China appointments

Song Yunda, center, presents certificates to Dr. Joe Chuang, left, and Tim Hanni, MW, right, in Beijing on Aug.22.

Submitted photo

Two Napa Valley residents, Dr. Joe Chuang and Master of Wine Tim Hanni, have accepted invitations to serve as western representatives on the Chinese Food Culture Research Association (CFCRA).

Chuang, an international businessman and vintner, will be chairman of the new western outreach branch, while Hanni will be vice chairman.

Chuang and Hanni were elected as the two sole foreign members of the CFCRA governing council, according to Song Yunda, the executive member of the council who presented certificates to them in Beijing

CFCRA is a nonprofit established in 1994 by the Ministry of Culture and registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the Peoples Republic of China. It is responsible for the certification, accreditation and promotion of food and beverages in China, including wine.

Made up of experts and scholars, the association is cited as the most influential association in the food industry in China by the website, The CFCRA certifies master chefs and wine experts, and approves designations for cities and regions brands, including “Chinese Food Culture Research Association recommended products.”

A subcommittee of the organization is devoted to wine culture.

“As members of the CFCRA council, Tim and I will be able to introduce U.S. wines and food (produce) to the vast Chinese consumers through the many CFCRA company members of the Chinese food and beverage industries,” Chaung said. “In addition, Tim and I will be heavily involved in the education of Chinese consumers in wine by way of conducting wine tasting events and seminars, in conjunction with CFCRA, and publishing books and articles that will help CFCRA in screening and certifying quality wines (domestic and imported) to eliminate fake and unsafe wines now rampant in the Chinese market.”

Chuang, a Chinese-American scientist and businessman, built a pharmaceutical company in China and is the owner of a Napa-based energy development company, EGS. He is also the owner of Firefly Vineyards in Napa. Chuang ships the wines, made from his estate grapes and other Napa Valley wineries, to China where it is sold and the profits are donated to his foundation, which provides scholarships for Chinese children.

Chuang is also building the Flower Valley Winery and Global Wine Expo in the Huailai region of China, northwest of Beijing, an area emerging as one of the premier winemaking regions in the rapidly growing Chinese wine industry.

French researchers from the ministry of agriculture chose the Huailai Valley to establish a Sino-French demonstration vineyard and winery 10 years ago, and since then some 25 wineries have been built in the area. The Chinese government, which has designated Huailai as a an environmentally protected area, has built a visitor center in the valley and is building a high-speed rail to area, making it a 25-minute trip from Beijing.

Chuang said he hopes the Global Wine Expo will help American winemakers bring their wines to China in a secure and more affordable way.

“Right now, the playing field is not level for Americans trying to compete with others, such as the French, Australians and Chileans,” he said. The Chinese government has granted him 40 licenses for international wineries to establish Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprises in China.

Enjoy food? Get dining and recipe ideas sent to your inbox

Hanni, one of the first two Americans to become a Master of Wine, was visiting Beijing with Chuang, who had organized dinners for Hanni to meet with Chinese officials and principals from the food and wine industry.

Hanni, author of “Why You Like the Wines You Like,” has challenged Western wine educators to revise their approach to wine education to make it more consumer-friendly. “I knew his ideas would be a great success in China,” Chuang said.

“I am excited to be working with the Chinese people to make wine a part of their culture and gastronomy rather than just an element of fashion,” said Hanni, who has been conducting education programs in China for the past 20 years.

In their first official capacity, he and Chuang will host a dinner in the Napa Valley on Sept. 20 for a delegation of officials from Huailai who will be visiting California in conjunction with the opening of the Confucius College at UC Davis.

Hanni has also finalized a deal to collaborate with journalist Sasha Paulsen to write a book on wine for Chinese consumers, which will be published in China and the Chinese territories in 2014. An English language version of the book will be published in the West.