Stephen Wong MW
Became an MW 2016
Based in New Zealand
Languages English, Hokkien (Chinese dialect), Bahasa Malaysia
Home city: Wellington
Home country: New Zealand
Work address: Wine Sentience Hub, Level 1, 104 Vivian Street, Te Aro
Work city: Wellington
Work postcode: 6011
Work country: NZ
Malaysian-born Chinese, Stephen Wong MW moved from Borneo to Singapore and finally to New Zealand to read Law at the University of Otago. While studying, he worked in hospitality, and as a club DJ, catching the wine bug in the then-burgeoning wine scene of Central Otago in 2000.
After moving to Wellington to complete his Barrister examinations, he subsequently retrained as a sommelier while learning on the job. After seven years working in restaurants, Stephen moved into consulting; helping hospitality businesses in New Zealand and Singapore develop their wine programs. He first started writing about wine for trade and industry magazines in 2007 and more recently, Cuisine and The World of Wine, Gourmet Traveller Wine and The Real Review.
He gained his Master of Wine title in 2016 and has been actively involved in the IMW's education committee since passing he has taken on various roles, co-coordinating the Australasian seminar, and overseeing the Assignment Marking Scheme. He is now co-chair of the Institute's Diversity, Inclusion and Transformation Committee. In an educational capacity, he speaks at wine conferences in Asia, Europe and New Zealand, lectures at Le Cordon Bleu NZ and runs wine courses for hospitality, wine industry and the public under the Wine Sentience umbrella (a co-operative based in Wellington, NZ). He works closely with New Zealand Winegrowers on education and masterclasses in the USA, China & Hong Kong and Australia. Stephen is an Ambassador for Germany's VDP Estates, and specialises in Burgundy, Germany, Austria, New Zealand and natural wine.
Stephen started wine judging formally in 2012 with the national show that was (then) known as the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. He has judged wine every year since, with the exception of 2020 at various shows in New Zealand, Australia and China.
Across 2010-2012, he provided nurture the nascent natural wine movement in New Zealand by creating the country’s first three natural wine lists, and was a co-organiser of NZ’s natural wine festival Budburst, which ran from 2016 to 2018; and evolved into Nouvelle, which ran from 2019 to 2022.
Starting in 2018, through Wine Sentience, he has been providing en-premise fine wine support for French fine wine importer Maison Vauron, specialising in Burgundy, Rhône and Loire wines. In 2020, Stephen co-founded Stompy (now TasteMPR), a wine tech startup in California built around a proprietary taste and palate identification algorithm. He is now involved in research on the application of algorithmic learning to aid in understanding taste aesthetics of wine.
Primary area(s) of work: Trade, Strategy, Communication
Industry sector(s): Agency/Importer, Business owner, Buying, Consultant, Distribution, Educator, Events, Journalism, Off trade, On trade, PR, Wine buying, Wine judge
Wine styles: Champagne, Fine and rare wines, Natural, Orange wines, Still red, Still rosé, Still white, Sweet wines
Wine region expertise: Alsace, Austria, Baden, Burgundy, Canterbury (NZ), Central Otago, Champagne, France, Germany, Hawke's Bay, Marlborough, Martinborough, Nelson, New Zealand, Rhone
Market expertise: Asia, New Zealand, North America, Oceania, South East Asia
Specialisms: Organic viticulture, Wine styling, Sensory evaluation , Digital communications, Direct to consumer, Distribution, Ecommerce, Education, Events, Food and wine pairing, HORECA, Identifying and meeting consumer demand, Independent retail, Restaurant wines, Supplier/customer relationships, Technology, Training, Wine laws and regulations, Wine marketing research, Wine tourism, Wine judging