New Zealand Sommelier & Junior Sommelier Competitions 2018
Dion Wai at the Castel Young Sommelier Cup, Hong Kong 2018
Congratulations to Dion who was placed second by 1/4 mark!
Below Dion writes about his experience below:
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…
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 4thgrowth 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 2ndin 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.
NZ Somms at ASI Asia Oceania Competition - Kyoto 2019
The ASI Association of Sommeliers InternationalAsia Oceania Competition was held in Kyoto. Andrea Martinisi and Marek Przyborek were representing New Zealand, and placed 5thand 6threspectively. Out of 24 candidates including high-ranking sommeliers from Australia, China and Japan, the Japanese sommelier Wataru Iwata named as overall champion. Interestingly Wataru Iwata had previously spent three years studying and working in New Zealand, and credits this time for igniting his passion for wine. He worked as chef at Renkon in Ponsonby and studied English at Unique English school from 2011 – 2013.
My Sommelier Pathway
I was born in a very small rural town in central Italy called Brufa. My journey in wine started very young helping my grandpa bottling wine bought in bulk from the local farmer or cooperative. I have worked in many places around the globe, from high-end Michelin starred restaurants like the Fat Duck, to smaller business including Gerard Basset MS MW’s Hotel Terravina in the New Forest in UK. Now I live in Auckland, and work as beverage director for The Grove and Baduzzi Restaurants, two of the best restaurants in this country.
This October, I had the honour and privilege of representing New Zealand in the competition for the ASI Best sommelier of Asia and Oceania in Kyoto, Japan. The two best sommeliers of 12 countries were put to the test during three days of hard exams, tasting and trials under high pressure.
This was my first competition of this scale and I am very pleased to have been placed in 5th position. I consider this a good result as I had to prepare in just over 6 weeks for this very intense week. A lot of hard work, sweat and fears. However, it has been an experience that will last in my memory forever. It allowed me to learn heaps, to meet some amazing professionals, share our passion, share our knowledge, share our worries and joy, share some amazing food and drinks. Because in the end that’s what the hospitality business is all about: sharing and growing.
The most exciting part of being part of these competitions is the opportunity to check in with yourself, see where you are at, how much you grew from this on a personal level but also and most importantly, how much you still have to work, improve and learn. It is certainly an humbling experience.
As the ASI President Andres Rosberg said in one of the speeches: “We all are better sommeliers today than when we joined the competition”. No words could be more true. I have learned so much in these few days.
I would strongly recommend any sommelier to take exams and compete as it is an amazing and rewarding experience. Every competition has only one winner, so my advice is, whatever your results are, make sure you learn from the experience and leave with something more than a position or a trophy. Take everything you can during this time, like you do every day at work. Enjoy the journey of learning and growth that leads you there. They’re all parts of a picture that is you, a sommelier.
Marek is originally from Poland and worked in the UK from 2014 -2017. While the world of wine has been dominating his activities in recent years, Marek also holds a masters degree in management from the Warsaw School of Economics. Marek is Head Sommelier at Sky City’s Huami Restaurant in Auckland.
My impressions of ASI Best Sommelier of Asia and Oceania Competition
You wake up early. I mean early! Maybe 6 o’clock. Not ‘hospitality early’ at 10 o’clock-ish. Kyoto wakes up with you. You can nearly greet the sun, putting on your black jacket. Wine knife, matches, pen, extra wine knife just in case. Ready, set, go! You are stressed waiting. Time flows slowly. Thousands of objects in your head. Wine regions, vintages, grapes, crossings, descriptors… Repeat, repeat, repeat! Somebody calls your name. A couple of your ‘rivals’ shake your hand and wish good luck. Climbing up the stairs and the stage is yours.
That is the essence of competitions.
To get to these competitions, you have to spend hours with flashcards, writing theory papers, testing wines, executing some practical tasks. Intense, but you love this! Flashing lights! Cameras! Legends you revere, watching and checking your every move. Someone from the audience reminds you to smile. How the time flies! You can forget about your blocked nose. Talking wine, smelling spirits, trying not to feel eyes on you. Another task! Wine to open, glasses to pour, dishes to match. Applause! You may leave the stage.The most exciting part of being part of these competitions is the opportunity to check in with yourself, see where you are at, how much you grew from this on a personal level but also and most importantly, how much you still have to work, improve and learn. It is certainly an humbling experience.
Dreaming of having a pint of beer on the way to dinner. Wonderful complex cuisine. More Japanese wines than you have ever seen. People bowing politely. You wait, stress grows. You wish to hear your name. When you do – it’s hard to believe. If you don’t – you may sit and watch the others. Quick chat with one of the legends you admire. Last set of flashcards. Tomorrow is another day, another task.
But you know what is important? Them. All the people around. You learn from them, share the table, experiences and a glass of wine.
At the end you are more happy that you see your friend on the stage than disappointed that you could not be there. This is what happens at these competitions, relationship building.
Maciej Zimny: One Belt One Road Sommelier Challenge, Ningxia, China
Congratulations to New Zealand Sommelier Maciej Zimny along with his team won the One Belt One Road Sommelier Summit Competition in Ningxia.
The Inaugural One Belt One Road International Sommelier Summit and Competition has concluded Ningxia. The event was organised by Tommy Lam with sponsorship from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Government with 24 international sommeliers and country presidents invited to attend. The 24 sommeliers where then placed randomly into eight groups with each group being lead by a local Chinese champion. The event started on Friday 7 September with each group of sommeliers visiting separate cities of China. New Zealand’s representative, Maciej Zimny, from Noble Rot Wine Bar in Wellington and winner of 2015 New Zealand Sommelier of the Year was in group seven along with Salvatore Salerno from Italy, Carl Villeneuve Lepage from Canada and Arneis Wu from Restaurant L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Shanghai as leader.
