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A toast to Hong Kong's expat winemaker

Leah Hyslop Telegraph 01/11/2012 20:58
Left, expat Canadian Lysanne Tusar; right, the winery she has set up in Hong Kong

Left, expat Canadian Lysanne Tusar; right, the winery she has set up in Hong Kong

Canadian expat Lysanne Tusar explains how she became the founder of Hong Kong’s first winery

Lysanne, tell me where the inspiration came from for setting up your Hong Kong winery, 8th Estate.

It came about through conversation, really. I’m Canadian, and though my background is in sales and marketing, I’ve always had a lot of friends who were involved in the wine industry. I became very interested, talking to them, about how the technology for making wine is really evolving – in particular, about the idea of “flash freezing”, when you freeze grapes, then make the wine elsewhere. It enables one to be 10,000 miles away from a vineyard, and still produce wine.

I chose Hong Kong because it is really leading the growing trend for wine in Asia, and because there were no wineries there at all. I made a visit for a few months to do some research and see if it was viable, did a business plan, then finally made the move.

Did you move by yourself? That must have been nerve wracking.

I did: it was quite a leap of faith. One moment I’ll never forget is leaving Vancouver in the plane; I looked back and thought "What am I doing?" But I hit the ground running so fast I really didn’t have time to feel overwhelmed. To this day I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet.

Where do your grapes come from?

Every year is different; the first year I chose grapes from Washington state, then Italy; this year I’ve got beautiful grapes from Bordeaux. The world truly is our vineyard, and we pick and choose as we like. The choice is truly spectacular. We [Lysanne’s team] have a lot of criteria though; we keep a careful eye on climate to make sure it’ll be a good year, and we always go and visit the vineyard, about eight months before harvest, to take a look.

Is there any snobbery about your methods in the wine world?

The wine industry can be very intimidating, because it’s so broadly and deeply based in tradition. I was expecting a lot of resistance and questions, and quite rightly; I was prepared to justify what we do. But it’s been a lot more embracing than I expected, and though we’ve worked hard for it, we’ve been pleased by the reception we’ve had.

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