Meet our new Shenzhen ambassador Della Tang, rising star of the Chinese wine world

Helen Arnold
By Helen Arnold
Published 07-December-2023
Interview / Shenzhen

Della Tang, who has just become Star Wine List’s new ambassador for Shenzhen, is one of China’s fastest rising young stars of the wine world. She first made her mark at the city’s renowned Ensue restaurant. That list also won the Best Sparkling Wine List at the Star Wine List of the Year Asia earlier this year.

Shenzhen, a boom city in the south of China which links Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland is seeing an increase in the number – and quality – of new wine bars and restaurant openings. Tang, who will also soon be adding Shanghai to her remit as ambassador for Star Wine List, explained to Helen Arnold what’s driving this growing interest in wine, and what are the key dining and drinking trends that she is witnessing amongst Chinese consumers.

How would you describe the current dining scene in Shenzhen and what changes have you seen in recent years?

Shenzhen was described as a 'desert of fine dining' a few years ago. Although there were many great local Chinese restaurants (where wine is not a necessary part of the table), fine dining was never a thing in Shenzhen, partly because people could easily go to Hong Kong for it. Thus, Shenzhen did not provide a good environment for wine drinking. However, as more and more young entrepreneurs have returned to the city and invested in restaurants, Shenzhen has become a destination for the dining scene in recent years. It has resulted in an improvement in restaurants’ wine programmes and more sommeliers moving to Shenzhen for exciting new projects, thereby helping to develop the wine culture of the city.

Shenzhen is a young and vibrant place with a big population of young people. Although most of the wine consumers do not have much experience in drinking wines, they are willing to try new things. It will take a bit of time to build up a bigger population in embracing wine culture, but with open-minded consumers, I am very much looking forward to having more people joining the wine-drinking club in Shenzhen.

Shenzhen was described as a 'desert of fine dining' a few years ago

What are the biggest overall wine trends in China you are seeing?
I would say the trend right now is definitely a focus on Burgundy and Champagne, while some people are also looking for Chinese wines. These are the regions mentioned on Chinese social media platforms the most frequently. Bistro culture has been booming for the past five years in China, originating in Shanghai, and then spreading to Beijing, Shenzhen and other cities. At the beginning, most of them were French bistros and wine bars with great wine selections. In recent years, Chinese-fusion bistros have sprung up, that people are becoming more interested in pairing wines with Chinese cuisine.

Traditionally the Chinese have consumed far more red than white wine - is that beginning to shift at all?
Chinese consumers do drink more red wines than white wines, especially on business occasions. However, as you can see from the wine selections of the outlets I recommend, the proportion of white wines, champagnes, and even orange wines are no fewer than red wines. For experienced consumers, they are willing to drink any type of wine as long as it is good.

What, in your opinion, makes a great wine list?
A few years ago, I would say a good wine list required a good coverage of various regions and price ranges as well as depth in vintages and styles. With more experience in the industry and visits to wine places in different countries, I think a great list should takes into consideration your outlet's food offerings as well as consumers’ preferences and buying habits, and at the same time, show a sommelier's personality and vision.

How price sensitive are your customers when it comes to wine?
Chinese consumers are generally price sensitive for big brands with high volumes and wines with higher price points. As Shenzhen borders Hong Kong it is easy for consumers to visit Hong Kong and compare wine prices between the two cities.

Della Tang pictured when Ensue won the Best Sparkling Wine List in Asia at Vinexpo Asia in May 2023. The award presented by Nyetimber. She is flanked by Krister Bengtsson, Reeze Choi, YiXin Ong, Liora Levi and Justin Ho Li Vern. Photo Desmond Lim.

How did you get into the wine business, and what is your current role?
I went into wine because of my huge passion for dining. During my college life in Los Angeles, I spent a big part of my free time exploring restaurants to the extent that local friends started asking me for recommendations. I wanted to check out the restaurant industry after I graduated from college, and I thought that learning about wine would be a good stepping stone for me to work in a front of house department. That's why I went to Paris to pursue my study of wine. After two sommelier internships in Paris, I returned to China to start my career as a sommelier in 2018. I left Savor Group (which owns Ensue) in July this year and I have been traveling to different regions to learn more about wines and wine cultures around the globe. I have not officially bonded with any enterprise yet, but I still do some wine events with cross-industry brands.

What's your favourite pour at the moment? And have you made any exciting new discoveries recently?
Champagne and Burgundy are always my go-tos whenever I pick a wine at a restaurant or wine bar. However, I also enjoy it when a sommelier friend surprises me with something I have not tasted before. During my visit to Austria this year, I realized how Austrian Riesling and Grüner Veltliner are so underrated in China. And in Germany, I found so many young producers making exciting wines and showcasing their new philosophy in winemaking. I am also very much looking forward to seeing how Spätburgunder will shine in German terroir.

How does it feel to be onboard as an ambassador with Star Wine List and what do you hope to achieve?
I have been using Star Wine List as my wine guide whenever I travel abroad, and now being a part of it truly makes me feel very honoured. There are some quite amazing restaurants and wine bars in China which do not promote themselves internationally, so I am very glad that I can contribute to bringing them to a broader public - letting wine lovers around the globe know more about them through Star Wine List.

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