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Uncorked: Rhys Pender MW

Rhys is a Master of Wine who combines his time writing, judging, teaching, consulting and dirtying his boots at his four acre vineyard and winery – Little Farm Winery – in the Similkameen Valley of BC, Canada. He runs a wine school, Wine Plus+, and judges wine competitions nationally and internationally such as the Decanter World Wine Awards as well as the National and World competitions for WineAlign. To make sure he eats well he has also completed a Professional Culinary Diploma and has been named by Western Living magazine as one of the ‘Top 40 Foodies Under 40’ in Western Canada. He is a principal critic and writer for and a regular contributor to Canadian publications such as Macleans, Montecristo and Taste. Pender speaks to dbHK about holidaying in San Sebastian and how a cheap bottle of Chardonnay ignited his love of wine.

What vintage are you? 


What bottle sparked your love of wine?

It wasn’t anything fancy. It was a fairly cheap bottle of Chardonnay but it was the wine that made me realize that different grapes and different winemaking techniques could give different flavours and that all the wine talk wasn’t just a load of crap. It was a buttery Chardonnay that I had when I was 22. I think that was the point I started taking notice of different flavours, textures and things like that. It was probably the beginning of my life long passion for wine.

What would you be as a wine?

I like to think I would be something dry, crisp, mineral and natural. Maybe an intense, steely dry Riesling? I wish I was Blanc de Blancs Champagne but that is too classy for me!

Where are you happiest?

Eating and drinking in San Sebastian, the south of France or Italy.

What’s your greatest vice?

I really like Champagne. I can’t afford it too often but buy it all the time anyway.

Best advice you ever got?

My Grandpa used to say “neither a borrower nor lender be” which I think was pretty good advice.

Your cellar’s underwater, which bottle would you dive in and save?

Before I knew anything about wine I was lucky enough to buy some 1994 Vintage Port. I’d probably grab one of those.

What’s the best and worst thing about the wine business?

I love the magic in blind tasting and that with some training you can tell so much about where a wine comes from, how it is made, the vintage, etc. all from just a few millilitres of wine in a glass. All that info is contained in that small amount of wine. That is still magic to me.

The worst part is that the business is split into different kinds of people. Some people are passionate about wine and want to make the best they can in the most pure way possible. There is amazing integrity in these people. For others it is just a business and they will take any shortcuts just to sell wine. When wine is just another industrial product it takes away from what the passionate group is all about. I’d like it if somehow this other product wasn’t called wine but something else.

What’s on your wine bucket list?

I am so fascinated by visiting wine regions as every one is so unique and special in its own way. I’d love to visit all of them!

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

All my wine geek friends. Then we can talk about wine and food without boring anybody. I like to enjoy my food and wine with friends and family.

Personal satisfaction (Parker points – out of 100)


Which wine would you like served at your funeral?

A nice dry Lambrusco served with some really good charcuterie around a fire would be nice.


The drinks business Hong Kong and The British Columbia Wine Institute are hosting a Discover British Columbia masterclass for the Hong Kong wine trade on Wednesday, 9 November from 3.30pm-5pm at the China Club, hosted by Rhys Pender MW and Rpert Millar, managing editor of the drinks business Hong Kong.

The masterclass will include a comparative tasting featuring a selection of British Columbia’s finest red and white wine from Okanagan Valley and Similkameen Valley and a discussion will follow on the future prospects for British Columbia as a globally recognized premium wine region and how its diverse regions and unique short, hot growing season can make a wide range of wines that go beyond cool climate.

Please click here to register your attendance.

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