It’s early in 2019 and there is exciting news in the wine and country industry. Marc Almert earned the title of the World’s Best Sommelier earlier in March. At just 27 years old, he is currently one of the youngest sommeliers since the competition’s inception in 1969 and the 16th winner.

The competition was fierce amongst the 66 candidates who hailed from 63 different countries. An intense series of tests reached their finale in Antwerp, Belgium. Marc Almert beat out second place contestant Nina Jensen and third place finisher Raimonds Tomsons in the grand finale. They had to beat out 19 other contestants in the semi-final round to advance to the final competition.

How the Finale Played Out

Once the three semi-finalists earned their place in the finale, they went through timed and blind tastings with judging in the categories of service, tasting, and theory. Attitude and language also factored into the judging criteria.

The International Sommeliers’ Association set up seven different timed tests for the three semi-finalists. These seven tests were a mixture of blind tasting, food and wine pairings, theory, and service. The tests got more and more difficult as the rounds went on, and a few of these tests include: 

  • Blind tasting and identifying 10 different spirits
  • Decanting a bottle of Vega Sicilia
  • Properly serving Klein Constantia, Vin de Constance with several ice cubes
  • Suggesting appropriate wine pairings for a set food menu after looking at it for one minute

Another test required the three semi-finalists to correctly name the type of grape that was dominant in 24 different wines after seeing the wine’s producer and the name.

What Each Semi-Finalist Found the Most Difficult

Each semi-finalist had a moment in the competition that they stated was the most difficult for them out of the entire competition. After the competition and during an interview they said:

  • Marc Almert – Almert said the blind tasting of spirits and the theory portion were the two most difficult tasks because it’s extremely hard to stay focused and concentrate with all of the background noise.
  • Nina Jensen – She only started working in wine in 2015. Nina had a moment on stage where a sound technician accidentally knocked glasses right out of her hands. This is where her nerves set in and she started to get very upset.
  • Raimonds Tomsons – Raimonds is from Latvia and said that the overall pressure to do his small country proud was the hardest thing to deal with. Even though he finished third, he said that it was still a huge achievement for Latvia, and he was happy for it.

It was noted that this competition seems to be more welcoming to a younger generation of sommeliers, including from countries all over the world, and there were more women present than ever this year.

During an introduction to the final round of the competition, there was a moving tribute to a previous winner of the competition, the late Gerard Basset OBE MW MS. Gerard Basset also held the title of the Decanter World Wines Co Chair. During this tribute, it was announced that there would be a Gerard Basset Lifetime Achievement Award created to keep his legacy alive. The award will be for a sommelier who makes a lasting impact on the wine industry.

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