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Victory time for Gérard Basset!

Best Sommelier of the World
Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World Chile

Victory time for Gérard Basset!

Present for the sixth time on the stage, the British of French origin finally reached his objective by registering his name, in Santiago de Chile, in the honours list of the Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World, organized by the ASI with the decisive support of Moët and Chandon, its historic partner.

They were three exceptional finalists: Gérard Basset (United Kingdom), Paolo Basso (Switzerland) and David Biraud... but Victory needed only one and it was this 54-year-old Frenchman who chose to live across the Channel, get married there and become a business manager, without ever giving up (really) the idea of becoming Best Sommelier of the World. Yet, less than two years ago, during a dinner shared with Nina, his wife, in their hotel Terra Vina, near Southampton, he was formal. After the disappointment known in Rhodes: “For me, competitions are over!”. He thus finally changed his mind and, more than 20 years after his first participation in the World Competition, he returned on stage to write, at last, his name at the top of the poster.
But before stirring the public in the huge Convention Center of the new hotel W, the three finalists of this 13th edition of the competition, took on two series of obstacles. The first step of selection brang together 51 candidates. A list of which Isa Bal, the Turk Best Sommelier of Europe title holder, was absent because of family problems.
Everything began by a set of 75 questions to answer in 90 minutes. Then the tasting of two wines (one white, one red) to comment in writing and, finally, the identification of three eaux-de-vies and spirits.
A disconcerting test for numerous participants who discovered, on this occasion, the context of the most prestigious of all international competitions.
Gérard Basset

David Biraud

Paolo Basso

A tough semi-final

A fatal stage, also, to the German Jurgen Fendt, though finalist in Athens, in 2004.
On the other hand, David Biraud negotiated perfectly this first challenge, the one that he dreaded the most. “I knew that for me the theory constituted a handicap. I thus spent the first three months of my preparation to cram” recognized the chef Sommelier of the Crillon to explain his progress. He was thus among the semifinalists, together with Gérard Basset (United Kingdom), Iulia Gosea (Rumania), Véronique Rivest (Canada), Merete Bo (Norway), Elyse Lambert (Best Sommelier of Americas - Canada), Paolo Basso (Switzerland), Charles Aymerich (Spain), Franck Moreau (Australia), Sören Polonius (Sweden), Mori Satoru (Best Sommelier of Asia/Oceania - Japan) and Fabio Masi (Italy).
One day of rest and decompression with the discovery of the domain Concha Y Toro, allowed all to put the competition in brackets before the second phase associating, once more, theory, with around thirty questions, and practice. “It was the worst questionnaire ever proposed in six participations” admitted, humbly, Gérard Basset.

Douze demi-finalistes dans l’euphorie de l’annonce de leur sélection: Gérard Basset, Iulia Gosea, Véronique Rivest, Merete Bo, Elyse Lambert,
Paolo Basso, Charles Aymerich, Franck Moreau, David Biraud, Sören Polonius, Mori Satoru et Fabio Masi.

"The first subject was made to put us at ease, explained later David Biraud. The context was a Parisian restaurant with two Michelin stars, where a regular customer brings a series of great wines and asks a matching proposition of menu. I enjoyed composing it. But what came next was much more arduous. The wine-producing areas of Greece, the names of the clones of the Pinot noir, the districts of production of Tequila or, also, the identification of rootstocks, from only their code name…"

On the practice side, at first, the sommeliers had first to proceed to the tasting and to the identification of a soft white wine, a red wine and three eaux-de-vie and spirits, within nine minutes.Then they had to compose a food-and-wine match around a red wine intended to accompany a seafood, onion and coriander based dish.

Finally, a staple-cap equiped bottle of champagne was to be served to seven persons within four minutes …

David Biraud entre M. Chantôme et S. Dubs

A final show!

The technical committee, placed under Serge Dubs's and Shinya Tasaki's responsibility, which had got many surprises in store until then, continued the same way. Right from the first test, the candidates were surprised. Not only they had to serve two glasses of champagne to the ladies, but their companions had, for their part, chosen to taste two Negronis. All of a sudden, the sommeliers turned into barmen!
The continuation was more classical. Paolo Basso then David Biraud, did well, each one in his own range. But the future winner, though overcome by a deep doubt three hours before the beginning of this finale, went, him,surfing on a crest of ease, knowledge and complicity with the public. In such a way that his performance became a real show, whose we know now the outcome. His success seemed clearly acquired before the announcement of the honours list.
At this precise moment, he did not react immediately. As if he did not believe in his victory. Then, his face illuminated with a wide and generous smile. The sixth attempt was the right one !.
But before speaking about holidays, to erase the tracks of the tension accumulated during this Chilean week as well as those of the efforts made at a rate of six hours of work a day to be ready the D-day, Gérard Basset shared his success with his wife, Nina, and their son Romané.
An outcome full of love and freshness.


Women to be honoured

HEight women Sommeliers on fifty one candidates were present in Chile and four of them, Iulia Gosea (Rumania), Véronique Rivest (Canada), Merete Bo (Norway), Elyse Lambert (Best Sommelier of Americas - Canada), reached the semi-final. But they have not just been excellent, creating the hope that, very soon, one of her will attain the heights of the profession, they also swiped the Honourable Mentions! The Acqua Panna - San Pellegrino Prize went to Iulia Gosea and the Peter Lehmann Prize to Véronique Rivest.

Véronique Rivest reçoit le Prix Peter Lehmann
par M. Vergara et Astrom.

A check to help Chile

If the Association of the Chilean Sommeliers, with «Wines of Chile», was anxious to bring the organization of this 13th Contest to a successful conclusion, the earthquake which struck the country marked deeply the hearts as well as the vineyards. The associations member of the ASI thus decided to show their support for this country with a strong gesture and Philippe Faure-Brac, treasurer, handed a $21,000 check over to Hector Vergara, President of the ASC, during the closing gala dinner of the competition.

Philippe Faure-Brac, trésorier de l’ASI,
remet un chèque de soutien à Hector Vergara, Président de l’ASC.

Next meeting in Strasbourg

The next big competition of the Association of Sommellerie Internationale will take place in Strasbourg, from November 20th till 23rd of this year. We shall know then the name of the new Best Sommelier of Europe, at the end of this meeting set on the edges of the Rhine by the Union of French Sommellerie and the Interprofessional Committee of Wines of Alsace, whose President, Jean-Nicolas Schaeffer, was present in Chile to deliver the details of the program.
The new Best Sommelier of Asia and Oceania will be crowned in South Korea in 2012, when the 14th World Competition will be organized the following year in Japan.

Le podium : Gérard Basset, entouré
de Paolo Basso et David Biraud.

Texts and photos Jean BERNARD

Photos of the contest...