Dion Wai competes in Castel Cup, Hong Kong

  • Celia Hay

The 2018 Chateaux & Domaines Castel Under 30 Sommelier Cup took place in November 2018 and is the fourth competition hosted by Europe’s largest wine group and the first exclusive for the Asia-Oceania region. 
The competition started with a two hour written short answer exam that covered a range of old and new world questions. 

Three wines were tasted blind and included a Provence Rosé from the Castel portfolio; Spanish Tempranillo and an overly oxidised chardonnay from Navarra which I hummed and harred over but ended up calling Savenniere… 

The practical examination had incredibly tight time limits and many candidates simply skipped certain steps of service in order to complete tasks in time. Recommending and justifying the correct preparation of a bottle (decanting, chilling etc), serving temperatures and style of glass for service are perhaps things that can easily be overlooked but are essential in practical examinations in order to achieve full marks. 

Three finalist where then chosen. The final examination began with the service of a Blanc de Noir Champagne (a little to warm for service), a Kabinett Riesling from the Rheingau (fiercely cold) and decanting a 2011 St. Emilion. 
When the head judge commented that the Riesling was too cold to be enjoyed none of us considered decanting the wine in order to remove the initial chill –later we were told that this was what the judges were looking for. When presenting the St.Emilion the judge decides to lift the bottle up out of the cradle and insisted on passing it around the table, no doubt homogenizing the wine and deposit thoroughly; the look on all of our faces must have been priceless. 

Another task was a blind tasting of four different vintages of 4th growth Château Beychevelle. We had to professionally evaluating these wines, declare possible vintage and justify our decision. Immediately following this challenge, a plate of four different cheeses were then placed in front of us and we were asked to determine the style and milk and to recommend an accompanying beverage. For the final task an Ah-So, the two prong wine opener, and Magnum of 2007 Beychevelle were place on the table. The task was clear but with only a minute on the clock all three of us used our waiters’ friend to remove the foil rather than the side of the Ah-So prong which I assume would have been the correct approach in order to receive full marks. 
I was placed 2nd in the competition by the thinnest of margins - one quarter of a mark – ¼ mark! This sits a bit rough but I guess it keeps you honest. So much fun, so much to think about and so much more to learn. Hong Kong was a great experience. 

The next competition will be held in South Korea in either 2019 or 2020 and will possibly be merged with the European event for one joint competition. - Dion Wai 28/11/18

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