After a wealth of international experiences, Guo Ying was appointed senior sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotel Group in China. Winner of the China National Sommelier Competition in 2012 and the China Youth Sommelier Team Service Competition in 2015, Guo Ying also serves on the jury of numerous international competitions.
Today head of wines at Wild Yeast, she shares her thoughts on her new life, her new city, and a restaurant that was stirring things up on Hangzhou’s gastronomy scene even before it opened its doors to the public!
My family was in the spirits industry, but I was very quickly drawn to wine. For me, being passionate about wine is like being drawn into a book that you will never finish because someone is always still writing it! And like with any great book, the pleasure you feel is not only aesthetic, or in the case of wine, gustatory.
It is also about embarking on a journey that takes you to the four corners of the Earth. That is what wine means to me: it is a “language of the world,” and one of the most beautiful, for it is also the language of delight.
You need to be perseverant and humble. I have been a sommelier for ten years, and I am still learning. The required knowledge is extremely vast: you need to be good at tasting wines and know how to counsel your customers, but you also need to know how to tell the story of each wine, to be one with it, and to become its ambassador.
I tasted Cos d’Estournel for the first time ten years ago, at the start of my career as a sommelier. It is a magnificent, profound, and elegant wine, quite simply one of the best Bordeaux wines.
Cos d’Estournel delights the senses and has an unfathomable ability to adapt to all types of cuisines. But it also offers pleasures of the mind, for it is a wine with a powerful legacy and culture.
Cos d’Estournel is one of the finest wines of Bordeaux, and it reveals itself most fully after several years of aging, so you have to be patient. Today I might recommend the 2016 vintage, but while waiting for it to reach perfection, I would suggest the already marvelous Pagodes de Cos 2016, or Goulée by Cos d’Estournel 2017, which delivers wonderful freshness and juicy aromas of fruit.
One of my most recent discoveries is the Cos d’Estournel Blanc 2017. I was so impressed upon tasting it! It is produced in very small quantities, and we are very fortunate to have it in on our wine list. Like all the other wines of Cos d’Estournel, it is a wine that must be tasted by all wine-lovers at least once in their lives.
I still live part-time in Shanghai, so it is easy to compare! Shanghai is very familiar to me. It is a vast, modern capital where everything happens very fast. Hangzhou is a younger city, with a different kind of energy and a very lively cultural scene.
Cos d’Estournel offers many stimulating, inspiring possibilities for pairings with the local cuisine of Hangzhou, or hangbang cai, such as Dongpo pork, which I would suggest serving with a Cos d’Estournel that has already aged for some years, like the 2005 vintage.
With our beef tongue with white chrysanthemum vinegar and caramelized onions, I would choose one of Bordeaux’s most outstanding white wines, like Cos d’Estournel Blanc 2017, for its fresh, juicy character would highlight the texture of the beef tongue.
The same wine, with its aromas of jasmine and orange blossoms and notes of tropical fruit, would also be wonderful with our mustard and vinegar red shrimp.
Actually, I am struck by what makes Wild Yeast resemble the other places where I have worked. It is a restaurant where everything is about wine. This philosophy is similar to that of 67 Pall Mall in London, where I was a sommelier. Wild Yeast is also driven by the same humanist spirit as the Four Seasons Group, which seeks to place pleasure at the heart of everything.
Wild Yeast uses a great deal of fresh ingredients to concoct innovative dishes inspired by the culinary traditions of Zhejiang (the region of Hangzhou), according to a philosophy similar to that of French nouvelle cuisine. This is what made its opening in Hangzhou something of a revolution. The bar at Wild Yeast, where we serve delicate roasted fare after 9 P.M. in a very laid-back atmosphere, offers a different vibe altogether.
Overall, the dishes we serve are light and full of flavor, and so we offer a wide range of Champagnes, Burgundies and older vintages of Bordeaux. To put it simply, Wild Yeast is a place for people who love wine, food, and life.
I think of my community as a group of friends with whom I share a passion for wine. Things have significantly changed in China over the last ten years. Young people are filled with curiosity, and once they discover wine, they are fearless in exploring and seeking out a wealth of experiences to determine their personal preferences. Once again, it is an enchanting journey!