Gérard Basset won the 13th World’s Best Sommelier Competition, held in Santiago, Chile on April 15, reports Reva Singh. Paolo Basso of Switzerland came in second and David Biraud of France, was third. Organised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) and sponsored by Moet et Chandon, the competition takes place every three years.
Held in Chile for the first time, the Competition is made up of a series of written and practical tests and is among the most demanding in the world. The sommeliers are judged by their peers. The previous winner (2007), Andreas Larsson of PM & Vânner in Stockholm and Serge Dubs of L’Auberge de L’ill who won in 1989 were among the judges this year. The next competition will take place in Tokyo.
Out of 51 candidates, for the first time four women sommeliers were among the twelve to reach the semi-finals of this rigorous competition.
A jubilant Basset, representing the UK, won it on his sixth attempt. He will hold the title until 2013. Basset who is French by birth has the rare distinction of being a Master of Wine as well as a Master Sommelier. He also has an MBA in Wine from Bordeaux University.
Competition winners invariably go on to greater achievements. Enrico Bernardo, the winner in 2004, for example, has two Michelin-starred restaurants under his name in Paris and Courcheval.
There are hardly any qualified sommeliers working in restaurants in India. Stephane Soret, who wrote the popular SommelierSpeak column in SI for over a year, was one. Formerly Head Sommelier at Hotel Imperial, New Delhi, where he raised the bar of wine service and gave his staff a sound foundation, Soret is now in charge of the wine programme at The Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
Cellar Master at The Aman, New Delhi, Kavita Devi Faiella, from Australia, is a working sommelier, too. I asked her if she might consider entering the Competition some day.
“There isn’t really a culture of sommelier competitions in Australia and hence I have never actually thought about participating in one myself,” she said. “The service style examined is quite ‘old world’ and traditional, and I guess I think of myself as being much more of a relaxed ‘new world’ style of sommelier.
“However, there is a small portion of the old style in the MS exam which I am sitting for at the end of the year, so I will have to brush up on a lot of the classic techniques. That said, these competitions are serious stuff and the sommeliers who participate have studied and trained for months before, often years – and I take my hat off to them.”