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ASI Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World 2019

David Biraud will be the candidate for France

In Antwerp, he will participate for the 4th time in the world championship. A qualification he got after selection tests that brought together four other candidates in Paris. Like in Tokyo in 2013, Benjamin Roffet will be his alternate.

Pour permettre aux candidats de passer la sélection dans les meilleurs conditions possibles, le jury était dense et compétent.

Since the first time in 2009 the one selection looks like the next for David Biraud! Indeed the head sommelier of the Sur Mesure by Thierry Marx restaurant of Mandarin Oriental Paris won the qualification for the next world competition. After Santiago de Chile in 2010, Tokyo in 2013 and Mendoza two years ago, once again he has been chosen to bear the flag of the French Sommellerie that has not won any international title since 2000 with Olivier Poussier’s world title and Franck Thomas’ European success. Far too long …

In fact Monday February 12th they were five to face the tests of the selection organized in the lounges of Pré Catelan. David Biraud, the most experienced, was in front of Laurent Derhé (Best Craftsman of France - MOF), Dominique Laporte (Best Sommelier of France, MOF and on the podium of the European contest in 2004), Benjamin Roffet (Best Sommelier of France, MOF and twice David Biraud’s alternate) and Philippe Troussard (MOF). And they were all ready to shake up the kind of hierarchy that had settled within the French Sommellerie.
The morning started with a common questionnaire, then each candidate had to deal with four very classical workshops (a test with a slide show, analytical tasting of three wines, food and wine pairing, and identification of ten brandies and spirits).

“I have made two major choices”, explains Olivier Poussier (Best Sommelier of the World 2000) who coordinated the selection. “On the one hand it was all in English, the language chosen by our candidate during the contest, and then I set the bar high for the questionnaire, and that was necessary because the candidate needs a very solid theoretical background. That is indeed what enables to reach the semi-finals in a world competition. This part represented half of the points of the whole selection.”

A national mobilization

“With this type of questionnaire, it is obvious that you cannot answer all. But I also know that the more one studies, the more one is able to give correct answers. But being aware of the regulations of the Muscats produced in Rutherglen in Australia is something else …” admits the winner of the selection. “But clearly it is the first time since my first selection for the world championship in 2004 that I have seen such a difficult questionnaire. However it is a necessary step, especially when I see what they are asked in Sweden or Switzerland where it is at least as difficult.”

With this selection behind him David Biraud, still much supported by his wife Florence and his two daughters, enters the second stage of his preparation. “I’ve already got a few ideas and I am particularly willing to delocalize my preparation as much as possible. Not like in 2016 when I took the Eurostar to go to London. This time, I will go at least at 2 hours flying from Paris. And I will rely on French sommeliers settled abroad who will help me directly or put me in touch with the inevitable people to meet.”

But UDSF president Philippe Faure-Brac wants to go even further. By providing financial support to the candidate of the Union just like the Parisian Sommeliers Association will do, but not only. “First I want to feel a spirit team between David and Benjamin Roffet, his alternate like in 2013 in Tokyo. But I also wish to involve the three other candidates who were present. They have to work together and bring a lot to one another. It first aims at helping David as I am sure about his potential to win the competition. Then, the French team has to become concrete to prepare the future far beyond Antwerp. And therefore we are going to mobilize financial resources to set the future sommeliers who would like to represent France later in the best conditions.”

An approach that has been clearly announced in the programme he presented for the presidency of UDSF in November 2016 in Toulouse.

Jean Bernard