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Italy has found its candidate for the next “World’s Best Sommelier” ASI Contest

Italy’s Best Sommelier
National competition Italy
Italy has found its candidate
for the next “World’s Best Sommelier” ASI ContestFabio Masi, a 27 year-old sommelier from Milan and winner of the “Trophée Ruinart” in 2006,
has been awarded “Italy’s Best Sommelier ” this year and will be Italy’s candidate at the next “World’s Best Sommelier ” contest in April 2010 in Santiago de Chile. He currently works as Chief Sommelier and Restaurant Director at the Four Seasons Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland.

Italy’s Best Sommelier contest

The back-drop for the second edition of this competition organized by the Associazione della Sommellerie Professionale Italiana (ASPI) and held in mid-May, was the magnificent medieval relais “Le Terre del Verde”, in the countryside surrounding Gualdo Tadino, a small village in Umbria not far from the historic towns of Perugia, Spoleto and Gubbio.
In accordance with ASI laws for the selection of a Sommelier in an international competition and to prove the efficiency of the competition, a foreigner was invited especially to supervise the tests. Mrs. Mary O’Callaghan enthusiastically responded to the call. Former President of the Irish Guild of Sommeliers, now Vice-President, Mrs. O’Callaghan is a Doctor of Culinary Arts and Food Technology and teaches at the prestigious Dublin Institute of Technology.
Despite having worked all over the world, such as in “Le Cinq” in Paris, “Daniel” in New York City and “Enoteca Pinchiorri” in Florence, it wasn’t as easy as that for Fabio to beat his fellow finalists and colleagues, Marco Grassi (second) from Legnano near Lake Maggiore, Sommelier in the Metro Cash&Carry in south-east Milan, and Federico Aldrovandi (third) a Bolognese consultant for restaurants in Emilia and Tuscany.

The semi-final

The semi-final was not open to the public in accordance with ASI laws. The tests included a questionnaire about Italian and world wine growing, blind tastings of wines and spirits, the decanting of an old bottle, as well as service and orally describing a wine. During the tests, the guests (mainly journalists and wine lovers) could taste the very best of Italian wines as the ASPI had organized a tasting panel in the structure’s hall, comprising the finest local (though not exclusively) winemakers such as Lungarotti, Colpetrone and Adanti

The final

The final, open to an enthusiastic crowd of graduates from local hotel and catering schools, was hosted by the famous Italian actor and comedian Max Pisu, who brought with him his typical humor. When Fabio Masi was asked where he worked and replied, “I work in Genève, but I come from Milan”, Max Pisu uttered the memorable line, “This is what I call a great commuter!”. Co-host and responsible for explaining the running of the final, was the President of ASPI, Mr. Giuseppe Vaccarini, who was unable to resist laughing at Max’s verve.

The winner Fabio Masi receives from Mr. Edi Babini and from Mr. Tommaso

Tartaglione three bottles of Marsala of the great vintage wines of the house Cantine Pellegrino.

An initial draw established the order in which the finalists would take the tests, which were divided into two parts. The first part consisted of blind tasting and explanation of three wines plus recognition of twelve liqueurs and spirits and for the first time in a national competition two Crus of coffee, while the second part included restaurant service and accommodation of guests (members of the technical jury chosen by the ASPI Bureau). A particular focus this year was how to manage a noisy guest. Mrs. Claudia Moriondo (co-author with Mr. Vaccarini of the reference books about water and coffee, “Water Codex” and “Coffee Codex”) played the part perfectly.
After much suspense and a few more laughs, the winner was proclaimed. Fabio Masi, won not only his ticket to the World’s Best Sommelier Contest but also a trip to Sicily for a week to visit the magnificent island and delicious wines provided by Cantine Pellegrino, main sponsor of the event. The historical Sicilian winery also provided three stunning vintages of Marsala. The gala dinner for the candidates, jury and journalists rounded off the day in the beautiful surroundings of wild nature and gentle hills of Umbria.
Looking forward to organizing another competition in 2010, the ASPI would like to thank all the sponsors and producers involved in the event.

Yoel Abarbanel

The ASPI Bureau with three finalists. From left to right :
Alberto Merico, Giuseppe Vaccarini, Fabio Masi, Marco Grassi, Federico Aldrovandi, Yoel Abarbanel, Max Pisu, Stefano Rotta.