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On becoming a Master of Wine

Updated: 2012-02-06 11:02
By Ye Jun (China Daily)

On becoming a Master of Wine

Huang Shan sees a promising market with the increasing popularity of wine among young Chinese people. Ye Jun / China Daily

A love for pinot noir led wine writer Huang Shan to name her newly opened wine store and club after the grape varietal - a name she has also bestowed on her adopted golden retriever.

"I like pinot noir best because it can be consumed right away, and ages nicely," she says. "After some years of aging, the wine is indescribably beautiful."

Huang, from Yantai, Shandong province, went to Singapore in 1998 for her high-school studies, when she was just 16. Later, she went to Bristol Business School in the United Kingdom to study marketing for three years. There she met Sun He, co-founder of Pinot Noir wine store, who shared a love for wine and travel.

Huang drank her first glass of wine at the school bar and first undertook wine training when she worked part time as a waitress at the Marriott Royal Hotel in Bristol.

"I thought wine drinking was elegant, which only people with good taste and intuition would do," she says. "I liked to recommend good wines to people, and I soon found myself quite adept at doing that."

Her interest in wine led her to read books about it and enter a wine society at college.

Huang and Sun both passed their preliminary tests of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), a British organization. They now contribute to wine columns in Chinese newspapers and magazines. They also organize wine clubs and tastings for 20 to 30 people.

"So many more wines are now available in China. There used to be just French wines, but now there are wines from scores of different countries," she says. "In the past, only well-to-do people bought wine, but now more young people, ordinary white-collar workers and women are buying wine."

Huang says she travels to France twice a year and visits Italy once a year, which enables her to locate some really good wines at small chateaus. Huang and Sun's wine store has a collection of wines from around the world, although most are from France and Italy.

Huang says she will continue to discover good wines and share them with her friends, though she believes people should make their own judgment about which wines suit them best.

On becoming a Master of Wine

"Don't believe in authorities. Even Robert Parker sometimes changes his review about the same wine the following year. Trust only yourself," she says.

The most charming thing about wine, Huang says, is not the first sip, but that every bottle - even for the same vintage - tastes different. That's why she recommends her friends to try as many as they can.

"Someone as changeable as me can only become so focused on wine because it is so diversified," she says.

When she passed the WSET grade three course in 2007, there were just a few people in China who had done the same.

Now, there are many more. She is just one wine category away from achieving the full WSET diploma, which will qualify her to take tests and become a Master of Wine.

She says she hopes to be the first Master of Wine in China.

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