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Cover Story WINE.LUXE Cover Person of the Year | 2018  JAN - 2018 FEB

The Youngest Master of Wine in the World

全球最年青葡萄酒大師:Sarah Heller

Winning the title of Master of Wine(MW) is one of the greatest achievements for any veteran wine student can achieve, these people usually have a great passion on wine, and willing to spend over a decade to study the vast world of wine.

However, Sarah Heller is changing our perception now. The young and talented wine enthusiast, with only 8 years of wine study background, who earned the MW title last year and becomes the current youngest MW (29 years old) in the world. This successful young millennials would like to share her unimaginable wine journey.

Minutes before the start of the interview, Sarah and I have chit-chatted a little bit about our favourite wine, and her academic background. At first I was surprised that Sarah did not have any relationship with wine (her major study was Art and Design) in Yale University, until her summer job in Italy changed her mindset on her career and life “I was working for a restaurant in Piedmont, as I have always been a food enthusiast. Piedmont did not only broaden my view on“Italian regional cuisines, but also fine wines. The chef of my work was a wine lover, he was kind to bring the colleagues to visit the vineyards at the countryside during weekend. When I visited Barolo and Barbaresco, these places were eye-openers to me, and these trips were my earliest encounters with wine. Surrounded by the fantastic Italian lifestyle, how could I not get interested in wine?”

After the wonderful Italian trip, Sarah continued her wine journey by working part-time jobs for a wine company. In 2010, the young millennial hailed back to Hong Kong and met her boss, Debra Meiburg MW, an important person what influences Sarah’s career. “I was working for Debra’s company 3 years, and I agree she is a very successful woman. She has a fantastic business that she built overtime, particularly focused on event and education. I got involved to handle a lot of things while working with Debra, no matter whether it was organizing events or preparing teaching materials. Working with Debra helped me understand the operation of the wine industry more clearly. She was able to give me an insider perspective before I started the MW programme, explaining just how much work and dedication is involved.”

The MW programme is not easy to achieve. Despite of the difficulty of the examination content, the limit of time for study has always been a major factor that is worry to many wine students. Having the adequate time to make plan for study is vital, Sarah decided to switch to working part-time “It’s really hard to find a balance between your job and your studies. If you work full time it is so easy to be diverted to other things. I stopped working Full Time with Debra once I was about halfway through the programme. I was able to take some time for myself to strategically plan out my study schedule: how much time I was practicing tasting or exam writing techniques because all these are different skills you need to bring together.” The four years she spent studying for the MW occupied a lot of Sarah’s time, but she still thinks it is a fantastic experience— She gets to know interesting people from all different part of the industry from her class, including winemakers, journalists, educators and business people “It is always been a great thing when you meet like-minded person.”

The intelligent MW does only skilled with wine, she even able to combine it with her another forte—Art and Design. Sarah owns a boutique design agency Radix & Folium, in order to works with clients in the F&B and wine industries, provide market-appropriate packaging, branding and training materials. “At the moment we are all so focused on language and reading aroma descriptions. Maybe we should focus on the whole experience of learning, in which visuals can play a huge part. I hope I can use my design background to communicate about wine with visual media, and it will become interesting for people other than those who are already interested in wine. I hope I can help F&B and wine people from all over the world communicate well visually with the Hong Kong and Chinese market. Finding a clear, effective design - ideally with a twist - is probably a better place to focus than verbal content. ”

Sarah also writes columns for several media companies, teaches wine knowledge through the video app “ShowMuse”, and takes care to her children. At the beginning of 2018, the young proprietor continues the confluence of design and wine, her next project is to collaborate with a beverage or wine brand. Sarah Heller is definitely the best role model of our Generation Y— able to multitask on several things simultaneously. We are looking forward to see her next move!

