The world of Chinese sommeliers: LI Meiyu

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Basic profile

Name:Meiyu Li
Current Position:Wine Director, Park Hyatt Beijing
Based in:Beijing
How long have you been working as a sommelier:5-6years
Trained at:
- Medlar Restaurant,London, 1 starred Michelin, London, UK
- Le Gavroche,London, 2 starred Michelin, London, UK
- Bistro du Sommelier, Paris
- Chateau Haut Bailly, Pessac-Leognan
- Le Vinotheque, Bordeaux
- Domaine Seppi Landmann, Alsace
Qualifications & Awards:
- French National Diploma of Mention Complémentaire SOMMELLERIE
- Court of Master Sommelier, Level 3 Advanced Sommelier (Nov 2014)
- WSET Level 3
- China's Best Sommelier of French Wine-Sopexa 2010
- China's Best Sommelier 2011
- China's Best Wine Service Team 2012

LI Meiyu

What is it like to be a sommelier?

1. How did you get into the business?
When I was studying in France, I was deeply influenced by a lecture about the culture in Burgundy. I decided to visit Burgundy and have then fallen in love with wine after tasting 20 different kinds of wine there. In addition, I love the wine culture in Paris, which is why I decided to specialize in wine.

2. Who was the most interesting customer you’ve ever met?
Mr. Lorin Massel - World famous conductor.

3. Describe your typical day.
I am currently (Oct 2014) a trainee at the Medlar restaurant in London. I go to class in the mornings and usually study after lunch and arrive at the restaurant at about 4pm. To help my study for the exams, my head sommelier often helps me practice by preparing 4-6 different wines for me to blind taste. If by any chance any distributers visit our restaurant, I am able to learn a lot about wine as well as receive various information on the market, they are all very professional. There are staff briefings at times, or even training. Before dinner service, we will do all the necessary preparations, including preparing all the glasses, wine lists, trays, ice buckets, etc. And then we will have to work through dinner service until about midnight. Of course, a proper sommelier has a much more complicated and heavier workload.

4. How does a wine end up on your wine list?
In Medlar, all sommeliers gather together to choose a good wine. According to our head sommelier, Clement, he requires a vintner come to restaurant with different wines for us to sample. He then gathers all the feedback from all sommeliers after the tasting before deciding which wine to purchase. It is because he believes it is important for customers to love every wine on our wine list, hence team work is needed.

Tips for consumers

5. Apart from your own hotel/restaurant, where do you go to find good wines in your city or elsewhere in China?
- Wine Shop Sampler in London. The Sampler has over 70-80 wines and a good selection, suitable for wine lovers. Hedonism is also a good choice for collectors as they stock a lot of older vintages and Grand Crus. - Hedonism is also a good choice for collectors as they stock a lot of older vintages and Grand Crus.

6. What is popular right now? (region, producer, ect.)
For the Chinese market, Burgundy is becoming more and more popular, so is Italy. For the English market, consumers prefer old world and dry wines, and preferring wines from Austria over Germany.

7. What has changed in the last year? (Consumer profiles, consumption habits, price, region, etc)
Consumers tend to be younger now, and look for quality rather than which brand it is.

8. What is the role of a sommelier in modern day China?
I think that a country will not directly boom or suffer due to the existence of sommeliers. However, the economy does have a direct relationship with sommeliers, as the industry will not flourish if the economy is poor. I believe sommeliers affect the lifestyle of local Chinese to some extent, especially when coming to wine education.

9. Finally, how would you suggest people to approach food and wine pairing?
The balance between food and wine is very important, wine must be paired with the same style of wine. For example, a lighter dish with a milder wine and a richer dish with a more heavy bodied wine. Never forget the magic of sour dishes, it balances out greasy and oily food perfectly. Of course, when choosing about the wine, you also need to think about the occasion.

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