The fifteenth edition of Le Concours du Meilleur Sommelier du Monde officially starts today as 58 of the world’s top sommeliers arrive into Mendoza, Argentina, where the competition is being hosted. On Saturday morning the first of the exams commence, and candidates undergo a series of tests in an attempt to knock out their opponents and arrive to the final on Tuesday.
“The candidates don’t know anything about the competition format or questions,” explains Ricardo Grillet from the Technical Committee. “All they know is that there is a written theory, service and tasting part, they don’t know in what order or when to expect the different tests over the four days.”
The competition was first held in 1969 and each competition varies depending on the host country and organisation. This is the first time it has been held in Argentina, and the Argentine Sommelier Association has been planning for this event for almost three years.
“We started planning 1000 days ago,” says General Coordinator Maria Laura Ortiz. “It is a great honour for us to host the competition. Our profession is a new profession in Argentina, our first sommelier school was founded in 1999. Today we have a very big industry team helping: we have 125 volunteer sommeliers from Argentina cleaning over 14,000 glasses for the competition, we have 84 wineries sponsoring the event, and we have over 1000 wines for the sommeliers to taste this weekend.”
The event is combined with World Malbec Day on the 17th April, as the visiting sommeliers, journalists and representatives will also be invited to different tastings in the country’s wine capital on Sunday.
However past winner Best Sommelier of the World 1989 Serge Dubs says candidates shouldn’t be drinking any wine at all this weekend: “For the year leading up to the competition I only had 4 hours sleep a day, never ate after 8pm, and didn’t drink more than a very small glass. During the competition I was awake for 24 hours. The world competition is a phenomenal challenge and you have to be in top shape. Your biggest enemy is stress.”
The candidates will be feeling the stress now as the spotlight comes on and the first wines are being poured in Mendoza. President of Association de la Sommellerie Internationale and Best Sommelier of the World 1995 Shinya Tasaki’s words of advice are more introspective: “The candidates should remember that the competition is for them, not for someone else – it should be about what they want to achieve. And if you win the competition, you must know that it will change your life.”
Shinya will be announcing the winner Tuesday evening in Mendoza. We will be covering the event back stage over the weekend, and announcing the winner online Wednesday morning.
Photo of Andres Rosberg (President Argentine Sommelier Association), Andreas Larsson (Technical Committee, Best Sommelier of the World 2007), Edgardo del Popolo (Agronomist Dominio del Plata), Susana Balbo (Winemaker Dominio del Plata), Paolo Basso (Technical Committee, Best Sommelier of the World 2013) taken at a private Technical Committee dinner on Thursday night at Dominio del Plata winery in Mendoza.