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No pain, no champagne: the bootcamp
“They are exceptional people, with whom I had the impression that things were going really well. What they experience in competition is very similar to what an Olympic athlete or entrepreneur must face.”
—Alexandre Bilodeau
The president and founder of SOMM360, Vincent Lafortune, and the vice-world champion at the 2013 ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition, Véronique Rivest, have a lot in common. In addition to the love of their profession and the desire to always push their knowledge of wine further, they are committed to helping their colleagues who wish to participate in competitions. “Vincent and I have known each other for a long time, and we share many concerns,” explains Rivest. “For several years, we had been discussing the importance of offering tools to sommeliers who want to participate in major competitions in their respective countries and at the global level because it is sorely needed by many.” These exchanges led the two friends and colleagues to create this concept of a training camp for sommeliers as part of SOMM360.
How to access the best resources?
Rivest speaks from experience since, during all the years when she was training for the series of competitions that led her to a world-class podium, she would have liked to have had access to clearly identifiable resources to guide her and simplify her studies. “When I was preparing for the major international sommelier competitions, too often I had to go into exile in Europe because of a lack of opportunities at home! I would have liked not to have had to waste so much time looking for documentation and instead been able to focus solely on my learning and development,” she recalls. That was especially true since, in the early days of competition, there were no resources on the web either.
Mentors from left to right: Veronique Rivest, Paz Levinson, DJ Kearney, Marcos Flores, Alain Belanger, Arvid Rosengren
Rivest says that when Vincent Lafortune proposed the concept of a high-level bootcamp, about two years before the inauguration of SOMM360, and asked her to lead the training program, she jumped at the opportunity. “I let my ideas simmer for a while, and I worked according to the training programs I myself had participated in, in addition to the training I already give,” Rivest says. She currently trains dozens of wine professionals around the world; she is also a columnist, the owner of a renowned wine bar (Soif, in Gatineau, Quebec) and a lecturer. “The major challenge was not so much to create a program that would allow sommeliers to refine their skills for the competitions but to find a way to apply the concept to more than 20 people at a time, rather than just one at a time!” she exclaims. Very often, top sommeliers train individually with a coach. Here, the goal of the bootcamp was to offer training sessions that took place simultaneously for the 22 participants at SOMM360. “I created a path made up of several stations, with a good distance between each other, to guarantee the privacy of the participants; and they visited each station, in turn, to take part in different exercises,” Rivest says.
Training 22 athletes at a time
“We wanted everyone to be able to benefit from this bootcamp, regardless of their country, their professional level or the type of support offered in their respective countries.”
—Véronique Rivest
The first step was a series of 14 exercises based on various scenarios designed to assess the candidates’ flexibility, their ability to adapt to the unexpected, as well as their knowledge. Participants had a chance to review sparkling wine service; classic basket wine service; the identification of spirits; beer and food pairing; serving wine at the right temperature; identifying spirits, sake, grape varieties and their origin; chocolate tasting and perfect matches with alcohols; regional wine and food pairing; etc. “We wanted everyone to be able to benefit from this bootcamp, regardless of their country, their professional level or the type of support offered in their respective countries,” explains Rivest.

Then the second block of 18 activities included different topics: it was necessary to know how to identify different beverages in a limited time as well as tea and food matches; to name several wine regions and sub-regions on a map; to match different cuisines of the world with wine and alcohols; to identify the defects of wine on the nose; to taste a dish, describe it and find interesting pairings, among other things. The variety of exercises was complete and covered various scenarios, alcohols and regions of the world that the bootcamp participants were likely to find in international competition.
