Meet China’s first Master Sommelier as three contenders make grade

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Three more hopefuls have made it through the notoriously difficult Master Sommelier exams, including the first Chinese expert to earn the famous lapel pin.

Image: LU Yang (middle) became the first Chinese Master Sommelier. Credit: Court of Master Sommeliers
Image: LU Yang (middle) became the first Chinese Master Sommelier. Credit: Court of Master Sommeliers

LU Yang MS, corporate wine director for Shangri-La Hotels globally, successfully navigated the latest set of exams to become the first Chinese Master Sommelier, said the Court of Master Sommeliers this week.

Two others will also get the vaunted MS lapel pin:

- Stefan Neumann, head sommelier at ‘Dinner by Heston Blumenthal’ and from Austria

- Piotr Pietras, head sommelier at ‘Launceston Place’ and the second Polish MS

There are now 236 Master Sommeliers globally.

Exams are renowned for their difficulty, as portrayed in the cult film Somm, and the average MS pass rate is just four percent.

Ronan Sayburn MS, who sits on the exam board, said he was particularly pleased to welcome Lu into the elite club.

‘We have been running courses and doing board exams in China for about 10 years now, said Sayburn, who is also a Decanter World Wine Awards judge.

‘We see more and more people become certified at advanced level and few attempting MS exam and Lu is the first one who has actually passed,’ he said. ‘It’s a great thing for Chinese sommeliers and Chinese wine business.’

Lu thanked his family and friends for their support and told Decanter.com, ‘I hope that my moderate achievement can encourage more sommeliers, and I firmly believe that very soon we will see more Chinese sommeliers joining the MS team.’

Lu was named ‘best sommelier in Greater China’ in 2014 and has written columns on his experiences for DecanterChina.com. Prior to working in China, he obtained a degree in viticulture and winemaking from Niagara College in Canada.

The MS assessment consists of three parts:

· Practical wine service test

· A theoretical oral exam

· A blind tasting of six wines

In order to pass, a participant must score at least 75% in each part.

MS exams have been organised by the Court of Master Sommeliers since 1969.

Additional reporting by Sylvia Wu, editor of DecanterChina.

Translated by Sylvia Wu / 吴嘉溦

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