Name: Dazz Ma
At the moment: China, Beijing
Please, tell us a little bit about your first encounter with wine & the wine industry? Any particular mentors at that time?
When I was in high school, there was not much imported wine in Beijing. My first time taste wine was “Great Wall”, the Chinese-labeled wine with my dad. It brought my interest. I studied Business Management at a college in England, Then I came back to Beijing in 2006, I met my partner. He was one of the best wine trader and importer at that time. I joined his company and he became my mentor, showed me the wine world, taught me lots of wine knowledge, as well the wine business. The company used to have two wine bars in Beijing. One was classic with a touch of Italian experience. The other one was located at a little courtyard in a old Beijing hutong. We used to host many interesting wine tastings and events . The experience was much into getting interesting expats and local wine lovers into our water hole, share the wine knowledge and having a lot of fun.
What specific traits or skills should a Sommelier(e) possess for professional performance and is there any person with that qualities you especially admire within the wine industry?
From my opinion. A professional sommelier has to be equity and modesty for the wine and sensitive for the guests because all are different. When I was in Palette Wines the managing director Mr. John Gai gave me a lot of good advice like a mentor. He is one of the leading wine business person in China, very open-minded, lots of new ideas for the wine and he was the first director of Zonin Family in 1998 in China. Please see the interview of him from China Daily “http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2009-11/09/content_8930009.htm” . Also I was working for Mr. Ignace Lecleir, the Temple Restaurant Beijing .(TRB)which is one of the Top-One restaurants in China now. He taught me how to care the guests not only for the wine also as an owner of the high-end restaurant, how to successful to manage a restaurant. Every day you working like “Michelin stars”, hehe, very serious working there. In TRB my chief-Sommelier, Mr. Charles Sow which is a real gentleman, very noble - studied Economics and Philosophy brings totally different opinions on wine, he gave lots of creative ideas on wine sales.
What would be your advice to a young Sommelier(e) i.e. Commis Sommelier(e) where to look finding an adequate position at home or abroad? Any further tips?
You need to built up your view not only on the wine. You have to getting known different societies, different people have various demands on wine consumption. As a sommelier you have to have a broad view to deeply understand people’s characters and their expression on wine.
What are the key ingredients for creating a wine list for a restaurant and what is your opinion on some ridiculous pricing on wine in restaurants, do you have tips on how to determine markups?
I think the good selection range is the most important thing. It doesn’t need to be a huge list but a delicate selection from different good wineries. Including unique wineries and few commercial brands. It could give guests more choice on their preference. The price should not go that high if you really like to let more people getting used of drinking wine.
How do you manage to stay on top of the changes in the wine industry?
I was very dramatic on doing a good wine bar but unfortunately the high rent in Beijing is not a brilliant choice. Currently I would rather keep some key-accounts private customer.
How would a new vineyard get the attention of someone like you to notice their wine and what's the best way for producers to improve their chances of being listed?
I would like to meet up the winemaker or the owner of winery which could gives me the straight impression on their wine or philosophy to decided if I list them on my wine list and getting known their personality to think about how to present for my customer about their wine.
When a customer asks for advice on selecting wine what's in your opinion would be the best approach?
You need to understand what are customer’s expectation , the atmosphere at their table, either business dinner or romantic dinner, people often have very specific requests and you have to look at the food they ordered. You start thinking which wine should go well with their food. In short, based on my professionalism, I need to read people’s mind.
What's your philosophy about glasses? Are you working with well known brands or are you considering new brands as well and how do you determine?
Currently I use the Riedel glasses but I personally like Zalto glasses very much. I already booked 6 for my good friend from Austria, hehe. I personally think the normal glasses can not affect wine but a delicate-made glasses will definitely enhance the drinking experience at the moment of wine approaching your tongue, it brings you silky and smooth feeling.
I tried Spiegelau as well.
What advice would you give people on pairing wine with food?
First I need to have good communication with my chef to understand what is his philosophy on food. For example if the steak with Tuna sauce? The hot soup does it go well with white wine or red or sherry ? Along with this line, it definately base on the food main flavor, I either choose the wine to could the same flavour or a surprise in the mouth.
Should a Sommelier(e) taste the guest's wine?
It depends. I used to taste guest’s wine when I opened the bottle because I could analyse the wine corked or good and analyse the wine’s personality.
If you were a wine, which variety would you be, and why?
Its very difficult question because I would like to be Nero d’Avola from Sicily or Nebbiolo from Barolo. Nero d’Avola with the truffle chocolate flavor reminds me of Monica Belluci, sexy and elegant. But Nebbiolo is my personality, varied, very firm structure, strong - takes time to appreciate it . I believe good things take time.
What are the top 3 types of wine (your faves) would we find in your home wine collection and what's your desert island wine?
My favorite definitely - Barolo / Super Tuscany, Austrian white Wine. (I love Austrian wine, elegant, restrained)
@ by Dominik Kozlik – Zeitgeist Sommeliers - www.sommeliers.at