The world of Chinese sommeliers: Jerry LIAO

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Basic profile

Name: Jerry Liao
Current Position: Sommelier of Jing An Shangri-La Hotel
Based in: Shanghai
How long have you been working as a sommelier: 6 years
Also worked for: Park Hyatt Shanghai

Jerry Liao, Shangri-LA

What is it like to be a sommelier?

How did you get into the business?
I started in the hotel business and my interest in wine began when I was assigned to manage a wine cellar as part of my first job.

Who was the most interesting customer you’ve ever met?
I have encountered many interesting customers. Mr. David is one of the most interesting customers; he is a true wine lover and is now a very regular guest at our hotel.

Please describe your typical day
My day starts at 10am with a morning briefing with all the staff to discuss the important clients of the day. I then walk through the cellar and check the stock and condition of our wines. I make a list of all the wines that we have limited stock of and restock them. There is training in the afternoon and afterwards I check on the wines again to make sure we are ready for dinner service. When service has ended, I need to check all the sales made on the day, recount our stock and order any new stock that is needed.

How does a wine end up on your wine list?
It has to fit our main concept and philosophy, as well as match our cuisine at the restaurant. The price has to be reasonable enough for customers and most importantly, the quality of the wine has to meet our standards.

Tips for consumers

Apart from your own hotel/restaurant, where do you go to find good wines in your city or elsewhere in China?
I would suggest the Peninsula Hotel, Park Hyatt Shanghai, Four Seasons, and the Napa Wine Bar and Cellar. There are many more places to enjoy good wines nowadays.

What is popular right now (region, producer, ect.)?
Wines with a price range of 200-250 RMB are always popular and wines that are fruity and easy to drink.

What has changed in the last year (consumer profiles, consumption habits, price, region, etc)?
Wine consumers have become more diverse and come from all ages: young, middle-aged, and even older. People are moving slowly from Bordeaux to Burgundy and exploring other regions, as well as New World regions. People also prefer to consume quality wines instead of just purchasing extremely expensive or cheap wines now; they are learning to appreciate wine more and are more reasonable when making purchases.

What is the role of a sommelier in modern day China?
We all wish there will be more people drinking wine in China. I believe we are the force in the industry to help educate consumers, promote the wine market, market and sell the wines, as well as being brand ambassadors.

Finally, how would you suggest people to approach food and wine pairing?
I would suggest to start with the basics, for example, pairing lighter food with lighter wines, and heavier food with more full bodied wines, before starting to really focus on different flavours.

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