Sun Ying, who tutored three college students to win the top prize for Asia at an international wine competition, sees great prospects for sommeliers in Southwest China.
The 38-year-old is the only college teacher imparting knowledge about wine in Chongqing, a city of 30 million.
Born in Hunan province, Sun attended college in Chongqing and has lived there for 21 years as a college teacher.
In 2009, she lived in France for a year, where she attended wine exhibitions and developed a serious interest in the industry
Later, she received training from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust－a British organisation that arranges courses and exams in the field of wine and spirits－and began to pass on this knowledge to her students when she returned to China.
The trust, founded in 1969, now provides popular wine training courses in China.
The three students from Sichuan International Studies University－two majoring in French and one in luxury brands management－all received training from the trust provided by Sun.
"To prepare for the competition, you must know huge amounts of information about renowned wineries and their history," Sun said. "Improving your tasting and smelling skills is the most difficult part."
Sun took the students to supermarkets where they smelled different kinds of fruit and vegetables. They also tasted many types of wine to distinguish smell and taste.
"People think we may get drunk when we taste wine for hours, but under the tasting course standards, we spit it into a barrel after tasting it," she said.
On June 12, students from Sichuan International Studies University and Hong Kong Baptist University will represent Asia at the 2015 Left Bank Bordeaux Cup at Chateau Lafite in France.
The students Sun tutored won top prize at the Asian version of the competition.
Teams from colleges in the United States and Europe, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of California, Los Angeles, will also be in the competition.
"Winning the competition in Asia was a great improvement," Sun said. "Compared with many foreign universities, we still lack experience. Also, people from Sichuan province and the neighbouring area eat spicy food frequently ... and that numbs the taste buds."
Sun said wine traders in China have "disrupted" the market by selling poor-quality wine at high prices.
"If more people learn how to taste wine, fewer will be deceived by the traders," she said. "This will help those learning to improve their social skills, as many white-collar workers in big Chinese cities now prefer wine to traditional liquor.
"Many people ask me what the best wine is. My answer is the one that suits you the most. It doesn't need to be the most expensive one."
Cang Wei contributed to this story.
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