, Porterhouse by Laris, Renaissance Harbour View and The Mira.

Vintage Port Decanting Challenge, Shanghai 2016

The Vintage Port Academy also took the opportunity to host the Vintage Port Decanting Challenge in Shanghai, the first in Shanghai and the third in Greater China. Eight two-person teams from leading hotels and restaurants took part.

The competition was also about teamwork. Each team nominated one team member to watch the demonstration by Euan Mackay, co-founder of VPA and sales director of Symington Family Estates, on how to open and decant a Taylor 1985 Vintage Port. This team member then needed to, without touching anything, explain the techniques and tricks to his teammate, who would do the actual opening and decanting of the wine.

As is to be expected of a wine which has spent nearly 30 years in bottle, the corks of the Taylor 1985 needed to be extracted with some care. The teams were allowed to take their time uncorking the bottles before the competition began. Contestants were only judged on the clarity and wastage, with the speed of decanting being the tiebreaker.

The winning team was Courtyard by Marriott, represented by Lobby Lounge Manager Jessi Peng and Café Supervisor Jacky Ma. They scored 17.5 out of 20 on clarity and wastage, even though they spent the most time (over four minutes) decanting.

All candidates received a certificate and a VPA cork puller (an essential tool to open old wine). The winning team, Jessi and Jacky, each received a unique duo vintage case, consisted of a bottle each of Graham’s and Taylor’s 2003 vintage.

Nicolas Heath, co-founder of VPA and marketing director of The Fladgate Partnership, remarked that the goals of this competition were to demystify decanting, and to encourage on-premises not to view decanting as a chore, but rather as an opportunity to create a theatre at the table. Jessi and Jacky certainly took this to their hearts.

The eight teams taking part in the challenge were

  • Hakkasan (Felix Zhang and Robin Wang)
  • Hyatt on the Bund (Christie Xu and Shaun Shao)
  • Mandarin Oriental (Irene Han and Walter Liu)
  • Courtyard by Marriott Shanghai Puxi (Jessi Peng and Jacky Ma)
  • Park Hyatt Shanghai (Adrian Zhang and Harris Ding)
  • Ritz Carlton Shanghai Pudong (Darren Wang and Delphin Duan)
  • The Portman Ritz Carlton Shanghai (Henri Bakker and Theo Kaung)
  • Yacht Club On the Bund (Joyce Zhou and Tracy Cui)

Congratulations to all of them who now master the technique of decanting a vintage port.

The Vintage Port Academy Workshop, Beijing March 2016

The first stop of the Vintage Port Academy (VPA) workshop this year was Beijing, its fourth workshop in the city. Like previous years, the workshop was well attended by members of F&B industry and importers.

Attendees had to complete an examination at the end of the workshop and only those who pass would be awarded the certificates and VPA pins, thereby becoming alumni of the VPA. The alumni group has 659 members as of to date.

All 33 candidates passed with flying colours. The stand out one was Zhu Mi from the wine and spirits department of Amazon, who wrote the most personal answer to the tie-break question – to persuade a fine wine collector to include Vintage Port in his collection. Here is the extract of his answer, in form of a letter to the collector.


‘Today I would like to present you a bottle of Graham’s 1983 Vintage Port….It is one of the few wines that would last over 100 years. You must have at least a few cases of Vintage Port in your collection for the personal touch it makes. My wife and I were married in 1983. Every year we drink it at our anniversary and the special memories always come back. You and your wife also deserve those special moments.’

Well done Mi for that personal touch. He also took home the special case of 6 half-bottles of 2003 Vintage Port from the VPA port houses.

The Vintage Port Academy Workshop, Shanghai March 2016

The Beijing workshop was followed by the Shanghai workshop, in its fifth year, attended by sommeliers and service staff from leading hotels and restaurants.

Nearly half of the 36 candidates scored full marks on the multiple choice questions but the star was Isabelle Wang from VOL Group (with well known eateries like Mr & Mrs Bund, The Cut, Bar Rouge, to name a few under its management). Isabelle’s answer to the tie-break question was:

‘When I was born in 1985, my father gave me a bottle of vintage port…. My father just kept it for me for my special occasion, to appreciate its value and teach me to cherish it. We don't actually own it, we just keep it for the next generation – Pass to your generation the rare value.’

Congratulations Isabelle, who also received the special case of 6 half-bottles of 2003 Vintage Port from the VPA port houses, in addition to the VPA certificate and pin.

All candidates in both workshops were invited to a networking buffet lunch where they could mix and match different ports from Ruby Reserve and Late Bottled Vintage Port to Tawnies and Vintage Ports. The dishes include Chinese favourites such as dumplings, roasted pork belly, Peking duck, sweet and vinegar spare ribs, braised beef as well as classic desserts crème brulee and bitter chocolate tart. Candidates were amazed on the versatility of port.

Printed in www.thevintageportacademy.com

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