A group of mentors
For even more impact, Vincent Lafortune called on five colleagues who themselves have extensive experience in international competitions and asked them to act as mentors during the actual training sessions with Véronique Rivest. They were happy to accept, which allowed Lafortune to assemble a high-level panel. The first mentor was Alain Bélanger, third in the ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition in 2000. He trains sommeliers at the École Hôtelière de Laval, in the Montreal region. Next was DJ Kearney, from Vancouver. She is considered one of the most renowned wine educators on Canada’s West Coast, and she has created several wine programs for sommeliers. She is also a trainer and a judge in many competitions. The third mentor was Paz Levinson. She is the executive chief sommelier for Groupe Pic (Anne-Sophie Pic) in Paris. She was born in Argentina and became the Best Sommelier of the Americas in 2015. The fourth mentor was Marcos Flores, president of the Mexican Sommelier Association and founder of Gemaric, a wine consultant agency in Mexico City. Finally, the last guest mentor was Arvid Rosengren, a native of Sweden, who works in New York City at his new location, Legacy Records. He won the title of the Best Sommelier of the World competition held in Argentina in 2016.
But even if she was among the best in the world and one of the most respected sommeliers in her field, no matter how much she surrounded herself with the best colleagues as mentors and had solid experience in coaching champions, Véronique Rivest found her mission to be stressful. “Not only was it a monster job to just make sure that the content met everyone’s needs, but the training schedule could not contain any downtime or overlap,” she explains. Planning this bootcamp for 22 of the world’s top sommeliers, who would represent their respective countries in the competition for the world’s best sommelier a few months later, was inevitably a huge challenge. “We don’t let people of this calibre travel four months before the World’s Best Sommelier competition,” Rivest said, “unless we can make sure we can offer them the best in terms of training!”
However, all these sommelier champions in their respective countries eagerly accepted the invitation of the organizers of SOMM360 to participate in this unique bootcamp, precisely because they all knew “Véro,” as she is known worldwide in the industry, and they wanted the chance to work with her and her colleagues.
The other essential element for the organizers of the SOMM360 bootcamp was to be able to satisfy everyone during the training camp. “Depending on the country they represent, not all these national sommelier champions have the same training opportunities. Some have access to a huge network of support for their preparation and considerable resources, while others have to make do with the means at hand,” remembers Rivest. It was therefore necessary to succeed in creating a unique program, which would bring new elements to each one to enable them to perform better.
How to cater to everyone’s needs
“In addition to the different exercises in the program, we also wanted to give the bootcamp participants the opportunity to acquire new tools, to open up to something new, not just to provide them with the basics,” Rivest explains.

That’s why, in order to create the best advisory board committee, Vincent Lafortune and his team asked Véronique Rivest to design the training program. They invited Alexandre Bilodeau, a world champion and two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist in moguls, to join the advisory board committee and offer a special session on stress management. They requested sommelier
François Chartier, “Créateur d’harmonies” author of the book Taste Buds and Molecules, to organize a personalized workshop on the molecules common between wine and food. They reached out to Jesse Becker, a master sommelier based in Chicago, working for Winebow, one of the great wine portfolios in the US market, to oversee the educational component of the conference section of SOMM360. Last, but not least, they asked Rajat Parr, the three-time James Beard Awardwinning author, sommelier and winemaker from Santa Barbara, California, to oversee the blind-tasting sessions and help participants hone their skills.

In order to complete the training program, they added a tasting with the VDP.Die Prädikatsweingüter, plus a blind-tasting session with Greg Lambrecht from Coravin and Rajat Parr. They also asked well-known wine expert, author and columnist Nadia Fournier to introduce the audience to the new appellation “IGP Vin du Québec.” In addition to the wine component, a session was offered with Kevin Gascoyne, a tea expert from the Camellia Sinensis teahouse, while biochemist Benoît Marsan talked about the perception of minerality in wine. Beer expert and author Martin Thibault spoke about Brettanomyces at a special event presented by l’Académie du Chocolat Cacao Barry.
Meagan Daley, a renown psychologist, lectured about mindfulness. Finally, Lafortune also made sure that each day of the bootcamp, at 6:30 a.m., each sommelier would start with specific yoga sessions with Linda Milagros, a flying sommelier and yoga teacher. No pain, no champagne!
A good toolbox
For Marc Almert, the new Best Sommelier of the World 2019, these workshops provided a useful out-of-the-box dimension: “We had the opportunity to chat with Olympian Alexandre Bilodeau about stress management.
