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A love affair with wine

Updated: 2015-04-11 08:19
By Wang Huazhong (China Daily)

"But I think the most important part of being a sommelier is to love your life and to observe life, observe the people behind the wines," says Li, 30.

Li says what separates her from her peers is that "I practice culinary skills, I love painting and travel, and I connect these facades of life with wines to enhance my understanding of wine."

She says her love for life led her to become a sommelier. In 2008, while pursuing her master's degree in business management at a university in France, Li toured Burgundy and tasted 18 wines out of curiosity and enthusiasm.

The diversity of fine wines intrigued her to keep searching for free tasting events in Paris and eventually led her into the profession. "My father said he'd never heard of the job before and asked what I can do after completing the training course I selected. But I believe I can live on it so long as I have enough passion for it."

The alcohol-paved path is not easy one, since it demands more from a woman than a man. During training, Li kept notes on more than 30 wines and reviewed them every day. Whenever new wines are released or wine regions organize events, she normally tastes more than 80 wines a day.

She recently screened more than 400 wine candidates over a two-week period to put together a new wine menu for her employer, Park Hyatt Beijing. Popping hundreds of corks and pouring wine all day is a physical challenge for female sommeliers.

Yet, being a woman also has its advantages. Female sommeliers benefit from their affinity with consumers, better understand their needs and budget concerns, and probably make fewer mistakes on the menu, Li says.

"With the Chinese economy rising, our guests have more dispensable incomes. That means more high-end restaurants value the roles sommeliers play to upgrade their offerings."

"I'm very glad to see that more young people are joining the profession along with the increasing market demand for professional sommelier service."

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