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Selection for the Best Sommelier of France 2018

Ten qualified for an original semifinal

Thirty-nine candidates participated in the selection organized in Paris, and although the favourites are among the semifinalists, some feminine surprises appear. They will all meet again on September 10th for the stage that will designated the four finalists.

Les candidats ont disputé les premières épreuves de sélection au Cercle national des armées qui accueille habituellement la phase finale du Master of Port.

Disturbed by transport strikes that led some candidates to cancel their journey to Paris, the selection for the Contest of the Best Sommelier of France managed anyway to get together 39 professionals from everywhere in France as well as from Switzerland, United Kingdom, Luxembourg and the United States. For all of them the rhythm of this selection went crescendo ...

As an aperitif, a little exercise about the map of Corsica with appellations to locate. Then an English test about Alsace and the Zind Humbrecht's Clos St Urbain label. The next stage associated the knowledge of food and wine pairings focused on iconic dishes of French chefs and pastry cooks, and the experience in management. A juicy morsel to start with!

Accompagné par les membres de l'UDSF mobilisés pour le concours, Philippe Faure-Brac a donné la liste des qualifiés.

Contest director Fabrice Sommier and the members of the technical committee had not finished! Still in writing and in a fifteen-minute time, the candidates for a place in the semifinals had to make a sensory analysis by blind tasting a red wine (Château Sociando-Mallet 2008) then identify three beverages: a grapefruit liqueur from Distillery Théo Preiss, a violet liqueur from Distillerie du Périgord, and at last an amaretto from the Auguste Mugniot house. Finally in order to draw on the knowledge and not the senses, the selection finished with the traditional questionnaire focused on the knowledge of the French vineyard, their players and regulations. The whole test in sixty minutes ...

A lot of regulars and asserted young personalities

After correcting the works, ten candidates stood out. And Philippe Faure-Brac, president of the French Sommellerie, was entrusted with the mission to end the suspense.

In the list of semifinalists, we can underline the presence of sommeliers who perfectly know the context of a final. To start with Pascaline Lepeltier (Racines in New York) who certainly is the most experienced as she already stood on the podium in 2008, 2010 and 2012. At her side, the three unfortunate finalists of the 2016 edition of the contest: Florent Martin (Le Cinq in Paris), Jean-Baptiste Klein (La Table d'Olivier Nasti in Kaysersberg) and Pierre Vila-Palleja (Le Petit Sommelier in Paris). To be noted that all four are already finalists of the next 'One of France's Best Craftsmen' competition. Also attended by Florian Balzeau (Le Gindreau in Saint-Médard), another qualified for the semifinals.

Les dix demi-finalistes ont déjà pris rendez-vous pour la suite du concours, le 10 septembre prochain.

The five following evidence the energy of the young French sommellerie. And also its feminization! Much remarked during the Chapoutier contest of the Best Student Sommelier, Isabelle Mabboux (Impérial Palace in Annecy) and Victoire Helly d'Angelin (La Table d'Olivier Nasti in Kaysersberg) did not come to Paris for nothing.

Victoire Helly d'Angelin sera la benjamine de la demi-finale, un niveau qu'elle avait atteint il y a un an dans le cadre du concours du Meilleur jeune sommelier de France – Trophée Duval-Leroy.

No more than Pierre Jacob (Au Crocodile in Strasbourg), semifinalist of the Best Sommelier of France competition in 2016 and crowned Best Young Sommelier of France in 2015.

EAt last Edmond Gasser (Mandarin Oriental in Genève) and Aymeric Pollenne (Hide in London) complement this list. And they both have experience in terms of contests. Both participated in the finals of the Best Young Sommelier of France competition; the first won the International 'Sud de France' Challenge in 2016, the second has just been appointed UK Best Young Sommelier of the Year.

This is all a promise of a great semifinal that will, for the very first time, take place two months before the finals instead of a few hours before. Indeed the 10 semifinalists now selected will meet on next September 10th in a place not yet defined, for the second stage. And then only will we know who will be the four finalists that will gather on November 11th in Paris this time during EquipHotel to fight for the title.

In the meantime (30 September and 1st October), five of them will thus face another final, the one of the Best Craftsmen of France competition. What a programme!