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Best Craftsmen of France Sommelier

selection hand in hand with humility

For the 70 candidates present in Montpellier for the first stage of the contest, the tests concealed some unexpected tricks. But at each stage it was the professional experience that was concerned.

Mobilized around Philippe Faure-Brac, president of the sommellerie class, and Serge Dubs, director of the contest, the members of the technical committee and the jury of the 6th edition of the contest “One of the Best Craftsmen of France Sommelier” (MOF) welcomed 70 candidates. A new record although between the end of the registration and January 28th, 26 participants finally abandoned …

With the support of the Occitanie region and especially the hotel and catering school Georges-Frèche in Montpellier, the best conditions came together to make the selection as serene as possible for the professionals who sometimes came from far away: United States, Canada, South Africa, Switzerland and Spain.

Pascaline Lepeltier arrived a few days earlier from New York where she has been working for several years, with a clear goal. “Above all, it is a personal challenge. I want to see where I stand compared to the way I evolved in my career since I am in the US. The wine and service are approached in a different way there, so it is good for me to come back to some little things I may have forgotten. This contest is not a knowledge competition. Here we face ‘maturity’ tests in which understanding can prevail over knowledge. It also is an opportunity to show we are able to transmit what we know.” A different register than the Contest of the Best Sommelier of France in which she has been a finalist three times.

Patrick Borras, head sommelier of the Gagnaire group, also managed to have such hindsight as he agreed to question not only his knowledge but also in some way his image. “I registered for the first time in order to experience from inside this contest that represents the profession and the French savoir-faire. It rewards what we do every day in our working places. Though I found the time given for the questionnaire a bit short, I am quite satisfied overall.”

But we never know what is expected by the jury members. Which is summed up by Eric Goettelmann, head sommelier of the Bernard Loiseau group and finalist in 2015. “One can prepare intensively and finally see that what is asked is totally different. To me it is the most bewildering contest as illustrated by the very comprehensive questionnaire. At the Best Sommelier of France, we deal with wine. At the MOF there is no limit and the requested overall culture is so broad that it is difficult to answer everything …”

After the practical workshops that aimed at assessing the level of mastery in service–a task made difficult for most of the candidates as they were asked to serve a glass of Rivesaltes 2002 from Mas Delmas out of a 10-l demi-john with a pipette–, the management of a room clerk before a dinner and a very precise food and wine pairing in a very precise context, all the candidates had to be patient … The names of the finalists chosen by the organizer and the National Education would be announced only a few weeks later.

Jean Bernard