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Pick of the bunch … a worker tends to the grapes growing in the vineyard of the Changyu Pioneer Wine Company in China. Photo: Getty Images

The Chinese wine industry is getting into its stride and among the huge vineyards and endless empty towerblocks there are some rare finds to be enjoyed.

A few miles outside Xi’an, the city of Emperor Qin’s terracotta warriors, the guide on a tour bus filled with Italian wine professionals pointed across a bleak plain shadowed by empty towerblocks to a medieval castle with crenellated towers.

In the end, wines are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals, or are commended.

In India, we have a few wine awards beginning to take root, but the consumer is not too bothered with medals just yet.

I happen to have just concluded judging at the Decanter Asia Wine Awards, a tradition going back more than a decade, and each year, when I finish this task, I always introspect about awards and their relevance.

‘The new sommeliers are selectors and tastemakers’. Photo: YakobchukOlena

Obsessive about their subject, the talent of the new breed of master sommeliers lies in shaping the mood and lining up seamless food and wine matches.

Not so long ago, the phrase “star sommelier” would have been considered an oxymoron in the English-speaking world. Wine waiting was not seen as a career for the ambitious. It was reserved for the kind of man (and it was almost always a man) who takes pleasure in making sarcastic remarks while quizzing timid customers about the contents of his big, leather-bound book of potential faux pas, or shaming them into spending more money than they want on something they’ve never heard of.

Approximately 23 percent of wine consumers use apps to make wine-purchasing decisions.

The wine market in the U.S. is booming. The days of deciding whether you’d prefer a red or white to accompany your entree are long gone; choices now include rose and orange. (Hello, millennials!)

Despite our relatively young wine industry, and cultural conditions like age restrictions, the United States consumes more wine by volume than any other country in the world.

Hello Vino 5.0 Wine Assistant (for iOS and Android).

Maybe one day wine retail shops will offer "Alexa" to provide shoppers with fast and pretty good answers to specific wine questions. Until that day, however, there will be smartphones and the apps that make them brainy, like Vivino and Hello Vino.