Swiss is Top Sommelier
Written by Frank Corr
Tuesday, 02 April 2013 08:12
Andy O’Gorman reports from Tokyo01andy

Paolo Basso representing Switzerland has been named ‘Best Sommelier rof the World’ in Tokyo .

The Irish Guild of Sommeliers delegation was led by Guild President Mary O’ Callaghan along with Julie Dupouy, competitor and Andrew O’ Gorman, Guild Secretary. Ciara O’ Callaghan, actress of Fair City fame (RTE 1), who is involved in the restaurant in that series and Paul Young also travelled as supporters.

The candidates and official delegations from over fifty countries attended at the Grand Prince Hotel Shin – Takanawa where the quarter and semi-finals took place. The final was held at the Tokyo International Forum in front of a large audience.

The last time the competition was held in Japan was 1995 and on that occasion Shinya Tasaki from Japan, the current President of ASI was the winner of the competition. He was the first non-European to win the Best Sommelier of the World. His win emphasised the high quality of Japanese sommeliers, later recognised all over the world.

The Irish candidate was  Julie Dupouy  from Agen, in the Lot et Garonne department in the South West of France and has been living in Ireland for a number of years. The region  is well known for both its beauty and production of fresh fruits, vegetables and foie gras. She was fortunate enough to grow up with exposure to a very rich food/nature appreciation through her family, especially her grandparents. She remembers from a young age being very intrigued and curious about the beauty and aromas in nature. She stated that this is probably where the roots of her appreciation of wine lay.

On her 16th birthday her grandfather opened a bottle of wine from the year of her birth, a bottle of Margaux, Chateau Marquis de Terme 1983. She found this both exciting and really interesting on many levels. She began her studies in catering the following year at Lycee Jacques de Romas in the town of Nerac. She also studied for and passed her Leaving Certificate equivalent in Literature and languages. She chose to specialise in Sommellerie and graduated in 2003.

She started working after graduating and moved to Ireland the following January, 2004 where she began to work in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. Since then she has worked in a few different Sommellerie roles including The Village at Lyons Estate, Residence members Club and then returned for a longer period as Chef Sommelier in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. She is currently working in Fallon and Byrne, Dublin as Sommelier and helps to drive both their wine sales as well as their wine service.

Apart from the competition a “Tasting Festival” took place at the Tokyo International Forum. All delegates had the pleasure of tasting Sake and wines from all over Japan, as well as wines from many other countries. A visit to the Tomi-no-oka winery, Oonuta 2786, Kai-city, Yamanashi was another highlight of the visit.

ASI was founded in France in 1969 to promote and standardise the profession of the sommelier. The Japanese sommelier association was founded in 1969 and has over 9,000 members.

During the competition, 54 candidates sat a full-day examination which comprised written papers covering all aspects of beverages – ranging from the wines of the world to spirits, liqueurs, beers, non-alcoholic drinks including teas and coffees. This was followed by a blind tasting of two wines along with the identification of three spirits. This was followed on day two by the semi-finals and the finals on day three. For the final competition the candidates assembled before an audience of 5,000 guests at the Tokyo International Forum and three competitors were selected to compete in the final competition for the title of “Best Sommelier of the World”. Over three hours of competition the candidates were tested in the following categories: blind tasting of spirits and liqueurs, the correction of a wine list and the service of wine to guests in a restaurant, the service of champagne along with other practical tests. Mary O’ Callaghan was selected as one of the judges for the semi-finals and the finals. This was a great honour for her.

After a very short wait as the judges deliberated, Paolo Basso representing Switzerland was declared the winner with Véronique Rivest representing Canada, 2nd place, and Aristide Spies representing Belgium in 3rd place.

The Irish Guild of Sommeliers has competed at the world sommelier competitions since 1983 when the candidate was Michael Farrell, Ashling Hotel, Dublin, and other candidates were Albert Mulligan,Dublin Institute of Technology  who was placed 5th in Venice in 1986, John Rigby, Lobster Pot Restaurant, Ballsbridge,Dublin  competed in France in 1989, Didier Fiat, K Club, Straffan, Co. Kildare won a bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, this being the best result to date. Mary O’ Callaghan was the deputy candidate at the competitions in Tokyo in 1995.

The Japanese Sommelier Association took care of all the logistics for ASI. The international sponsors for this event were as follows: Moét & Chandon Champagne which is distributed in Ireland by Edward Dillon and Co. Ltd., San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna which is distributed in Ireland by Stafford Lynch. Other sponsors are as follows: Chef & Sommelier, Nespresso, Alsace Wines, Suntory, Peter Lehmann, Wines of Portugal, Wines of Austria,Entaste, Sommeliers International Magazine, and Vinexpo.

Mary O’ Callaghan President Irish Guild of Sommeliers made presentations to Shinya Tasaki, President ASI and Masaharu OKA, President of the Japan Sommelier Association. Various other presentations were made throughout our visit

Hidetsugu Ueno, Bar High Five, Tokyo

Group taken with Bartender Hidetsugu Ueno at Bar High Five in Tokyo

High Five

4th Floor, No. 26 Polestar Building, Tokyo, 7-2-14 Ginza

Anyone who’s ever lost themselves in the pages of a Murakami novel will have dreamed of this: a classic, low-lit Tokyo bar full of cool characters, dreamy background jazz and superbly skilled bar tenders. High Five is all that and more, an understated yet memorable space perched four floors up with views over the Ginza railway tracks. Cocktail-making is elevated to an art form here; the drinks are mixed with care and precision and head bartender Hidetsugo Ueno is one of the top men in his field. His cocktails are creative and unexpected in their flavours, (ask for the Bamboo and you’ll see what we mean). The bar is tiny but this intimacy is part of its appeal and it allows you to study a master at work: blending, pouring, and even sometimes checking the temperature with a thermometer– judging every element as he goes. Every aspect of the experience has been taken into account, includes the snacks you are served as you take your seat at the bar and wait for the show to begin.

