User login

Pascal Léonetti: “A window on the world”


Sommelier Alsace

Pascal Léonetti won the title in 2006, in strasbourg

Pascal Léonetti

Meilleur Sommelier de France 2006
Meilleur Jeune Sommelier de France 2003

“A window on the world”Serge Dubs’ pupil at the Auberge de l’Ill, he competes with passionate enthusiasm. Almost two years after his win in France, he talks to us about his sources of motivation and gives a few recommendations to candidates.

SI: What is it that draws you to professional competitions?

“First of all I understood that competitions were a tremendous way to make progress. Competing against yourself motivates you to study and analyse things in depth. If you have some ambition, preparation cannot be simply superficial. Preparing for a competition allows you to stock an incomparable grounding of theoretical and tasting knowledge. I also like to meet people who share the same profession and competitions offer this opportunity. Lastly, people have a positive judgement about a young person in a restaurant who is preparing for a competition. It proves his or her motivation …”

SI: When did you first start competing?

“I was still a student; initially in 1995 and then in 1997 when I won the title of ‘Corsica’s Best Young Sommelier’. Afterwards, I wanted to test my abilities on the mainland. When I started at the Technical High School in Strasbourg, I felt I could progress a stage further. Every day, I saw the portraits of the winners of the Ruinart Trophy and I said to myself that one day mine would have to be added. From 2000 onwards, I therefore studied sufficiently to give myself the means of reaching a national competition level. It takes a great deal of hard work, but that’s what makes the difference. Thanks to these efforts I won the Ruinart Trophy in 2003 and three years later the title of ‘France’s Best Sommelier’.

SI: What do you remember most about the final in Strasbourg?

“Just the fact of being a finalist and competing in front of 900 people where you know you have a lot of friends there to support you makes it a very important moment. Then when you hear your name announced as the winner, it’s quite extraordinary. You say to yourself that you’re already lucky to live out your passion and then you receive this tremendous recognition from your peers. There’s nothing like it to give such an intense surge of emotion!”

SI: Does winning a title like this change your life?

“Of course! You have reached the highest level that exists in France, and people are naturally interested by this. It’s mainly the way people consider you that has changed; especially customers at the restaurant. They are in contact with the most highly qualified person in this specialised subject, so everything you say becomes a reference. They trust you completely.”

SI: Are you setting yourself new goals?

“At present I’m finishing my preparation for the ‘Master of Port’ competition, because I’m competing in the final in April. Then, of course, there are other plans. Becoming ‘France’s Best Sommelier’ certainly leads to opportunities worldwide. It makes me more interested in learning about foreign wines and think about trying to represent France in the world competition at some time in the future. At my age, I can consider a national title as a first stage.”

SI: What recommendations would you give to those who will find themselves in Perpigan in November 2008?
“First of all, to prepare seriously for a competition, it’s important to give yourself the necessary means, both in terms of time and finances. Then, on the day of the competition, maximum concentration is required; candidates must try to forget that an audience is watching. Each time I’ve competed, I’ve tried everything so as not to think I was in a competition situation. To achieve this, I have a trick; every day in the restaurant where I work, I imagined I was taking part in the final of a competition and I tried to make everything as perfect as possible for the customers.”