Leadership in Wine #22 - Joe Wang

  • Alexis Robin

Joe was former sommelier at Auckland’s prestigious Northern Club for four years. He was also head sommelier at Cape Kidnappers a luxury lodge in Hawke's Bay. Joe opened his current business The Wine Cave in November 2016.

Joe's passion for cooking and deep love for the culinary arts developed from a young age. As Joe got older this passion developed into an appreciation of fine wine when he discovered the magical way in which the flavours in food can be brought to life by wine. He has achieved his WSET level 3 and became a certified Sommelier through CMS. Joe was also the first New Zealand Sommelier to compete in the world’s most prestigious Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) in South Korea in 2012.


How do you define leadership?

Great leadership defines several quality traits of a person. It’s about people, has nothing to do with one’s title, power or money because it inspires others to act. It is self-challenging and demonstrating one’s persistence to lead another with new hope. One should always have a vision and passion for driving forward and be creative and innovative when face challenges. This is often when opportunity arises. One does not rest even when some goals have achieved. He or she will continuously seek higher ground as this is a characteristic of a true leader. 


What are the main challenges of being a leader in the wine industry today?

The wine industry is evolving in a much faster pace today. Wines are made in some remote countries and sub-regions and places that have never heard of. The dynamic world of beverages, from different cultural backgrounds and stories that involve history is also much more to study but also very interesting. We are also witnessing the tipping points of fast technology movement that will potentially re-write the chapter in the wine industry or the ever-changing climate threat if we do not take our part by helping it. The wine industry is constantly evolving!


What are your major breakthroughs in your career to become the leader you are now?

The first breakthroughs would be the great opportunity offered by Cameron Douglas MS to be NZ first Sommelier candidate to attend the 2012 Oceania Pacific Sommelier Contest in South Korea. The same year that I had achieved the Certified Sommelier title just before that event. There were a massive amount of pressure, time and effort need to put into a commitment and it was indeed quite a challenging year of my career.  

In recent years, I was fortunate to work with a couple of friends who share the same interest of opening a frontier concept experiencing wine store in Auckland – The Wine Cave. Many obstacles and challenges were ahead of us to turn the concept into reality. It was a clear VISION which directs me to go forward with every inch of steps towards the goal. Thankfully, my passion for wine also gives me the power of determination to work towards the result.  


If you were starting your career in 2019 in the wine industry, what advice would you give to yourself to become successful and content?

Think outside of the box and on a greater scale; the wine industry does not only evolve in New Zealand as a whole. An idea and vision must offer a clearer message once you look further and broader. Set some goals to go step by step and follow the passion. Be very diligent and disciplined about your vision and be a natural born leader by showing the path to success.

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