Shanghai-based Marcus Ford is the general manager of Pudao Wines China, which specialises in direct sales and retail. He was introduced to wine by his brother in the London restaurant scene in the 1980s, and after a first job during his university holidays, carrying boxes for the UK wine merchant Oddbins, Marcus went to work for Harvey Nichols in London for five years in both their 5th Floor Knightsbridge and The OXO Tower restaurants. In 1999, Marcus moved to Shanghai, where he was restaurant manager and Wine Guy at M on The Bund until 2009, when he left to set up Pudao Wines, which has flagship stores in Shanghai and Beijing, and listing more than 800 wines in each. Marcus has judged and organised tastings of Chinese wines and occasionally contributes to Chinese wine publications, including DRiNK and Wine Press.
Judge of DAWA 2012 and 2013
Judge of DAWA 2012 and 2013
Q&A with Marcus Ford
Advice/tips for new Asian wine lovers…
How would you recommend learning about wine?Taste as much as you can and take notes. We are incredibly spoilt in Shanghai with the number of high quality tastings available to both the public and trade so there are loads of opportunities to taste and the vast majority are free.
Which wine books would you recommend reading?I am a Jancis Robinson devotee: How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine is a great place to start and my copy of Wine Grapes will probably keep me going for a lifetime.
What do you think is the best way to learn about the flavours in wine?I think wine vocabulary can be a bit daunting, particularly in China where so many of the common Western descriptors are not relevant. Taking notes helps you to develop a vocabulary. Funnily enough I have just started doing a bit more gardening and I now have a very clear impression of the actual smells of "tomato leaf" and "geranium" which in a kind of crazy way I recognized from wine, rather than the other way around. A little bit of discipline and focus when you smell and taste makes a huge difference – not just in wine but in life.
What advice would you give on selecting a bottle of wine in a shop?Have a budget, have a plan and then ask the staff. Not all shops will be able to help but the good ones should. Trust is very important, developing a relationship with a merchant you trust is critical.
What do you think is one of the most important things to know about wine?Which wines you enjoy the most – after that the rest is just fluff!
If you were just starting to learn about wine, which style of wine would you taste first?Aromatic whites where you can pick out clear characters - lychee, lime, floral etc. These varieties give the beginner lots of confidence as they are really distinct.
What is your favourite wine region?I am far too fickle to stick to one! I would be thrilled if Ningxia gets its act together in China.
What is your favourite wine bar/restaurant in the city you live in?I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to Shanghai so it has to be the Bund for nights out with wine – there are lots of great choices but M on the Bund is still my favourite. Either that or Sunday morning dim sum at Harbour Plaza in Hongqiao.
Wine & Judging
What do you enjoy most about your wine job?The people – wine people seem by nature to be fun loving people, from producers to importers, to critics and consumers. I think we are a very lucky bunch.
Which wine trends have you seen emerging in the last year?China is changing so quickly that it really is hard to generalise. I think consumers are far more open-minded and curious than a few years ago, so I think there will be a surge in white wine consumption in China (its less than 5% now).
What have you enjoyed eating and drinking at home recently?‘Beer butt chicken’ cooked on my big green egg. It’s basically a whole chicken which is cooked slowly in a smoky barbecue for around 3 hours whilst perched on a can of beer or cider. Unbelievably moist and tender! It’s eaten in the garden with fresh bread, salad leaves and cool bottles of Fleurie.
What did you enjoy about judging at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards last year?The format of tasting in a group was great fun as we had the opportunity to argue the pros and cons of certain wines. Tasting with really experienced show judges is always a brilliant learning experience and the Chairs were exceptional last year.
What are you most looking forward to about judging at the 2013 Decanter Asia Wine Awards?More of the same!