Sommelier sessions with Tansy Zhao

02 Jan 2017
3 min read
Runner-up of the Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2016, Tansy Zhao talks to FOUR about what it was like to take part in the recent event…

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Anhui province, where located in the central of China, I graduated from there as well. Then I came to Shanghai to work in 2006, I work in food and beverage industry until now, including 5 years sommelier experience in the duration.

What did you aspire to be when you grew up?

Speak honest, I didn’t know exactly when I just started to work. After I fell in love with wine in 2007, I wanted to be a sommelier, so I started to learn wine since then.

How did you find your way to into the world of wine and spirits?

My colleagues recommend “Wine and Spirits Education Trust” , the wine education course to me, so I joined in the course in 2010, and then I learnt “Court of Master Sommelier” in 2013 as well. These are the 2 courses to enhance my theory.

What do you think makes a good sommelier?

A good sommelier is the one who can deliver the philosophy of the winemaker to the guests properly, give some appropriate suggestion to the guests when they don’t know what to drink, provide good service to make the dinner/lunch more enjoyable. Work closely with all the service team and kitchen team to increase the food and wine service in overall. Know the marketing, make a proper wine list to earn benefit for the restaurant. So I think studying wine knowledge and work experience make a good sommelier.

Do you think that more people are entering this industry and why do you think that is?​

Yes, I do. Because more and more people are caring their meal quality rather than quantity, especially in China nowadays, but unfortunately there are no enough sommeliers to match the increasing of restaurants and hotels, a sommelier job is even a life style, so I think there must be more people entering this industry.

You recently took part in the Gaggenau International Sommelier Awards 2016, can you tell us a bit about what was involved inthe​competition?

First of all, I really appreciate all the people who are involved in the awards, especially the organizers, coz I deeply know this is a huge program, cause so much work to do, this was a very successful event.

This is a very professional sommelier competition, we had Blind tasting, Quick Q&A, Finding error in the wine list, Food and Wine matching and wine service, plus a coffee blind tasting. Except the coffee blind tasting, I experienced all the parts in the past sommelier competition I joined. The difficulty level is quite senior. I personally think the part of Food wine paring is so high-standard, because normally this part is in a test room where copy a restaurant environment, but Gaggenau planed it in a real dining room, and such a beautiful dining room, with so high-standard menu, this part can totally reflect how a sommelier run the dinner operation in his restaurant, this part is a perfect plan.

How did you feel when you were announced as one of the finalists of the competition?

I won the champion award in China area by joining two rounds completion, the qualify round and final round, so that I was announced to be one of the 5 finalists to represent China, I felt so excited.Fortunately I was also announced to be the silver award winner in the final global competition, I felt even excited, and relax a lots after the competition.

How did you feel when you were announced as winning Silver in the competition and what does that mean to you?

I am so excited. This means much to me, it is the best award I won among all the sommelier competitions I took part in, so it proves I improved myself, and this is exactly what I want to know from the competition. I don’t compete with others, I do with myself, and I won it.

What interesting trends/themes are going on in the wine world?

I think it is the grower champagne and natural wine, and orange wine.Grower Champagne: Most of the champagne is made by the merchants, and the merchants champagne is occupying the market for many years, recently some grower champagne (All the work is done by the single grower) are better and better in terms of the quality, it got more and more respected by both wine-industry people and consumers, especially the leadership of Jacques-selosse and Egly-Ouriet.Natural wine– Wine made of the most traditional method, without or only add in slight chemical.Orange wine – white wine ( Orange color) made of the white grape with skin contact.

What are your FOUR indispensable wine collection favourites and a pairing suggestion?

Barolo |I suggest pan fried lamb rack, or pan fired duck breast to pair with.Champagne or Sparkling wine (made with champagne method) |I suggest Sashimi, oyster, or Jamon to pair with.German Riesling (both dry and sweet style) |I suggest spicy Chinese or Thai food, all the poached seafood or Sashimi to pair with.Sauternes or botrytised dessert wine |I suggest blue cheese, apple pie, Nougat, Cream Brulee to match with.