It was interesting to discuss how to deal with competitive pressure, how to repress last-minute anxieties, how to motivate yourself and how to run a checklist on your preparation level to gain more confidence. Within the group, we found all these techniques very helpful.” Later, in Belgium, during the Best Sommelier of the World competition, Almert says the bootcamp gave him some of the skills he needed to face the stress. “When you have to wait for long hours, then suddenly find yourself in front of an audience of 1000, obviously, you get nervous, but how do you deal with this? It was quite interesting to actually put into practice what we had learned at SOMM360.”
For his part, the famous two-time Olympic gold medalist and business accountant at Walter Capital Partners, Alexandre Bilodeau, said he really appreciated being able to meet these sommelier champions: “They are exceptional people, with whom I had the impression that things were going really well. What they experience in competition is very similar to what an Olympic athlete or an entrepreneur must face,” he said. Bilodeau, himself a great wine enthusiast and collector, says he wanted to share techniques that make stress more liveable so that it could eventually stop becoming a hindrance and instead become a driving force to cross the finish line.
“Since fear of the unknown generates a lot of stress, you have to tame it through careful preparation, like the 150-point checklist I prepared for the Vancouver and Sochi Olympic Games as well as for the accountant exam; it’s a kind of reality check to make sure you’ve done everything possible to prepare yourself and control the part of the unknown that generates this stress,” he said. Bilodeau also explained the importance of being able to surround yourself with seasoned professionals during your preparation so you don’t have to try to do everything yourself. “That’s why I found the idea of the bootcamp so great, with all its workshops, exercises,

master classes and opportunities for sommeliers to fraternize and help each other. These are all tools that allow you to tame stress and actually make it an ally to help you perform better once you are in competition.”
An important resource for the community
This intensive five-day bootcamp really responded to a need among the sommeliers who participate in high-level competitions, whether at the national, continental or international level, as Marc Almert himself attested: “This type of bootcamp should become more and more common because the idea is to reach out to candidates from countries where they might not have formalized training and also to bring together people who do have that kind of skill. It was fascinating to realize how we could help one another during that week.”

For Véronique Rivest, training for high-level competitions is too difficult to let sommeliers organize their programs on their own. “Vincent Lafortune and I believe that our desire to offer a bootcamp comes from our mutual conviction that we must multiply learning opportunities because training is really very demanding for sommeliers. The more they can prepare for it without constant interference from the outside world while they study and train, the better they can perform and ultimately serve their customers.” For her and Lafortune, it is also a personal commitment to help improve their profession.
“This type of bootcamp should become more and more common because the idea is to reach out to candidates from countries where they might not have formalized training and also to bring together people who do have that kind of skill.”
—Marc Almert
ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2019 and SOMM360 bootcamp participant
The 2018 Bootcamp participants and Scholarship of Excellence Recipients
Martin Bruno, Argentina
Martin Bruno was named Best Sommelier of Argentina in 2017. In 2018, he placed second in the competition for the Best Sommelier of the Americas, just behind Quebec’s Pier-Alexis Soulière (MS). Ambassador for Cafayate—Bodegas Etchart and the Pernod Ricard brands in Argentina, Martin is also co-founder of Bebé Vino Wine Shop in Buenos Aires. He takes his pedagogical role very seriously, and he teaches at the Argentine Center for Wines and Spirits. Martin appreciates every opportunity he gets to enrich his knowledge, which is why he wanted to participate in the SOMM360 bootcamp. He won the Cossette Scholarship of Excellence.
Mattia Cianca, Australia
Born and raised in Rome, Mattia found himself named Best Sommelier of Australia in 2017, after having chosen to move there in 2008. He says he discovered a passion for wine in 2011 while working in Perth, which led him to throw himself wholeheartedly into this stimulating universe, and wine became his professional priority. In 2013, he moved to Melbourne to study and to work at Attica restaurant for three years, which changed his career for good. He vowed to study and deepen his knowledge, and he has done just that. Mattia also worked as associate sommelier at one of the country’s best restaurants, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal; he left in June to travel and now works in Italy at Alexander Gusto Antico in Cortina d’Ampezzo. He sees competition as an unusual but effective way to gain knowledge in his field of expertise: pushing him to learn even more about wine without knowing the outcome of the competition. He is certain the expertise acquired will not be lost! He received the Wine Australia scholarship.
