The UGCB partner of the Best Sommelier of the World contest
In 2022, France will host the Best Sommelier of the World contest, the most prestigious competition in the international sommelier industry.
Interview with Ronan Laborde (President of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux) and Philippe Faure-Brac (Best Sommelier of the World 1992 and President of the Union De la Sommellerie Française).
France has not hosted this competition since 1989. What does it mean for you?
Philippe Faure-Brac : I was there in 1989 and I have a fond memory of a very important event for our profession. I am extremely excited about this competition being held in France. It is something we have long been waiting for and we have big plans !
Ronan Laborde : It is wonderful news and marks the end of a long wait!
France can be regarded as one of the birthplaces of the sommelier industry and yet this will only be the second year in which we have hosted this great contest.
It reflects the internationalisation of the sommelier profession and the strong competition existing between countries to hold major events.
Do you think France has a chance of winning this prestigious title?
Philippe Faure-Brac : Yes, everyone dreams of winning such a title... France in particular! We have provided special training to all our potential candidates, who have been brought together in a structure named Team France in order to share experiences and learning. This team will be led by David Biraud, who has been a candidate and finalist himself of this prestigious competition on several occasions in recent years.
Ronan Laborde : Of course!
The French candidates are always favourites. France has won the title six times.
The last time was in 2000, so we would love to see a successor to Olivier Poussier and Philippe Faure-Brac in the next edition!
In your opinion, what qualities are required to become the Best Sommelier of the World?
Philippe Faure-Brac : The candidate who wins the title will be the one who finds the perfect balance between “almost encyclopaedic” theoretical knowledge and practical expertise. They must be the embodiment of the dream sommelier: accessible, kind, attentive, passionate... and charismatic. It requires daily work, incredible rigour and huge concentration.
Ronan Laborde : It is a competition that puts every aspect of the sommelier profession to the test:
theoretical knowledge on wines and their regions of origin, the ability to identify them – a feat the public finds fascinating –, but also the ability to listen, the precision to serve and the agility to interact with gastronomy.
They need to manage the pressure of the unexpected, a demanding jury, the spectators, and the fatigue that builds up over the course of the competition.
Competitors truly are high-level athletes!
Philippe, can you share with us any particularly memorable moments from a Best Sommelier of the World competition?
Philippe Faure-Brac : 1992… The year in which I won in Rio de Janeiro! In the final, the last tasting glass I was given contained a colourless liquid. I thought it might have been a glass of water with a particular flavour, a “trap” candidates had already encountered in the preliminary rounds. In fact, it was a cachaça worthy of the name that had been produced in Brazil and which I was delighted to identify. Ever since, tasting these types of spirits always make me smile. I also remember the long wait to hear the results. It was very stressful. At midnight, when they announced the winner, it was a moment of true joy. We were in Rio and needed to honour the city's reputation... we celebrated in style until the early morning.
Ronan, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux will partner with the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale to organise this event. Can you tell us a little more?
Ronan Laborde : We are continuing to nurture our strong connections with sommeliers, who are the ambassadors of a lifestyle and our great wines.
We were fortunate enough to talk with Philippe Faure-Brac quite early on about a very inspiring project with a new dimension that fits in perfectly with the Union's general approach, particularly when it comes to sommelier students.
Our members were excited to endorse the initiative and we are proud to be further developing our partnership at this occasion.
Do you have any particular messages you would like to share with wine lovers?
Philippe Faure-Brac and Ronan Laborde : This competition will be a wonderful series to watch.
From the selection of national candidates to the final phases of the contest, it really will be quite a spectacle!
It is something all wine enthusiasts are going to love following.