Sommelier from Germany takes the most coveted title in the profession after facing a record number of candidates, through three rounds of fierce competition in Belgium.
At the end of a final round where the three top competitors had to show their knowledge of wine and talent for service and hospitality in front of an audience of over 1,100 people, Marc Almert, a 27-year-old sommelier from Germany who works at the Baur du Lac Hotel in Zurich, was declared the winner of the 2019 ASI Best Sommelier of the World.
“This week has been like a dream, and the dream has come to its conclusion without waking up. I’m honored and humbled to walk in such great footsteps,” declared an elated Marc Almert, after the announcement was made on the stage of Antwerp’s Elisabeth Centre, where three finalists had been competing in the last of three rounds of demanding tests covering every theoretical and practical aspect of the sommelier profession. The three finalists, Marc Almert, as well as Nina Højgaard Jensen, of the Kong Hans Kælder restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Raimonds Tomsons, from Vincents restaurant, in Riga, Latvia, had been announced earlier in the afternoon, just before the finals began, so candidates had to be ready to go immediately. Nina Højgaard Jensen finished second and Raimonds Tomsons, third.
The live final round, which was also live streamed worldwide via YouTube and Facebook, was the culmination of a whole week of competition that brought a record 66 sommeliers from 63 countries to the beautiful city of Antwerp. All the candidates competed on Monday and Tuesday, before 19 semi-finalists were chosen and went through another, wide-ranging series of tests (service, pairings, theory, technical and commercial questions, etc) in the second round. The final round, performed live, put the finalists in a simulated restaurant situation that put to the test their abilities for service, but also their knowledge of wine, food and other beverages. Belgian minister of Digital Agenda, Telecom and Postal Services, in charge of Administrative Simplification, the Fight against Social Fraud, Privacy and North Sea Philippe de Backer, and Antwerp Vice-Mayor Koen Kennis were present to congratulate the winner and two runners up and handed them their awards and gifts from the contest’s Belgian partners.
“It’s been incredible to see the level of skill displayed by all the candidates, over this week. The level of difficulty has been rising constantly, over the years, and more and more candidates are rising to the challenge. It cannot be stressed enough how impressive it is to come out on top of such an amazingly qualified international field,” said ASI president Andrés Rosberg. “I also want to deeply thank everyone in the organizing committee, here in Belgium, the international delegations that travelled to the contest, and everyone from ASI who joined in, as well as the many partners who provided essential support and so many great opportunities for learning for our sommeliers – and delicious wines.”
“We are very proud to have hosted the ASI Best Sommelier of the World contest in Belgium. It’s actually the third time that Belgium has hosted the event, out of 16 editions, and that’s a great tribute to the dynamism of sommellerie in our country,” said William Wouters, president of the Belgian Sommelier Guild and president of the contest organizing committee. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for sommeliers from around the world to come together and not only compete, but also to exchange ideas, and learn from each other’s different perspectives and realities. Thank you to our partners, our volunteers, our whole team and everyone who made this possible.”
Photo: Jean Bernard