China's Wine Market Is Overflowing

Festival events had guests testing their tasting skills against the judges to determine the grape, country, district and vintage of wines stripped of their labels and reputations.

Being able to blind taste and understand the tasting process is an important skill for true wine connoisseurs.

"Going for a label and paying $600 doesn't necessarily mean you get that much more. You can get a tremendous amount of pleasure from a $30 bottle of wine," said Sam Neill, proprietor of Two Paddocks vineyard in Central Otago, New Zealand -- the same Sam Neill who has graced the big screen in movies such as "The Piano," "Dead Calm," "The Horse Whisperer" and "Jurassic Park."

"A bottle of Chateau Lafite is undoubtedly a sublime experience, but you don't want to do that every day," Neill added.

Methodical Memory for Wine Judging

"Judging is a methodical process. The clarity, aroma and flavor of a wine culminates into a score," said Donaldson, who has been judging wine for 15 years. "Memory, as a judge, is very important to be able to file away associations," he said.

Putting aside colorful bottom-of-the-barrel terminology for some of the flavor-challenged wines, Donaldson artfully breezed through descriptions of the ideal appearance of wine -- "beautiful, bright, rich, dense in color" -- and ideal smells -- "fresh, fruity, savory, oakey." He also listed the tastes you definitely don't want -- "acidic, hot, alcoholic, bitter" -- and tastes you do want -- "soft, supple, full, rich."

"Harmony is the key -- when everything is together in perfect form," he said.

Top awards are given to wines considered "the best of their time," as John Avery, a senior Masters of Wine and judge at WINPAC, summed it up.

Explaining Wine to the Chinese

In a constant two-way flow of cultural understanding, Tam continues to try to bridge the gap by busting myths and stereotypes about taste buds in the East and West.

He uses Chinese soups to describe wine textures. He offers suggestions about wine pairings with Chinese foods and hosts olive oil tastings in China and dry plum tastings in Paris.

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