Simon Roberts travels to Taiwan and Japan

Head Winemaker, Simon Roberts, recounts his recent trip to Japan and Taiwan to share our wines with new audiences across Asia.

An inspiring journey through Japan and Taiwan

At the end of March and the beginning of April, I embarked on my first export trade trip to Asia, specifically Japan and Taiwan. It was an especially exciting journey as Taiwan has emerged as our largest overseas market.

Touching down in Tokyo for the first stop of my tour was nothing short of a sensory wonder. Despite being slightly early for blossom season, I was captivated by the incredible harmony between tradition, technology and fashion in the city.

My first masterclass was a wine pairing over lunch at our distributor’s new restaurant ‘Tank to Table’ – a high-end taproom featuring locally sourced ingredients. It was a real joy to see our wines being well-received here and the subsequent days were filled with more masterclasses, trade visits and delightful dinners. Our wines were consistently praised, and each dish was expertly paired. A special thank you goes to our distributor, the Selesta team, for making me feel so welcome; it truly made the experience special.

During my second week, I journeyed to Taiwan to meet our distributors at Dixit Wines who were nothing short of welcoming. Travelling the length of the island from Taipei to Kaohsiung, I was struck by the breath-taking beauty and the evident influence of both Japan and China, particularly in the delicious cuisine.

Hosting a masterclass dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Nid, was a highlight of the trip. A remarkable 19-course paired menu (blending French, Japanese, and Chinese cuisines) showcased the versatility of Ridgeview wines. One standout pairing was a truffle and miso broth matched with Ridgeview’s Blanc de Noirs 2014. The earthiness of the truffle complemented the richness of the Pinot Noir superbly. Taiwanese food is a mouthwatering match with Ridgeview wines – the combination of sweet, sour and fresh acidity come together in harmonious balance.

As we returned to Taipei, we stopped in Taichung for more masterclasses and dinners – a modern, sleek city that left a lasting impression. We enjoyed an impressive Teppanyaki dinner at the Windsor Hotel, with an exceptional Wagyu beef dish cooked three ways.

For the last leg of the trip, we headed back to Taipei for two successful masterclasses at both the National Conference Centre and the Taiwan Wine Academy. Attendees at both events were wonderfully enthusiastic, some even bringing previous Ridgeview wines to be signed and autographed – very rock ‘n’ roll and the perfect end to an unforgettable trip!

Throughout the tour, I faced some unexpected culinary adventures especially with seafood and shellfish, which aren’t typically on my menu. Well, not anymore! I embraced the full flavours of Taiwan and Japan – from sashimi, sushi and scallops to lobster, crab and even chicken claws! I must admit that raw liver and mysterious ‘offal dish’ proved a bit of a challenge, but I surprised myself and emerged victorious!

It was an unforgettable experience, both personally and professionally – the people, the landscape and the food were incredible. As a winemaker, the opportunity to share our English sparkling wine across the globe is a total joy. I feel like the trip has forged a long-lasting connection across continents and I returned inspired and energised by my journey across Japan and Taiwan.

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