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Wine guru toasts family time

Published on Friday, 08 Apr 2011
Debra Meiburg, Master of wine

Debra Meiburg travels all the time, regionally and internationally. It's all in a day's work for the celebrated wine journalist and educator, who regularly frequents picturesque wine-producing regions such as Tuscany and Bordeaux.

Despite having grown used to her itinerant lifestyle, Meiburg concedes she has yet to achieve the right balance between her work and personal life.

"I have to learn to say `no' and manage to use the `no' word more often as far as work is concerned," she says.

To Meiburg, travelling is no longer a luxury. Staying home and spending time with her husband, friends and family is by far her preferred pastime.

"My hubby loves to cook. So, to me, relaxation is being in the kitchen with him while he is cooking and sipping a glass of wine," she says.

Meiburg has immersed herself in the wine industry and is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She has worked the harvest in Chile, pruned vines in Bordeaux and was also a cellar hand in New York.

Originally from Sonoma County, California, Meiburg was formerly a wine professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. She came to Hong Kong in the mid-1980s and is one of only three women in the region, and 275 people globally, to hold a master of wine title,the highest accolade in the profession.

She writes wine columns for newspapers, contributes articles to magazines and regularly makes presentations and speeches. It's little surprise she was recently voted the most influential wine journalist in Hong Kong by 500 members of the trade. As a qualified wine judge and educator, she also judges wine shows on five continents each year.

Meiburg says she has made herself very visible in the wine industry, but notes that having such a prominent profile is a double-edged sword. She never seems to be able to leave work behind as she receives anywhere from 200 to 300 e-mails per day.

As a result, she often has to make large sacrifices to run her business, which encompasses several of her many interests pertaining to the industry.

The problem for Meiburg is that she likes to help people. And, with the wine trade being an intrinsically convivial business, networking, helping people and giving them advice is very much part of her life. "I always have friends of friends getting in touch, wanting my help and advice," she says.

When the wine guru does get a chance to get away from it all, she likes to go hiking in Hong Kong's hills. During a recent excursion, she and her husband came across four stray cats, which they have since taken in. Spending time with them, she says, makes her relax and takes her mind off work.

Catching up with friends and people in the industry on social media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, is also a form of relief for her, as is reading. "I love to read books, especially those with a historical context," she says.

And while drinking wine is an important part of her job, it remains a great pleasure and another means of relaxation for her. Having a glass of white wine is invigorating and energising, notes Meiburg. But to really unwind, there's nothing quite like a glass of red, she says. That's when she truly becomes the master of her own time.

How to unplug

  • Unwind with a glass of wine
  • Do something you can share with your loved ones, such as cooking
  • Spend time at home doing as little as possible
  • Read a book
  • Go hiking
  • Catch up with friends on social media platforms

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