Interview: Zhao Huaiqiang
‘The joy being a sommelier is that I play my magic power to make an experience memorable’
China’s passion for all things wine is exemplified when a young sommelier from Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai won the China National Sommelier Competition. Zhao Huaiqiang popularly known as Tansy Zhao is now gearing up to compete in the 2015 World Youth Sommelier Competition. We caught up with him to find out a little more about his interest in wines and his plans for the future.
What got you interested in wines?
Back to the year of 2007 when I was a bartender in a local restaurant, I had chance to mingle in Penfolds wine event taking place in the restaurant, and tasted a range of their best – vintages of Penfold Grange. It was absolutely divine and ever since then, I’ve been longing for the world’s finest wine and exploring the knowledge behind.
What training have you received in wine appreciation?
A few years later after my first initiation to wines, I completed WSET L3 (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) and SMS L2 (Court of Master Sommelier), and now studying the next level – L4 and L3.
What have you learnt from the China National Sommelier Competition? How are you going to use these learnings for the upcoming 2015 World Youth Sommelier Competition?
China National Sommelier Competition 2014 marks my milestone. Being the first place brought me the taste of success, but more than that, such challenge with group of great sommeliers in China, I am urged to improve, to be better. I want to be very confident on a world stage and that requires me to focus on comprehensive theory (knowledge of wider range of wine region), improving spirits knowledge and onsite competition experience.
Where do you aspire to be in your career in the long run?
Looking into the future I wish to be an international-level sommelier, but most importantly, in my daily life as a sommelier at Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai, I hope every recommendation I make to guests will inspire their love and passion to the world of wine and food pairing. Sometimes, little things made big impact in life. The joy being a sommelier is that every day I play my magic power to make an experience memorable.