Wine Masters of Tianjin
The guy is so earnest, so innocent, so charming. And really young. (Everyone in China is young.) Trying so hard. I ordered a mixed salad and steak sandwich, and a glass of Banfi, 2011 Cabernet-Sangiovese. Fifty-eight RMB. About nine-fifty, US. I figure I can eek three of these into my per diem, atop the sandwich and salad.
(I got the steak sandwich, not because I wanted one, but because that’s the only way to order a tiny piece of beef: Get the salad, dump the bun, and you get four ounces of meat and your veggies. Avoid the fries like a Chinese KTV.)
“Excellent choice, sir. These are two VERY famous grape in Italy. Maybe you hear of these two?”
“Dui. Dui. Wo HEN xi huan neige.” “Sure, sure. I REALLY like these.” I leaned into the “hen“. I told the truth: I have heard of these. I DO like them. More truth: Jian probably knows a lot more about wine that I do, or care to know.
“Excellent, sir.” And with a studied flourish, he nips the foil and pulls the cork. I half expected a Mandarin-tinted, “Wallah!”
“Next step, sir, is The Wine Testing.” I wondered if I were dressed appropriately, here in the Radisson Tianjin Buffet / Restaurant / Cafe.
“Let’s begin, Jian. I am ready!” While thinking, “Please just pour the wine, xiansheng (sir). This is, at best, a fifteen-dollar bottle at retail. I’m tired. I just need to catch a little buzz with my steak sammy before bed.”
But I liked Jian Xiansheng and wanted to support him in his quest to become Master Sommelier at Tianjin Radisson.
So he carefully if not nervously poured my test. I sampled it studiously, noting color, legs, bouquet and so forth, smiled approvingly, nodded for him to pour, and may have even whistled like Donald Sutherland in MASH. So American. So respected around the world, that whistle. A true signal of Yanqui Individualism.
“That is a beautiful wine, Jian. Please pour away, wo de hao peng you (my good friend). Xie xie. Xie xie ni. You definitely know your Italian wines, sir!”
Jian beamed. And, he poured it big. My kinda sommelier. No “halfway up the glass” pours for my man.
Later, while finishing my salad, I was careful not to let Jian, newly minted Master Sommelier at the Radisson, see me dipping my dinner roll into the bowl of Thousand Island, then salting it. Totally hillbilly move. That would have set him back, and we have his future to look out for.
The lobby singer starts into Sarah McLachlan’s “In The Arms of an Angel”, with programmed accompaniment, and nary a hint of Putonghua accent.
I could almost be back home, in the USA.