對資深葡萄酒學員來說,榮獲葡萄酒大師(Master of Wine)的名銜絕對是其中一項最重要成就。他們除了對葡萄酒抱持的宏大的熱愛,還願意花超過10年以上時間學習認識浩瀚的酒海世界。不過年輕葡萄酒愛好者Sarah Heller卻改變我們的看法,她僅僅花了8年時間學習葡萄酒,就已經在去年獲得MW的重要名銜,更成為目前全球最年輕的葡萄酒大師(29歲而已)。這名年輕有為的80後的葡萄酒歷程真的不可思議,不如我們現在了解當中的奇妙之處。

訪問前Sarah和我閒談一會有關我們喜歡的酒釀和她的學業背景。最初感到驚訝的是Sarah在耶魯大學讀書修讀藝術與設計,與葡萄酒完全沒有任何聯繫,直至有一年在意大利的暑期工改變她對職業和人生的想法,「當時我到Piedmont省的一間餐館工作,因為我一直都是美食愛好者。當地不止擴闊我對意大利地區性看法[wl1] ,還有佳釀。大廚十分喜歡葡萄酒,他在週末期間更會帶同事到郊外的酒莊參觀,我到達Barolo和Barbaresco真的令我大開眼界,這些葡萄酒之旅更是我最初認識葡萄酒的時刻。當受到奇妙的意式生活氛圍影響下,我怎可能對葡萄酒不感興趣?」

踏上精彩意大利之旅後,Sarah為其中一間葡萄酒公司任兼職來繼續她的葡萄酒之旅。在2010年,這位年輕80後女士來到香港發展遇上老闆—葡萄酒大師Debra Meiburg,是影響Sarah事業的重要人物,「我在Debra的公司工作3年,從她身上我看到她是一名十分成功的女士。她除了有建立多年的成功事業,更投入置身於活動和教育。與Debra工作我負責參與不同事項,不論是活動籌備或是準備教學材料,令我可以對葡萄酒業的運作模式更清晰。當我修讀MW課程Debra給我認識課程的內幕,對於她的幫助我非常感激。」

眾所皆知MW課程是不容易讀,儘管考試內容十分深奧,短缺的學習時間一直都是困擾學生的主要因素,最終Sarah選擇辭職,「要適當地兼顧工作和學業是非常艱辛的事情,全職工作人士佷容易受其他事情轉移。當我修讀課程的中段,我不再為Debra全職工作,確保自己有多些時間在時間表上作策略性地計劃,例如要運用幾多時間嘗試葡萄酒,還是多少時間練習考試寫作技巧,因為最終你一定要在考試運用所有能力。」4年的MW課程佔據Sarah大部分時間,但她依然覺得這是一個美好體驗,可以從課堂上認識行業內不同有趣人事包括釀酒師、記者、教育人士和商人,「遇見志同道合的人,總是一件好事。」

這位聰慧的新任葡萄酒大師不止精於葡萄酒,更將它融匯她另一種長處—藝術與設計。Sarah 現在擁有一間精品設計公司,專門為飲食界和葡萄酒界的客人提供適合市場的包裝,品牌和培訓材料:「現在我們太注重文字和閱讀氣味的描述,我們或許應該注重整體的學習體驗,視覺效果可以給予很大的幫助。我希望可以運用自己設計背景,以視覺效果作為葡萄酒的溝通橋樑,除了對酒類有認識的人之外,相信還可以吸引其他人士留意。同時希望幫助來自全球飲食界和酒界人士與香港及中國市場作良好視覺溝通。尋找清晰有效的設計,最好有一些改變,相對而言較只注重口語內容更適合。」

除此之外Sarah還為數間媒體公司寫傳欄,在影片app「ShowMuse」教授品酒知識和照料她的孩子。在2018年的新開始,這位年輕老闆繼續融合設計和葡萄酒的道路,另一個項目更與一款飲品品牌或葡萄酒品牌合作。Sarah Heller絕對是我們Y世代的最佳典範—能夠同時勝任多個不同工作。我們即管期待她下一個行動!

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