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Best Sommelier of the World, a title that changes one's life!


World Limoux

Best Sommelier of the World

A title that changes one's life!

Two years after having been crowned in Japan, Swiss Paolo Basso evokes the scope of such a success. A recognition and numerous requests he deals with in a balanced way.

Canada, Dubaï, Tokyo, Germany, Italy and France many times: Paolo Basso crisscrosses the world since the beginning of the year. And it has been ever thus since two years and his succeeding the Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World organized in Japan. “Those who experienced this before me warned me, a world title changes life!” We can even say it shakes it up ...
Which does not prevent the Swiss sommelier from being selective in the multitude of requests he receives. And from finding time, during the En-Primeur week in Bordeaux, to free 2 days to attend the highlights of the event Toques et Clochers in Limoux. “Here I support a generous cause: the restoration of church towers in different villages of the appellation.”

On late March, despite a busy schedule, Paolo Basso stopped in Limoux. He especially inaugurated a row of vines named after him. Before the event, he worked on the food and wine pairings of the gala dinner staged by three-starred Chef Arnaud Lallement. On D-day he inaugurated a row of vines named after him at Château Flandry, turned into an auctioneer to sale a box of wine that he autographed, then went to meet wine growers to taste the 2014 vintage and co-presided over the auction sale of Chardonnays and Crémants. A genuine marathon …

The Air France adventure

His title aroused the interest of companies willing to hire his professional skills and prestigious image. To Nespresso who he already was a partner of, he added the Kempinski hotel group, San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, Swiss Wine Promotion as well as Air France. “During three years, I will participate in the selection of the wines that will be served to the passengers of the company. I succeed to Olivier Poussier, Best Sommelier of the World 2000. For the travellers of the First and Business Class, I am supported by Michel Bettane and Thierry Dessauve. We blind taste all the wines and give them marks. For the Bordeaux wines, –my specialty– we received 300 answers to the tender, and for a two-month cycle, only six will be selected. Those I will have selected En-Primeur will probably be served on board after the end of my con­tract.”
He discovered the constraints of stock management and others that the average customers of the aircraft company don't even think about. “Specifically, weight has to be taken into account. On the Alsace wines, we impose to respect the size of a standard bottle. A difference of 5 mm can be eliminatory. The atmosphere of the cabin is very important when choosing wine. We salivate less, so an excess of tannins and acidity has to be avoided. And of course, you will find only French wines.”

Preserve family life

Since 2000 and his first world finals in Canada, Paolo Basso has organized his life around the contests with the prospect of becoming the best one day and experiencing the last two year's heights. “I am proposed a lot of things and I can't accept everything. I am 48, my daughter Chiara is 10, and for her and my wife I am careful about preserving my family life.” Nevertheless, certain challenges attract him. Like a return journey to Hong Kong to lead a 30-minute conference.

His new life also is the writting of a book that will evoke his path and will give some of his tasting secrets. “But one of the greatests opportunities I took up is the production of wine. With Freddy de Martin, enologist in the Tessin region, I work on the crafting of my own wine made of grapes I buy from wine growers in the Mendrisiotto area. Il Rosso di Chiara 2012 has been released in late 2014. The 2013 will be on sale in next summer. The ultimate goal would be to own a vineyard myself. But in Switzerland, this can't be achieved overnight!” Fortunately the Best Sommelier of the World knows that patience is always rewarded.

Jean Bernard

Paolo Basso and Arnaud Lallement co-presided over the Toques et Clochers auction sale.