Ningxia wine awards: Jancis Robinson, Huiqin Ma among judges of 49-bottle contest in Yinchuan

A mix of wine judges from China and abroad will gather this week to taste 49 wines made in region of Ningxia. The judges will include UK wine writer Jancis Robinson, author of the Oxford Companion of Wine and co-author of the World Atlas of Wine, and professor Ma Huiqin, who works at China Agricultural University and will moderate the discussion.

The tasting will be held in Yinchuan, capital city of Ningxia, as part of the first annual Helan Mountain wine festival. The eastern side of the Helan Mountain range is home to Ningxia’s wineries, which have a growing reputation for quality and have been doing well in international competitions. Here is a full list of the judges, in alphabetical order.


A fifth-generation winemaker, Mihalis Boutaris graduated from University of California at Davis with a Master of Science in Horticulture, in Viticulture and Enology, and from Harvard University with an undergraduate degree in Philosophy. Boutaris has made wine at his family’s vineyard, Kir-Yianni Estates, and at other vineyards in Greece, Chile and France

Since 2008, Boutaris has taken up the challenge of working with the best grapes in China. Now based in Shanghai, he has established a wine estate in Tianshui near the Maijishan Mountains in Gansu Province in order to produce a fine Chinese wine. Last April, he launched “Mihalis Boutaris Selections”, an agency of imported wines from around the world.


Gerard Colin has become a key player in the wine scene of China’s since his first visit in 1997. In 2001, he became the first winemaker at renown Grace Vineyards in Shanxi province and is now general manager at the Domaine Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)-CITIC project in Shandong province. He has been involved in numerous other projects in China, from Fujian in the south to Hebei in the north.

Colin studied at Bordeaux University and his degrees include a Master of Oenology and a National Diploma of Oenology. He has managed Chateau Teyssier and was director of Chateau Clarke, both in Bordeaux, has created his own consulting firms, and has handled beverages from wine and beer to Cognac and rum.


After a decade as restaurant manager and “wine guy” at M on the Bund in Shanghai, Marcus Ford became general manager of Pudao Wines China in 2009, specializing in direct and retail sales. Pudao Wines has stores in Shanghai and Beijing, with more planned.

Prior to moving to China, Ford worked for five years at the restaurants of Harvey Nichols London, and dates his wine experience to carrying boxes at retailer Oddbins during his university days. In China, he has served as a judge at many contests and organized several large tastings of Chinese wines.


As chief operations officer for Beijing 90 Points International Wines, John Gai is in charge of selecting, importing and distributing wines. He graduated with a degree in Food Science and Restaurant Management from Beijing Haidian City University in 1991, then moved to Estonia where he opened a Chinese restaurant and, in turn, learned about Western food and wine.

On returning to China, Gai was restaurant manager and sommelier at the then newly opened Courtyard Restaurant. He later joined Italian wine operation Casa Vinicola Zonin as China country manager, then established his own wine distribution company and series of outlets called Palette. He is a member of gastronomic society Chaine des Rotisseurs.


Huiqin Ma is a professor in the College of Agriculture and Biotechnology at China Agricultural University (CAU) in Beijing. She did her doctorate at CAU and has also studied in the Institute for Wine Biotechnology at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, and the College of Agriculture at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

Ma, who focuses on wine marketing and molecular biology, has taught a wine appreciation course at CAU for over a decade. She has worked with academics on every continent, participated in organizations such as the Chinese Society for Viticulture, helped coordinate the entry of the Ningxia region into the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) and is a wine columnist and a regular as a wine judge.


Hans Qu is a tutor at wine education company Easescent. Qu previously was sommelier at the InterContinental Hotel in Shenzhen, where he handled wine for the hotel’s eight bars and restaurants. He won the first China National Sommelier Competition, held in Shanghai in 2009, and traveled to Osaka to represent China at the Asia-Oceanic competition held by the International Association of Sommeliers (ASI).

Qu was one of the first people in China to pass the teacher program of the International Sommelier Guild. He has been a judge at numerous contests, including for wines from Argentina, Austria and France.


Jancis Robinson ranks among the world’s best-known wine personalities. She writes often for her site, where the Chinese section is being revamped, and is involved in two key reference books as editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine and co-author of The World Atlas of Wine, which was translated into Chinese. Her newest project, Wine Grapes, covers 1,368 varieties in 1,200 pages and will be out in the fall.

Robinson became a Master of Wine in 1984, is a weekly columnist for The Financial Times, serves as a wine judge around the world and is an adviser on the wine cellar of the Queen of England. She has visited China several times, including wineries in Shanxi, Hebei and Xinjiang.


Jim Sun is chief editor of China Wine Online, a key source of industry news in the country. Sun has a Master of Science in Wine Management from the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) and has done study tours in Europe, North America and Australia.

Sun has also been active as a reporter, translator, author and wine contest organizer. He founded the annual Columbin Cup: International Wine Awards, held in Yantai, Shandong, and now in its sixth year. He has also written publications such as 30 Years of China’s Wine Industry and The China Wine Yearbook.


Elizabeth “Liz” Thach is a management and wine business professor in the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University in California, United States, where she teaches in the undergraduate and Wine MBA programs. Thach has 15 years of executive and management experience at Fortune 500 companies and has done consulting and research projects for more than 30 different wineries.

Thach has visited most of the world’s major wine regions and published more than 90 articles and five wine textbooks, including Wine: A Global Business and Wine Marketing & Sales. She became a Master of Wine in May of 2011. She previously presented academic papers in Beijing in 2007 and Turpan in 2009.


Critic, writer and consultant Jin Yang studied wine for five years in France and is a graduate of the Faculty of Oenology at ENITA de Bordeaux and of the Institute of Natural and Agricultural Sciences of Bordeaux. In 2004, he returned to China and worked as general manager of a French wine trading group for three years, then turned his attention to wine culture.

Yang has lectured at the Beijing branch of French wine school CAFA, done training for SOPEXA, and worked with retailers such as Carrefour and Metro. He has written widely for the media, including for the Chinese editions of Robb Report, Esquire, and Food & Wine, and been a wine judge at numerous competitions.

I will have more details on the scoring system, the official sommelier and the two observing tasters very soon. And the results, too!

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