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Best Student Sommelier in Bordeaux wines – Pessac-Léognan Trophy

Pauline Piroux masters her subject

Thirteen French students and one Belgian student took part in the events at Château Smith Haut Lafitte. On arrival, confirming the current female supremacy, it is the representative of the hotel school of Chamalières who stood out.

Pauline Piroux a débuté des études de droit avant de s’orienter vers les métiers de la restauration et la sommellerie en particulier.

While members of the association of sommeliers of Bordeaux-Aquitaine are already working on the 30th edition, it is a 24-year-old young woman who has registered her name on the list of winners of the 29th contest of the Best Student Sommelier in Bordeaux wines – Pessac-Léognan Trophy. In total, fourteen candidates, all accompanied by a teacher, had responded to the organizers’ invitation and benefited from the remarkable welcome of the Pessac-Léognan appellation.

Two days in the heart of this Bordeaux terroir which began with a visit to Château Carbonnieux followed by Château Bouscaut where a first written test was proposed at the aperitif time. This desire to offer a playful approach was confirmed the next day from the selection. In different areas of Château Smith Haut Lafitte, while half of the students were studying the theoretical part (working on a slide show and then a questionnaire), the other group was immersed in the practical test with the identification of ten objects associated with the wine world, and then opening and serving of a Crémant de Bordeaux from Domaine du Cassard to two customers. This last exercise was noted in particular by Aymeric Pollenne, president of the jury and finalist of the Contest of the Best Sommelier of France 2018 and the Contest of the Best Young Sommelier of France 2019.

Four finalists and original workshops

At the end of this first phase, four students stood out and got the right to play in the final: Pauline Piroux (hotel school of Chamalières), Théo Beaupère (hotel school of Talence), Nicolas Lamour (hotel school of La Rochelle) and Enzo Sobreira (hotel school of Illkirch-Graffenstaden). All training institutes used to shine in these competitions.

But unlike other events, the Pessac-Léognan Trophy, under the direction of Bertrand Bijasson, does not offer the same workshops every year. Moreover, the first of the originalities is to welcome each student in turn on the same exercise. “It prevents the person who drew the number four to stay in a room for more than an hour to wait his turn ...”

A common questionnaire about a new slideshow preceded a marketing project with a wine proposal to pair with two cheeses, a tasting comment on a red wine or the service of an aperitif. Some questions about the knowledge of the Bordeaux vineyard and a four-candidate final like a tv-quizz have completed this final held under the eyes of the other candidates.

Les candidats.

And in the end, a new feminine success

The verdict fell well after the end of the competition, when all the participants gathered in the barrel cellar of Château Haut Bergey. The impression left by the final was then confirmed with the success of Pauline Piroux ahead of Théo Beaupère, Nicolas Lamour and Enzo Sobreira.
“After the selection organized during the complementary mention, I started a preparation which intensified during the two months preceding the trophy. When I arrived on my internship at Michel Guérard’s restaurant Les Prés d’Eugénie, sommelier Laëtitia Boiton-Andrews was really involved with me and helped me to get to know the Bordeaux vineyards,” said the winner.
Though she admitted to having approached the final quite serenely, the service of the aperitif to four customers has somewhat destabilized her while on the opposite she felt much more comfortable with the tasting and the sales argument. Aspects of the work she did during the summer spent at Michel Guérard’s. However, the young woman considers the rest of her career rather in Paris, in the luxury hotels before discovering the practice of the profession abroad.
In the meantime, she left Léognan with a very nice prize composed of bottles and the memory of having integrated the Commanderie du Bontemps du Medoc, Graves, Sauternes et Barsac in company of her professor Thomas Vivant and the president of the contest Aymeric Pollenne.

Jean Bernard