|Chantal Chi (asc-wine.com)|
14 years ago, a sommelier in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lyon, France, worked magic on a young woman from Taiwan by pairing her food and wine. An angel must have danced on her taste buds as she felt enchanted and "baptized" into the world of wine. That is how Chantal Chi began to study and write about wine.
Chi is now a big name to a growing number of wine lovers in China; she has published several books and penned columns in elite magazines. Her weibo (microblog) has attracted more than 200,000 followers since she opened her "chantalonwine" account a year ago. Recently she was honored as a Knight of the National Order of Merit by the French government for promoting French wine culture.
Since moving to Shanghai in 2005, Chi has seen China's thirst for wine swelling. In a year or two, China will become the world's sixth-largest wine drinker. Wine imports, once a trickle, have become a stream.
Yet, many nouveau riche, especially those in second- and third-tier cities, are wine illiterate. They drink not for appreciation but for the sake of vanity and ostentation. It is not uncommon to see some of these drinkers blending their wine with soft drinks at banquets.
Chi saw a huge need for wine education in a country where distilleries far outnumber wineries. And she is well suited to the task - with years of wine tasting and writing. She spent 13 years studying wine in France and earned a degree in oenology from the prestigious University of Burgundy.
Chi has visited nearly 1,000 vineyards and wineries from Europe to Australia to South and North Americas. Her column appears in South China Morning Post, ELLE, Decanter, Wine Business International, among others.
With the dedication of a missionary, Chi took to educating Chinese about wine drinking and food pairing. She wrote articles, hosted wine tastings, lectured on radio and judged wine competitions. She has a sharp nose, a gift her mother discovered when she was little - she was often asked to smell the quality of food. That ability, combined with her wine knowledge and rich experience, made her a formidable challenger in blind-tasting contests.
But it was her bestseller "The Soul of My Cellar," written in Chinese and published in 2008, that earned Chi wide recognition in China. It describes different wine regions in France and their best wines. Chi says it took her three years to interview all the 300 winemakers covered in the book. She won a Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2009 for the book, which some regard as a textbook for oenology and sommelier students in China. She also co-authored "100 Questions about Wine" for beginners.