Marc Almert, Germany
Best Sommelier of the World 2019 and Best Sommelier of Germany in 2017, Marc was born in Cologne, completed his training in hotel management and then got his first job in the Rheingau region. Inspired by his discovery of wines, Marc began training seriously and participating in various competitions. He admits to being naturally competitive, with a goal to excel in everything he undertakes. He appreciates that training sessions such as SOMM360’s bootcamp provided him with the opportunity to meet colleagues and mentors, and he notes that they are also an excellent preparation for the Master Sommelier (MS) exams. Having also worked in restaurants in Hamburg, Marc moved to Zurich in 2017, where he is currently in charge of the wine program at the five-star hotel Baur au Lac, whose restaurant was recently awarded a second Michelin star. He was awarded the Alto Moncayo Scholarship during SOMM360.
Raimonds Tomsons, Latvia
Best Sommelier of Europe in 2017, Raimonds has been working since 1999 at Chez Vincent, considered to be the finest restaurant in Latvia. He is both manager and head sommelier. A graduate of the WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits, he began training for sommelier competitions in Latvia in 2006 and enjoys these events because they force him to keep studying to become not only the best in his field, but best all-round. Raimonds sees competitions as a great way to gain new organizational skills. And, of course, he enjoys meeting colleagues from around the world. He ranked third at the Best Sommelier of the World 2019, and he received the Austrian Wine Scholarship at SOMM360.
Luis Morones, Mexico
Luis has been a sommelier for 14 years and has participated in competitions since 2010. He says family remains his first passion, but the world of wine is a close second. He is the Wine Director for Grupo Presidente based in the Presidente InterContinental Hotel. Luis was named Best Sommelier of Mexico in 2010, 2012 and 2014, opening up the field of international competitions. He became Mexico’s representative at the Best Sommelier of the Americas. He says taking part in these events helps him to hone his skills, and his goal is to become one of the best sommeliers in the world. He was awarded the Les Domaines Paul Mas Scholarship.
Julie Dupouy, Ireland
Born in Agen, in the southwest of France, she believes her passion for good food comes from her paternal grandmother, an instinctive cook who taught Julie how to rely on her senses and to experiment. Her interest in scents also began at an early age. She was introduced to good wine by her grandfather and decided to become a sommelier at the age of 16. Julie has called Ireland home since 2004. She is a consultant sommelier at the prestigious Chapter One Restaurant in Dublin and has also worked at other famous establishments, such as Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and The Greenhouse. In 2016, she finished third at the ASI World Sommelier Championship, representing Ireland. Julie says competition has become a way to push herself harder than she normally would. She has been the Best Sommelier of Ireland since 2009. She says that, through her work, she hopes to give people a little of the inspiration she received in early life and to help them enter with confidence in the beautiful world of wine and sensory pleasures. Julie was awarded the Bordeaux Wine Council Scholarship.
Antoine Lehebel, Belgium
Head sommelier at Restaurant Bon Bon in Brussels, Antoine admits to having been bitten by the wine bug when he worked at a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant. He began participating in sommelier competitions at home and in France and was awarded the coveted Best Sommelier of Belgium title in 2014. His love of the profession pushes him toward competitive events; that’s why he is already preparing for the next ASI Best Sommelier of the World Competition 2022 and hopes to compete at the Best Sommelier of Europe championship in 2020. He is also preparing to take the tests for the difficult Master Sommelier (MS) diploma. The SOMM360 bootcamp was a great opportunity for him to dive deeply into an intensive, tailor-made preparation to help him tackle these two major challenges. He received the Cacao Barry Scholarship.
