Photo for: Johnson Jia, Beverage Manager at UMI Restaurant in Shanghai


Johnson Jia, Beverage Manager at UMI Restaurant in Shanghai


In an interview with CWC, Johnson speaks about current wine trends, challenges faced by a sommelier, elements of a good wine list and much more.

Johnson Jia is a Beverage Manager at a modern Japanese independent restaurant, UMI Restaurant in Shanghai. In an interview with CWC, he speaks about challenges a sommelier has to face, wine lists and current wine trends.

What really drives you when it comes to wine?

I met the first sommelier in my carrier Eight Yrs. ago when I was working at Ritz-Carlton.

From the wine colour, he can check out that grape variety is pinot noir. Ha...later on I find that is only 1 PN selling on our wine list. But whatever its still wow to me at the first moment, that really drives me to know more about wine and get more knowledge on wines.

What food and wine trends are you seeing at the moment?

I have to say more and more people try to pair wine with Chinese food.

People have started to understand wine. Started to talk wine.

People now try different wines,

People want to know different wine news.

For the health side, more people drink wine instead of traditional high alcohol spirits.

What you look for when you plan to buy wine for your business?

As a restaurant we try should try to get a more different style, word, varieties wine for different customers. We should also buy some big brand wine, it’s easier to sell and get recommend among friends, sometimes we buy some small brand, which is not famous as others and doing small production but has its own terrior, good quality and valuable price.

What are some challenges you face as a sommelier?

Language is a big challenge for learning.

Most Chinese like to pair with Baijiu and Beer for the food.

Usually, wines are more expensive in comparison to local wine.

What do you think is the most important element of a good wine list?

Wine style.

What is mainly focus on?

Different price level.

How has the role of the sommelier evolved in the last 20years?

10 Yrs ago, the sommelier was just a start.

Now more and more people have started to learn because lots of restaurants, hotels are open for this position, more and more people have started to consume wine, the market needs sommelier.

More wines are coming to the China market, the market is becoming more professional.

Which varietals or countries are in demand these days for your business?

French wine still is biggest in demand.

Because of tax added on USA wine, Australia and NZ wines and prices are high.

Describe your experience interacting with customers on a daily basis.

  • Seeking or interacting with guest needs ( country/region/variety/style/budget/vintage )
  • We should have knowledge about pairing wine and food.

How you define a good sommelier?

  • Basic wine knowledge
  • A specific country or region or variety
  • Cost control
  • Marketing analysis

What does your typical day really look like?

Mainly response to restaurant operation, agonize some events, staff wine training.