You might have read all about the Best Sommelier of the World competition that took place in Mendoza last month, and about how tough it was for the candidates to compete at that level. However it isn’t just the candidates who spent the last three years in preparation with sleepless nights… For the hosts, this was an equally great undertaking.
When President of Asociacion Argentina de Sommeliers (AAS) Andres Rosberg started dreaming of hosting the global sommelier competition in Argentina, he thought it was a far flung possibility and made a presentation to the international committee as a starting point for a hopefully successful bid many years down the line.
“I hadn’t thought we would get selected on our first year of bidding to host!” admits Andres. “I thought it would take years to get elected, however we were picked first time.” The excitement of winning the bid to host was soon met with the realization of the work necessary to turn this dream into a reality.
With the help of many other volunteers in the AAS, notably including the AAS Vice President Maria Laura Ortiz and General Secretary Matias Prezioso, the team spent over 1000 days working up to the event – which was the biggest international wine event ever to come to Argentina.
“We wanted this to be a big party for the wine sector of Argentina and to do that you have to have everyone on board,” said Andres. “We wanted to have a winery sponsor participation price that was low enough for everyone to participate. It was a lot of work to manage so many meetings and conversations but it has created what we have today – a wine sector that is celebrating together like never before.”
A total of 84 wineries sponsored the event, alongside other wine-related companies in Argentina. The sponsors were invaluable in bringing the event, which cost over ten million pesos, to life. However there was also a lot of unpaid manpower that was essential to its success:
“The other major factor that made this possible was the support of our volunteer sommeliers, many of whom are taking holiday leave to be here and work unpaid,” said Andres. “We have 160 people here every day in the parking lot of the Hyatt hotel polishing and cleaning glasses! The credit has to go to the dozens of people who have been working their asses off to make it happen. It is quite moving having everyone work together.”
“I wanted to show an Argentina that I know, that is not the Argentina in the papers every second month for the wrong reasons. It is an Argentina that I love, that I cherish and that makes me live here.”
“There are so many amazing things in Argentina that people don’t know about: wine is one of them, but also food, people, weather, landscapes, culture, friendship, warmth, hospitality and the joy of people when they share what they have with others.”
Part of showing Argentina was of course with the wine as well, and the sommelier candidates and press had a chance to taste over 1000 Argentine wines during the four day event between dinners, lunches, wine tastings and a wine fair.
“We wanted to show that Argentina is more than just Malbec. And even Malbec in Argentina is more than just Malbec.”
“These sommeliers know that Malbec is a great wine that is relatively fruity and good to pour by the glass because it keeps people happy, but there is also the other Malbec – the Malbec which speaks of where it comes from. Malbec that is complex, age worthy, mineral, and of a great quality that can compare with the best wines of the world.”
The other important impact was internal: for the wine industry in Argentina, and the very sommeliers who were working the event.
“Being a sommelier is a young profession in Argentina,” added Andres. “I think for wineries this event is important because they have now seen that maybe it is worth it to pay attention to sommeliers. And for our professionals and sommelier students, just to be able to give them the experience of meeting the sommelier rockstars in the world – mixing with them, talking with them and seeing them work – helps them to understand what it is all about. It will educate them and help us have better professionals.”
The overall winner of the competition this year, sommelier Arvid Rosengren, congratulated the Association for their organization of the competition and surrounding events: “The competition has been so beautifully arranged, and everything has been stunning – from the wines and the food we have had. Our whole experience of Argentina has been wonderful!”
Mission accomplished Team AAS! ?
Here’s a visual shout-out to the Argentine wineries that sponsored and helped support #BestWorldSommARG2016 Salud!