Vincent Cheung, Asian grand master of the Commanderie de Bordeaux, has been named 2014’s Asian Wine Personality by the drinks business and the Institute of Masters of Wine.
The announcement was made at a reception during Vinexpo Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong, where Patrick Schmitt, editor of the drinks business, and Jeanie Cho Lee MW, presented Cheung with the award.
Lee, who has known Vincent for over 20 years, said it was it was with “fondness” but also a “pleasure” and a “privilege” to present him with the award.
Accepting it, Cheung said: “I am honoured to receive the 2014 Asia Wine Personality Award at this year’s Vinexpo Asia-Pacific from the drinks business and the Institute of Masters of Wine. It is a great honour to be recognised for my work with the Commanderie de Bordeaux over all these years and I hope that it and Bordeaux will continue to flourish across Asia in the years to come.”
This is only the second time the drinks business and the IMW have presented the award for an Asian wine personality, and it follows the inaugural award which was presented to Judy Leissner of Grace Vineyards at the last Vinexpo Asia-Pacific in 2012.
The award for Asian Wine Personality recognises outstanding achievement in wine, with a particular emphasis on promoting wine within Asia, whether through viticulture and winemaking, or sales and marketing.
Vincent’s love of wine was fired when he took the slow boat from Hong Kong to Marseille on his way to London to study law in the 1960s; and the Vietnamese crew used to bring him the left over wines from first class.
Having returned to Hong Kong in 1971 following 10 years in London in the “Carnaby Street era”, he continued to practice as a solicitor and in 1990 was a founding partner of Vincent T. K. Cheung, Yap & Co.
However, his major passion has always been wine and Vincent has been involved with the Hong Kong chapter of the Commanderie since its founding in 1986 – the first chapter to be founded in Asia.
He took over as the third grand maître in 1997 and his tenure coincided with the first stages of Bordelais châteaux owners visiting Hong Kong and Asia in large numbers.
Although import taxes at the time made wine expensive, Cheung and the Commanderie managed to gain a crucial exception for wines shipped into Hong Kong for promotional purposes, which gave increasingly enthusiastic and interested Hong Kong buyers the chance to taste the best of Bordeaux.
In the last 17 years, Vincent estimates he has organised dinners for the “majority” of the Bordeaux classed growths, with an average of 15 dinners a year.
The Commanderie today has grown to 150 members with anywhere between 300 and 400 hopefuls on the waiting list
Vincent’s most important rule for members, and one which he has made a particular effort to enforce, is that members must be passionate Bordeaux drinkers and that they attend the dinners as regularly as they are able.
He has been head of the Hong Kong chapter for close to two decades and was made maître of China as well in 2006 and then grand maître of all the Asian chapters in 2008.
Vincent has overseen a period of enormous expansion for Bordeaux in Asia-Pacific and in 2006 he was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole for his services to French wine and agriculture.
Under him the influence of the Commanderie now extends beyond wine too.
In association with Lynch Bages, the Commanderie raises funds to send disadvantaged children in Hong Kong to Pauillac and vice versa, an experience the children whether French or Chinese would never have otherwise.
The Commanderie is now a registered charity as a result and as well as the annual auction of Lynch Bages to raise funds for the exchange, it donates more than HK$1 million a year to various charities for children, cancer sufferers and leper colonies in China.