The Future of Sommelierdom: The Somms Speak
This issue was inspired by the response to my Instagram post on the Meilleur Sommelier du Monde competition, this past February. It had far more engagement than I expected. And so, I decided to dig deeper.
The rising of natural has upended the wine world. But you wouldn’t know it from last year’s ASI (Association de la Sommellerie Internationale) Best Sommelier of the World Competition. I had been invited to witness the final days of the 2023 competition, including the grand finale, where the top three of the 67 international competitors got to duke it out in front of a crowd of about 4,000. The study needed for the theoretical exams as well as the mock service scenarios is an intense, awe-inspiring task. Contestants had to endure some written arcane “gotcha” minutia (like do they really have to know the AVAs for Michigan?). They were also tested on cocktail making and serving non-alcoholic beverages. And they were tested in a staged scene where guests proffered a mystery bottle to see if it was good enough to serve at a party. (Trick! The bottle had been tampered with in a laboratory and riddled with VA. No one called out the bottle as faulty.) Yet the organization ignored the biggest game changer in the modern wine world. It seems as if future best sommeliers are not required to understand the basics of the natural genre; nothing about sulfur, native yeast, nor what is the problem or beauty of a wine of nature. The ASI is certainly not alone, other mainstream sommelier-based organizations step in line.