The Proust Q&A: Judy Leissner

Hong Kong born Judy Leissner took over Shanxi-based Grace Vineyard from her father in 2002 aged just 24. In the space of 12 years, she has turned Grace into both a globally recognised brand and a flagship for Chinese fine wine. The 200-hectare estate produces around two million bottles a year, from flagship red blend Deep Blue to top wine Chairman’s Reserve. Leissner, who has become something of a celebrity entrepreneur in China, plans to develop wineries in other regions, each with their own branding. In 2012 we voted her our Asian Wine Personality of the Year for her work in drawing global attention to the quality potential of Chinese wine.

Judy Leissner

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is about appreciating the simple pleasure and indulging yourself once in a while.

What is your greatest fear? 

Losing a family member.

Who do you most admire?

My father.

What is your greatest extravagance?

It is yet to come…

What is your current state of mind? 

Happy with what I’ve achieved so far and excited and hopeful about what lies ahead.

What is the quality you most like in a man? 

Passion.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“I’m sorry”.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Wine – I know it’s lame.

When and where were you happiest?

In Hong Kong when I was in 6th grade.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d love to be able to sing and draw.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

The ability to accept myself for exactly who I am.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

It would have to be Grace Vineyard.

Where would you most like to live?

Right where I am in Hong Kong as it’s where my friends and family are.

What is your most treasured possession?

My daughters, though I’m sure they’d disagree that they are my possessions.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Friendliness.

Who are your favourite writers?

Contemporary Chinese novelist Jin Yong, American author and social activist Bell Hooks and British born historian Jonathan Spence, who specialises in Chinese history,

Who is your hero of fiction?

Pokonyan – a Japanse anime creature that’s a cross between a cat and a racoon.

What is it that you most dislike?

People who complain but don’t do anything to change their situation.

What is your greatest regret?

The way I treated to my first boyfriend.

What is your motto?

Live life to the full as you only get one shot at it.

Who would be your ideal dinner party guests and what wines would you serve them?

They are quite obscure guests your readers may not have heard of: Kangxi Emperor, the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty who ruled from 1661 to 1722; QingZhao Li – a famous Chinese writer and poet of the Song Dynasty born in 1084 who mentions wine in many of her poems; and Qichao Liang, a Chinese scholar, journalist, philosopher and reformist who lived the late Qing Dynasty and early Republican China.

I’d serve my esteemed guests Grace Vineyard Chairman’s Reserve to show them what China can achieve in terms of fine winemaking; a German Riesling because I love it and 1924 Pol Roger for the sheer decadence of it.

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