Wine has now more than ever become such a great deal of my life and I keep learning every day. Watching this year’s finals of the Best Belgian Sommelier competition made me realise there is still a very long way if I ever want to be as good as the finalists :-). What made this year’s final extra special is that for the first time the “Belgische Sommeliers Gilde”, “Prosper Montagé” and “VVS” have joined their forces in organising 1 collective competition (instead of all separate contests).
Every year again I am surprised how tough the finals of the Trophy of Belgian Sommelier is. Lots of people despise it a bit and don’t get the whole sommelier thing or the importance of it. Trust me when I say a good sommelier who knows what he’s talking about and how things should be done is a world of difference with one who doesn’t! During a dinner for example. I dear you to check it next few times you go out for dinner or lunch and after a while you’ll know what we’re talking about and their importance of making your food experience more complete! Another possibility would be to come and see the 2015 finals as they are open for everybody to come and see. You’ll be surprised of the level these guys work at. before I continue I must introduce this year’s victims 🙂 🙂 : Benoît Couderé (Karmeliet), Antoine Lehebel ( Villa Lorraine) and Jasper Van Papeghem ( Hostellerie L’ Esco )
Some parts of the competition might seem simple, but they’re not. What first of all makes it so difficult is that there are so many different types of wine from so many countries each having their uniqueness but also similarities.Also there some ways/ rules on how bottles should be opened, decanted and served… On top of that all stages of the competition are to be done in certain amount of time going from 3 to 15 minutes. The first “test” is for example a very good example of seeming simple… Just like last year the finalist had to serve according to the rules of the art a particular bottle of J.L Telmont champagne. So far nothing special might think, which is true if it weren’t for the fact the finalist has to explain what is special about the champagne he is serving, taking into account that the oldest person at the table is celebrating its birthday and that all of a sudden somebody from the public joins the table and asks a Belgian beer (and yes here again the finalist has to tell something about)… still taking into account he only has I think it was 10-15minutes (not sure anymore) to fulfill this task and there is a whole room full of top sommeliers, journalists and “regular” people watching your every move .
The most difficult part according to most spectators was where the finalist has to make corrections to a wine list. The errors on the wine list can be grammatical, a wine being in the wrong section of the menu, as well as that for example there is written a wine is Millésime but according to the other specifications it is not possible this wine is a Millésime. Me personally I always find the most difficult part the tasting and recognizing wines or alcoholic drinks… where they have to tell as much as possible about what they taste, like country, grapes, vintage, etc… knowing they (the jury) try everything to confuse the finalist by for example serving the drink in a black tinted glass. FYI the whole completion gets followed by a bailiff to make sure every happens correct and that all 3 finalist get treated in exactly the same way. Also the jury judging the finalist exists out of a international group of people of Top Sommeliers, Top wine journalists (no, not talking about myself ;-), but about somebody like Fiona Morrison for example). After all 3 participants did their thing the answers are show, this sometimes gives big surprises.
Again, I think I still have to learn a loooooooot before I could ever participate or to maybe even get close to level of the participants. This year’s winner was Antoine Lehebel ( Villa Lorraine)!!!! Last year he was 2nd and before the start already a favorite. All 3 participants were very good, but Antoine gave the most correct answers and seemed the most fluent of all 3. Congratulations to Antoine! I must admit I was jealous about all the gifts he got :-). Another advantage of the joined forces of the organizers of the contest is that the winner gets even more gifts than last year 🙂 I hope to see you guys next year to get a new view on the world of sommeliers!
More about the celebration of the victory in my next post …