Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Report of the World Sommelier Competition in Chile

Gérard Basset, until now the only holder of the combined titles of Master Sommelier, Master of Wine and Wine MBA of the world, was undisputedly the great favourite of the public for the “World Sommelier Competition”, event held in Chile from the 10th to the 16th of April.
Basset is a living legend, an example of overcoming adversity and perseverance. This sixth attempt would be his last one to obtain the coveted sceptre (in twenty years the only title he was yet to achieve) and according to the understood ones, this competition in Chile was the last opportunity to obtain it.

The challenge: seven difficult tests designed by a multicultural technical committee. His opponents did a great job, very technical, and some of them were more expressive or precise than others. But Basset was all that and more. He exuded charm and offered exceptional service - something that everyone admires in a champion Sommelier.

What Basset particularly impressed with was his answer to the question: “Define the profession of sommelier”. He was proud to answer that a sommelier first of all is a businessman, then, an inspiration for his team and finally, the important link of the chain that allows communication between the producer and the consumer.

The first test was to prepare the cocktail Negroni, he used a second table, like no other finalist. Then, also unlike his opponents, he served respective glasses of champagnes to the ladies first. And once again, making the difference, he closed the service by offering a bit more; alternatives of different finger foods go with the drinks, warmly suggesting that everyone could enjoy them if they were shared.

The second test consisted of matching a list of different wines with a respective plate. The list included: Champagne, Sake, Australian Riesling, Pinot Noir from Oregon, a South African Late Harvest and Argentinean Malbec.

The third test consisted of presenting and serving a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Basset distinguished by the use of two decanters instead of only one. He also placed them next to a candle to see that they did not pass sediments to the glasses. He served a magnum bottle (1.5lt) of the Cabernet De Martino Single Vineyard.

The fourth test was to identify the errors in the wine list of a restaurant. An extremely complex test, in which it was difficult to find who got more right than wrong answers.

In the fifth test, with a time of 12 minutes [that Basset used perfectly], he continued being remarkable. It was the time for the feared blind tasting. Each answer has a detailed description including serving temperature, cellaring potential and pairing.

The sixth test, was less interesting for the public, but not less demanding. Each finalist had three minutes to identify each one of the eight distillates and liquors all poured in small glasses. Among them it was a malt whiskey, Chilean pisco, liquor of cinnamon, Vodka and Amarula.

The seventh test was to identify the name of the place to which five photographs corresponded. Basset once again was most accurate: of five, he guessed four.

The verdict of the technical committee was announced, number 33 was the new champion of the world. Basset was number 33, and took a step to the front to tremendous applause.

The night continued with speeches from the national authorities and the International Association of Sommeliers; the deserved gratefulness to the students of the School of Sommeliers of Chile who worked sunup to sundown offering a service of excellence at both lunch and dinner.

Also there were gifts for the Chilean Sommelier Association, presided by Héctor Vergara. And the most important gift of all was a collected donation of US$21,000 between all the members of the Sommelier Association, along with wines of the world for a future auction. Everything was collected with the purpose of contributing to the repair of damages caused by the earthquake on the 27 of February.

*** Most of information is from the Article:" Inglaterra Campeon" by Mariana Martinez, of the website . Translated and Summarized by DSC

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