The world of Chinese sommeliers: GUO Ying

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Name: Guo Ying

Current Position: Senior sommelier of Four Seasons Hotel China
Based in: Shanghai
How long have you been working as a sommelier: 6 years
Also worked for: Jean Georges
Qualifications & Awards:
Awards
- Champion, China's Best Sommelier of French Wine by Sopexa, 2011
- Champion, China National Sommelier Competition, 2012
- Fourth Place, World Best Youth Sommelier Competition, Washington DC, 2013
Qualifications
- Advanced Certificate in Wines & Spirits Wine & Spirit Education Trust 2011
- Court of Master Sommelier, Level 3 Advanced Sommelier (Feb 2015)
- Diploma in Wines & Spirits Wine & Spirit Education Trust, studying now

Guo Ying, Four Seasons

What is it like to be a sommelier?

How did you get into the business?
My family has always been in the wine business, but mostly importantly, I followed my passion for wine.

Who was the most interesting customer you’ve ever met?
Mr Robert Parker – it is impressive that he has such high standards when it comes to wine tasting. He is also extremely friendly and approachable.

Please describe your typical day
My day starts with a morning briefing with all the staff and checking my emails. I then check on the wine cellar, the stock, sales report and send out a purchase order if needed. At times I need to train my staff and attend meetings, but in most cases I conduct a briefing with the bar staff and make sure we have the operations for the day’s lunch and dinner all planned out, especially when there are special wine dinners or events that will take place that day. After service has ended, I check the cellar before I leave.

How does a wine end up on your wine list?
I will have to have tasted the wine before it can be on my wine list. Once I’ve tasted it, I will research the winery, as well as compare it with wines of the same grape varieties. I also have to take into account the price of the wine to see if it is suitable for our restaurant and ensure that we are working with the supplier to offer good value to our customers. I will only make the purchase if everything is right.

Tips for consumers

Apart from your own hotel/restaurant, where do you go to find good wines in your city or elsewhere in China?
Hong Kong is the place, for its culture and longer history in wine consumption, as well as being tax free.

What is popular right now (region, producer, ect.)?
Burgundy and Italy are getting increasingly popular, but New World wines are still as popular as always.

What has changed in the last year (consumer profiles, consumption habits, price, region, etc)?
There are more people drinking wine and learning about wine, but at the same time, I can see a decrease in the consumption of fine wine and extremely expensive wines.

What is the role of a sommelier in modern day China?
To be a pioneer and to pave the way for consumers to further understand wine culture.

Finally, how would you suggest people to approach food and wine pairing?
Always trust yourself when it comes to your likes and dislikes in food pairing and never stop trying different things.

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