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Singapore Airlines adds Master of Wine - Jeannie Cho Lee - to Wine Panel

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Singapore Airlines has welcomed its first Asian Master of Wine, Jeannie Cho Lee, to its distinguished panel of wine experts.

Lee is co-founder of the Fine Wine School in Hong Kong, where she continues to lecture. She also lends her expertise, judging in various international and regional competitions including Decanter World Wine Awards, International Wine Challenge, Wines of the Pacific Rim, and the Royal Adelaide Wine Show.

Apart from teaching and judging, Lee is a bi-monthly wine columnist for Decanter (Hong Kong/China edition), Noblesse and Baccarat magazines. She is also currently working on a book on wine and Asian cuisine, which will be launched in September this year.

“We are pleased to welcome Jeannie onboard. She’s highly respected among the wine circles as a consultant, judge and educator. She also brings with her an Asian perspective and palate to our tasting sessions,” said Mr Yap Kim Wah, Singapore Airlines’ Senior Vice-President Product & Services.

Lee said, “I was especially thrilled joining the panel along with Steven Spurrier and Michael Hill-Smith because I’ve known both of them professionally for many years. I know of their reputation within the wine industry, I know of their tasting ability, I’ve judged with them before. I know the standards for the Singapore Airlines’ Wine Panel is incredibly high, so I feel very excited and pleased to be joining the group.”

Born in South Korea, Lee moved to the United States at a young age. But it was at Oxford University in the United Kingdom where she spent her junior year that sparked her interest in wine.

Her passion for wine continued through her Master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard and upon her university graduation, she attended the Windows on the World Wine School in New York City. Her keen interest in wine led her to obtain the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Diploma in 1998.

Two years ago, Lee made a name for herself when she became the first Asian in the history of the Institute of Masters of Wine to pass the notoriously difficult exams, which involve four days of rigorous theoretical exams, and blind wine tasting sessions. As an indication of just how challenging these exams are, only 276 people worldwide can lay claim to the Master of Wine title.

“I started to feel a strong sense of responsibility, especially as more people started asking me, ‘How are you going to use this position to influence the wine industry in Asia?’ Probably the best path for me at the moment is just to continue doing what I love to do, which is writing, judging, tasting and trying to do it to the best of my ability and not just stay still because you have this title. This particular opportunity to judge a thousand wines every year for Singapore Airlines is a wonderful way also to make sure that I’m continuing to keep my palate fresh, to judge, and to give feedback, because the choices that we make as a wine consultant has an effect on what is served, and what people enjoy, so there is a strong sense of responsibility” said Lee.

Lee replaces Karen MacNeil who has retired from the Singapore Airlines Wine Panel. Established in 1989, the Singapore Airlines Wine Panel’s two other members are Steven Spurrier from the United Kingdom, a leading authority on wine, and whose 45-year career includes founding the first Paris wine school, L’Academie Du Vin; and Michael Hill-Smith, who was honoured last year with the Order of Australia for his contribution to the Australian wine industry.

Together, the panel is responsible for recommending the wines, champagnes and port to be served in all classes and on all routes flown by Singapore Airlines. Wines are judged not only on their quality but also on their suitability for drinking onboard an aircraft, where the atmosphere tends to be drier. Up to 1,000 bottles of wines, champagne, and port are sampled by the panel annually.

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