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The Proust Q&A: Lee Yean Yean

Lee Yean Yean is the chief winemaker at Grace Vineyards, Shanxi Province in north western China. Originally from Malaysia, he started off in 2000 working in wine retail and the restaurant business before coming to Grace in 2006 and beginning his career as a cellar hand, then assistant winemaker. Lee also had a few spells at Curly Flat and Brown Brothers wineries in Victoria, Australia. He speaks to db about hating bureaucracy and harbouring a long-held wish to become a musician.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A bottle of good wine with friends who share the same language in wine!

What is your greatest fear? 

For work: To wake up in the morning and find that something wild has happened to the fermentation tank.

Personally: To wake up in the morning and find that something wild has happened to me!

Which living person do you most admire?

There are too many to list, I think.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Taking a whole month of for holiday with my family every year.

What is your current state of mind? 

Excited: We have so many ongoing projects at Grace at the moment.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? 

The qualities that I see in my mum and my wife. Charm and patience (with me).

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?

Well-made fermented grape juice!

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

It used to be apologies like, “I am sorry” and “excuse me”, but I’m afraid it has changed to swear words since 2006.

When and where were you happiest?

All the time when I see people genuinely appreciating our wine.

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

I wish I were tall and blonde.

Which talent would you most like to have?

The ability to do public speaking.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

It is yet to come…

Where would you most like to live?


What is your most treasured possession?

My family.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I guess I can be annoying, to some people.

Who is your favourite writer?

I don’t have one. I have no patience to read.

Who is your hero of fiction?


What is it that you most dislike?

Bureaucracy and arrogance. There’s too much of it about, I find.

What is your greatest regret?

Not becoming a professional musician!

What is your motto?

Life’s too short to drink bad wine. It’s very true.

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

It would be with my wine buddies back in Malaysia. I’d serve only Grace wines and everyone would have to like it.


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