For one winner, in this latest Best Sommelier of the World contest, there are 65 candidates who don’t make it there. Impressions and reactions from the semi-finalists and other candidates are quite a mix, from thrill to disappointment. But everyone who participated praised the quality of the program and the opportunities for learning, whatever their results.
Candidates had to be well prepared, said Canadian semi-finalist Pier-Alexis Soulière. “It’s the world championship. You have to expect the unexpected.”
Andrea Martinisi, semi-finalist from New Zealand, testified to the demanding character of the ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition. “Emotionally, it’s a bit of a roller coaster. There is a lot happening. It’s been a hard few days, but I’ve done my best, so no regrets.” Same for Loïc Avril, from Australia, who certainly was hoping for a shot at the finals. “It’s a marathon. A very long run. You need to take a single step at a time,” he said, adding that the waiting between the end of the semi-finals on Wednesday and the announcement of the finalists was particularly unnerving. Having master classes helped him remain positive and patient.
Fredrik Lindfors, from Sweden, was positive after the end of the semi-finals. “The competition is absolutely fierce, and it means everything is very close. But I just enjoyed everything and had a good time.”
Despite his deep disappointment after the finals, where he felt he’d missed the mark, Raimonds Tomsons from Latvia spoke eloquently of the sacrifices made as a young father preparing several hours a day to prepare for the great event (“I have a great wife,” he said convincingly). He also mentioned he loved what the semi-finals had to offer. “It was dynamic, very fast, lots of tastings, very specific practical tasks as well – and very tough.” Always ready to challenge himself, he just announced that he will take another run at the world title in 2022.
Others, like Martynas Pravilonis, pointed out the impact of the competition’s growing visibility. “I think the sommelier profession will grow, because it’s such a good show,” said the semi-finalist from Lithuania.
Many of those who didn’t make it past the first round remained entirely positive about the experience. Dustin Chabert, the first American candidate in many years, didn’t feel let down by his elimination after the first round, which he saw as a “glass half-full kind of situation”. “Conversation with wine people from 65 different countries is [really] awesome”, he added in a colourful Facebook post, after the end of his competition. Indeed, opening new horizons and worldwide conversations is a big part of what the ASI Best Sommelier of the World contest is all about.