Volunteering at ASI World Best Sommelier Competition 2023

  • Celia Hay

Arriving in Paris a few days before all the other volunteers, I had the utmost pleasure of being greeted by Philippe Faure-Brac (President of French Sommelier Association), David Sojka (Volunteer Organizer), Juliette Jourdan (Assistant Admin for French Sommelier Association) in the hotel foyer and got straight to work creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the competitors and honoured guests alike!

Once all the 60 volunteers had arrived, we were quickly sorted into groups. As volunteers, we had paid for our own flights but all accommodation and meals were paid by the French Sommelier Association.

The welcome reception was on the first day and I was selected to assist with dinner service. These gala style events welcomed around 300 people and allowed me to serve some stunning wine pairings! 

The first night was a welcome reception with canapés that took place in the palace of Quai d’Orsay. The catering was fantastic with a large table of incredible French cheeses to tempt the guests as they walked in. Champagne, Sake, Bordeaux and Porto a plenty were following all throughout the night!

Day 2 was busy with competition formally kicking off. Later that day, the competitors and guests were treated at a mouth-watering meal at the landmark Parisian brasserie, La Coupole. 

Philippe Faure-Brac, President of French Sommelier Association, greets everyone at La Coupole.

Amuse Bouche

Day 3 was filled with Masterclasses and a visit to the Pantheon. At a cocktail dinner hosted in the Paris City Hall the 17 semi-finalists were finally revealed.

Semi-finalists for ASI World Best Sommelier Competition.

I was so chuffed to see my dear friend, Andrea Martinisi move forward to the semi-final round. Following the reception, I was able to walk with the other dinner service volunteers across the Pont d’Arcole to see Notre Dame de Paris enlivened at night.

Angela Allan prepares to serve Champagne.

Day 4 was busy with the start of the semi-finals however these were behind closed doors. Other competitors and guests were able to take a much deserved trip to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. 

Nina Basset with Romané Basset present during the dinner.

A tribute evening in memory of Gerard Basset MS MW, and all the many ways he helped push forward the sommelier community, was held at Pavillion Gabriel in the Jardin de Champs-Elysees. The Gerard Basset Award was given to Giuseppe Vaccarini, who is a beloved teacher, author, mentor from Italy. He was winner of Best Sommelier of the World 1978.

Masterclass for Port wines and new innovations is styles.

On Day 5, the candidates were given a much deserved break and were treated to a plethora of masterclasses to attend. Dom Perignon, Beaujolais, Sake - to name a few.

That evening, I worked at a dinner for the ASI partners hosted on a boat that motored along the River Seine. It was a beautiful night and the Eiffel Tower sparkled with its illuminated light display.

Raimonds Tomsons from Latvia decants before the judges. Raimonds went on to win the competition.

Day 6 was the final of the competition and held in Paris La Défense business district with 4000 people attending, including media from all over the world. As volunteers, we started our day at 9am with extensive set up and organisation of the Gala Dinner for over 1000 guests. We did get a break to watch the competition live. I was so proud of Andrea and everyone that competed. It is an incredible achievement.

ASI World Best Sommeliers from 66 countries

This was my first trip to Paris and what an experience it was. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to meet so many storied, talented and dedicated people from all corners of the wine trade. The French Sommelier Association did an amazing job at coming out and showing the world what makes Paris the capital of gastronomy and wine. It was an absolute privilege to be able to contribute to this world class event.

Angela Allan

March 2023

Grape vines at  Montmartre

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