ASI semi-finals - all you need to know

For the very first time, a South African judge has been appointed for an ASI international competition. Higgo Jacobs, former SASA chairman has been selected to judge the semi finals of the Best Sommelier of the world 2019 in Belgium.

19 candidates out of 66 have been competing for the semi finals stage at the ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2019. Only the 3 best will be on stage for the finals on Friday 15th of March 2019 to fight for the crown!

The Semi-Finals day started with a theory paper for 30 minutes, mostly based on wine news, from the recently deceased winemakers to the gossips of the hospitality industry. It was followed by an essay. The question was: What is a good sommelier? It sounds simple but actually it forces the candidate to display the depth of his understanding and the ability to articulate thoughts, not just repeat knowledge.

The first practical task was to describe and identify a red wine in 4 minutes. The jury was expecting a full description as well as the food pairing, glassware recommendation and potential of the wine…

The second task was identifying three white wines in 2 minutes. According to some competitors it may have been a Chablis, a Sauvignon from Pouilly Fumé and may be a Riesling. (Wines used during the competition will be revealed only after the finals)

The third task was to link these three white wines with terroir samples, the candidate having to link each glass with limestone, flintstone or granite stones. It often made candidates realise they were wrong on the wines. If the candidate said one of the wines was an Assyrtiko from Santorini it was then clear it was a wrong choice since Santorini is volcanic soil and not one of the options offered.

The fourth task was three beverages identification, with what seemed to be a mature sweet wine, a fortified dry like Madeira Sherry or Marsala, the last one being a dark beer with a strong head.

The fifth task was to pair these wines with a caramelised apple and almond chocolate tart, explaining why the best pairing was working but also why the other beverages were less suitable.

These tasks were judged by Olivier Poussier, Andreas Larsson and Jerome Faure, the famous Mauritius sommelier working for the Constance group.

The next set of tasks (service and sales) were held in a second room, which was judged by Serge Dubs, Arvid Rosengren (Both best sommeliers of the world) and our South African iconic sommelier Higgo Jacobs. Higgo was very proud that alongside Jerome Faure, Africa is now also represented at the judging tables, showing the quality of our emerging industry in Mauritius and South Africa. The stress was also on him as there were 19 candidates to assess. Higgo declared: “Even if you feel exhausted, you can’t afford to lose focus, these candidates have been training for years to reach this day, and every half point counts, we owe the competitors our full attention”

This 6th task consisted of serving two bottles of Chardonnay Trapiche 2016 to six guests who were requesting the candidate to aerate and serve two bottles. There was only one decanter and one of the bottles was not chilled. In 6 minutes the candidate had to present both bottles, immediately put the warm one on ice, open the chilled one and aerate it in the decanter, empty the decanter by serving the 6 glasses evenly, open and aerate the second bottle in the now empty decanter, put the decanter on ice and clean his tray table.
A the while talking to the guest to apologise about the wine not chilled, suggesting pairings and making sure all service rules were respected. Very few candidates could do it in time and this task may well be the deciding factor for the finalists.

The last task was asking the sommelier to establish a marketing plan to promote Qvevri wines on the Belgian market offering the candidate a chance to display knowledge of Georgian wines but as well a good sense of the market dynamic. Sommeliers are often consulted by stakeholders to define marketing plans.

It was a very tense day for the candidates. Out of these 19, only three will be on stage on Friday 15th March in the afternoon at the beautiful Queen Elizabeth auditorium to win the world title.
We wish them all the very best in this tough competition.

Videos of these tasks will be available on in the Video Library and the SASA Spotlight Page – The finals will be streamed live. Follow Live Stream HERE


19 semi finalists

Higgo judging with the best in the world

Flint, Granite & Lime Stone


Julie Dupouy

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