Maciej’s group first visited Quanzhou and the went to Shanghai were they were hosted by those cities and given the opportunity to taste some Chinese wines from Ningxia but also to experience some of the tourist highlights. Other groups went to other cities including Nanjing, Shenzhen and Wuhan. On Sept 11, all groups arrived in Yinchuan, the capital city of Ningxia and joined the country presidents for three days of competition including the Greater China Young Sommelier (groups of three) Competition, Ningxia wine summit forum and the International sommelier competition where the eight groups of sommeliers competed together.
The competition commenced with a short examination on Ningxia’s Helan Mountain East Foothill and its seven sub-regions. The groups then were tasked to perform four separate sommelier activities: Wine and Food Pairing recommendations, find faults in a wine list, recommend aperitifs and decant a bottle of the famous Silver Height’s Summit Cabernet Merlot blend in 4 minutes. Each group selected one of its members to do each task.
The three groups with the highest scores then went to final competitions which was held on a stage with an audience dominated by junior sommeliers. The final saw the three groups each work as team based on the scenario that they were in a restaurant with three tables each with new tasks. The guests of the first table, with head judge Annemarie Foidl from Austria, were wanting aperitif recommendations and you can see the video of Maciej as he performed this task for the judges. The next table was led by Court of Master Sommelier founder, Brian K Julyan and Michelle McCarthyfrom Canada and here the task was to decant wine and discuss aspects of the wine. The third table lead by Giuseppe Vaccarini from Italy, with myself, was to gain a beverage pairing recommendation for a menu that included New Zealand charcoal lamb chop. Following this, the final task was to pour a magnum of Chandon Rosé, produced by Moet & Chandon in the Ningxia region.
The winners were then announced at a gala party with dancing and entertainment. And the great news is that Maciej’s team won! Well done Maciej Salvatore Salerno from Italy, Carl Villeneuve Lepage from Canada and Arneis Wu from China.
“It was an absolute pleasure to represent New Zealand during the Ningxia Sommeliers Summit and Challenge and to meet fellow sommeliers from around the world,” says Maciej Zimny. “It was unbelievable that our team won the 1st One Belt One Road Sommelier challenge. Wonderful teamwork from Canada – Italy - China. And I would like to dedicate this success to all New Zealand wine producers - global Sommeliers love your wines! I always feel special representing New Zealand and on the global stage.”
NZ Sommelier and Junior Sommelier of the Year
Our goal is to create a challenging competition that will test the skills of experienced sommeliers and excite the ambitions of junior service staff with the Junior Sommelier of the Year competition.
New Zealand Sommelier of the Year: Marek Przyborek
This award recognises excellence in New Zealand and international wine knowledge for outstanding candidates working as a sommelier or senior manager in a hotel, lodge or restaurant. We encourage entries from candidates who can demonstrate excellent wine service and communication skills along with an in depth knowledge of wines from around the world.
New Zealand Junior Sommelier of the Year: Bethany Jeffries
Competitions coming up
2018 Hong Kong - Nov 14 - 16 in Hong Kong
2019 ASI Best Sommelier in the World
Antwerp, Belgium 11 - 15 March 2019
2019 Champagne October
All Sommelier members of ASI member associations can join the celebration of ASI’s 50th Anniversary Celebration
2017 New Zealand Sommelier and Junior Sommelier of the Year Awards.
Congratulations to Stephanie Guth of The French Café, Auckland and winner of the New Zealand Sommelier of the Year Award 2017.
L-R Cameron Douglas MS, Karen Fistonich, Stephanie Guth, Michael Darby, Celia Hay
Amelia French - Junior Sommelier of the Year winner 2017
L-R Bethany Jeffries (runner- up), Andy Wilkinson from Misha's Vineyard, Amelia French, Cameron Douglas MS, Celia Hay
The Awards are part of the W&F Celebration 2017.
Guided by Master Sommelier, Cameron Douglas and Celia Hay (director of NZSFW) we are looking forward to encouraging young and experienced hospitality professionals to enter this challenge.
Cameron Douglas MS
New Zealand's first and only Master Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Cameron is an experienced wine and hospitality educator, judge and consultant. Cameron travels widely around the world judging wine professionals especially in the USA and Asia in his role as Master Sommelier.
Celia Hay is the founder of the New Zealand School of Food and Wine which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015. Celia trained as a chef, running her Christchurch restaurant for 17 years but recently is better known as a wine educator with the publication of the New Zealand Wine Guide winner of the Gourmand World Book Award for Wine and Tourism.
COMPETITIONS OF 2017
New Zealand Sommelier of the Year
This award recognizes excellence in New Zealand and international wine knowledge for outstanding candidates working as a sommelier or senior manager in a hotel, lodge or restaurant. We encourage entries from candidates who can demonstrate excellent wine service and communication skills along with an in depth knowledge of wines from around the world.
- Return flight to Paris
- VIP hosting for a day at Louis Roederer including a full tour of the cellars & lunch
- Return transfers Paris to Reims
- One night accommodation Reims
- All meals provided
Please click here for Registration.
Junior Sommelier of the Year 2017
This award recognises excellence in New Zealand wine knowledge for outstanding candidates working in any hospitality business. We encourage entries from candidates who wish to develop their wine skills and progress to more senior positions in their chosen field.
Sponsor: Misha’s Vineyard
- Return flight to Queenstown
- 2 nights accommodation with Misha’s Vineyard/The Rees Hotel
- Helicopter tour around the key winegrowing regions of Central Otago
- Tasting sessions to gain an in-depth understanding of Central Otago sub-regions/varietals
- All meals provided
Please click here for Registration.