Best Sommelier in Ireland Competition 2nd October, 2012Anyone who’s ever lost themselves in the pages of a Murakami novel will have dreamed of this: a classic, low-lit Tokyo bar full of cool characters, dreamy background jazz and superbly skilled bar tenders. High Five is all that and more, an understated yet memorable space perched four floors up with views over the Ginza railway tracks. Cocktail-making is elevated to an art form here; the drinks are mixed with care and precision and head bartender Hidetsugo Ueno is one of the top men in his field. His cocktails are creative and unexpected in their flavours, (ask for the Bamboo and you’ll see what we mean). The bar is tiny but this intimacy is part of its appeal and it allows you to study a master at work: blending, pouring, and even sometimes checking the temperature with a thermometer– judging every element as he goes. Every aspect of the experience has been taken into account, includes the snacks you are served as you take your seat at the bar and wait for the show to begin.

The Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club, Dublin was the venue for the selection tests for a great sommelier professional competition, namely that of Ireland’s Best Sommelier.

Twelve candidates competed in the various selection tests designed by the Irish Guild of Sommeliers competitions committee headed by Guild President Mary O’ Callaghan.

The competition required candidates to test their product knowledge, as well as demonstrate their ability to serve correctly. Those along with other practical tests were carried out in a mock-up restaurant scenario.

From the extensive questionnaire and wine analysis in the morning session the three candidates for the finals were selected.

A jury of experts decided between the competitors. The jury panel consisted of journalists and gastronomic critics, the President of the Irish Guild of Sommeliers Mary O’ Callaghan, Declan Byrne, President Bartenders Association of Ireland and the current holder of the World’s Best Sommelier and ASI International judge Gérard Basset. Gérard is the only person in the world to hold the following qualifications simultaneously, Master Sommelier, Master of Wine and the Bourdeaux Wine MBA. He cofounded the original Hotel du Vin Group in the UK in 1994 and ran the Ecole du Vin Wine School at Hotel du Vin Birmingham, England.

The winner of the Best Sommelier in Ireland 2012 was Julie Dupouy, Laurent Caubet Wine Importers who will represent Ireland at the World Sommelier Competitions in Japan in 2013 and 1st and 2nd runners up were announced by the Irish Guild of Sommeliers President. The winner and runners up were presented with their prizes.

All contestants were presented with a certificate of professional competency signed by Gérard Basset, ASI International Judge and Guild President Mary O’ Callaghan

The Irish Guild of Sommeliers now in its 54th year was delighted with the support of various sponsors in the running of this benchmark competition for the industry, with past winners including John Rigby, Mary O’ Callaghan, Andrejz Dasiak, amongst others, not to mention Didier Fiat, bronze medallist at the competitions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The competition has a high profile in the hospitality industry and competitions like this one raise the profile of the Guild amongst wine professionals and drinks suppliers.

Thanks to the following sponsors: Classic Drinks, Searson Wines and Stafford Lynch. Your support for the competition is much appreciated.

The Irish Guild of Sommeliers

Best Sommelier in Ireland Competition, 2nd October, 2012, 2-6pm

The crème de la crème of Ireland’s Sommeliers will take part in a competition to become the Best Sommelier in Ireland at The Stephen’s Green Hibernian Club, 9, St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin,2 on Tuesday 2nd October from 2 to 6pm.

The contestants will take up the challenges and tasks as set out by the Irish Guild of Sommeliers competitions committee headed by Mary O’ Callaghan, President.

The winner will represent Ireland at the World Sommelier Competitions in Japan in 2013.

Gérard Basset, OBE, MS, MW, MBA, Best Sommelier in the World will be the International Judge at the final among a distinguished panel of judges.

The competition will consist of a questionnaire on oenological knowledge plus wine growing and making, along with other beverages. A blind tasting of wine with an analytical note will consist of this section.

The practical tests will take place in public and for these three competitors are short listed on the basis of the previous tests.

Tasks such as the following will be undertaken:

Marriage of food and wine

Service of Champagne

Decanting a wine

Classification and correction of an erroneous wine list

Blind tasting of one red wine and one white wine with marks awarded for descriptions as well as getting vintage, grape and country of origin correct.

The recognition of six liquids tasting them from black glasses so there are no colour clues.

The competition will finish with the presentation of awards followed by a Champagne reception.

The contestants are from the following establishments: Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, Ballymore Inn, Co. Kildare, Locks Brassiere, Dublin, Westin Hotel, Dublin, Laurent Caubet Wine Importers, Dublin, L’Ecrivain Restaurant, Dublin, The Cliff house Hotel, Co. Waterford, Fallon and Byrne, Dublin, Hodson Bay Hotel, Co. Westmeath, The Twelve Hotel, Galway, Brehon Hotel, Killarney.

The panel of judges comprises;

Gérard Basset, OBE, MS, MW, MBA, Best Sommelier in the World.

Giuseppe A. Pariani, Frescobaldi Wines.

Terence Kenny, World Export Manager. Champagne Pannier.

Sarah Grennan , Editor, Hotel and Catering Review Magazine.

Declan Byrne, President Bartenders Association of Ireland.

Charles Searson, Searson Wines.

Council Members, Irish Guild of Sommeliers.

“A trained professionalSommelier is a big asset to any restaurant. This competition is part of the Irish Guild of Sommeliers’ training programme. It helps Irish sommeliers to develop their skills to the highest international standard” said Mary O’Callaghan, President, Irish Guild of Sommeliers.

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