Pier-Alexis Soulière MS, Canada
With more than 10 years of experience as a sommelier and having acquired the prestigious title of Master Sommelier (MS), Pier-Alexis Soulière is constantly seeking to push the limits of his knowledge, to better serve his guests and to experience the pure pleasure of learning and excelling. Having practiced his craft in London, Sydney, New York City and California, he chose to bring his corkscrew back to Quebec City, where he is transmitting knowledge and coaching a whole new generation of sommeliers. Having won the title of Best Sommelier of the Americas in 2018 and ranked ninth at the Best Sommelier of the World competition in Antwerp, in March 2019, Pier-Alexis believes that sustained and intensive training in competition is key to success. He believes that community exchanges and the sharing of knowledge is today paramount to spread the love we all have for wine. Pier-Alexis says that this community is extending now from local to global thanks to initiatives such as SOMM360! He proudly received the Wines of Portugal Scholarship.
Jasper Sun, China
Placing second in the 2017 Best Sommelier of China competition has given Jasper Sun good sommelier experience, after having worked in several large establishments, including as director of wine services at the Hotel Shangri-La in Shanghai. He now has his own wine bar Wine Universe by Little Somms, in Shanghai. He sees preparation for competition as essential because it allows him to stay well informed about the rapidly changing world of wine, as well as providing him with a good dose of adrenaline. He was awarded the Austrian Wine Scholarship.
Christian Jacobsen, Denmark
Christian is a sommelier and the co-owner of two wine bistros called Anarki. They are located in the popular Frederiksberg district of Copenhagen, Denmark. Christian has been involved in the world of wine for about ten years. Friendly and professional, he likes to participate in competitions to gain additional knowledge, but also to ensure that he maintains a high level of expertise in the wine industry. He takes advantage of competitions to learn more about different wine regions, including those which he might not otherwise have explored on his own. Christian Jacobsen received The Premium Estates of Austria Scholarship.
Henrik Dahl Jahnsen, Norway
Henrik has always been interested in everything related to food and wine. After studying at a catering school in his hometown of Kristiansand, Norway, he became a sommelier in 2012. Since then, he has been named Best Sommelier of Norway four times. Henrik says the competition has become more intense each year. But he sees sommelier competitions as an excellent way to test himself and to stay up to date. Henrik is now Head Sommelier at Speilsalen Restaurant, at the historic Britannia Hotel in Trondheim. With higher stakes than ever before, he strives towards the ultimate guest experience with culinary perfection and beverage pairings. He is the recipient of the Air Canada Scholarship.
Ketri Leis, Estonia
Best Sommelier of Estonia in 2019, Ketri admits to being extremely motivated to evolve and succeed in the world of wine. Eager to learn more, this 28-year-old is constantly looking for ways to broaden her experience, and she considers competition one of the tools to achieve this, along with her work at the Pazzo wine bar in Tallinn, Estonia. Over the past years, Ketri has participated in several events and has had great success in her home country, where she has been named best sommelier for four years running. Her goal is to participate again in the Best Sommelier of the World competition. Needless to say, she saw the training offered by SOMM360’s bootcamp as an additional asset to advance her training. Ketri was awarded The Desjardins Scholarship.
David Biraud, France
Head sommelier and manager of Sur Mesure restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, David won the title of Best Sommelier of France in 2002, was awarded the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France—Sommellerie in 2004 and, among other prizes, the Stirling medal (second place) at the ASI Best Sommelier of the World Competition in Argentina in 2013. Unlike many sommeliers who see their participation in major competitions as a necessary evil and who find it hard to deal with the stress, David admits to loving these competitions, not to showcase his knowledge, but for the pleasure of sharing his passion with his colleagues and to learn as much as possible. He also believes that competitions allow him to show the world that wine is more than a job; it’s a way of life, a lasting passion and a universe that we never finish exploring. It is exactly this type of challenge that he loves! David received the Rhône Valley Vineyards Scholarship.
Bruno Scavo, Monaco
Bruno Scavo was training to be a cabinetmaker before turning to a career in the wine business! While he was interning as a craftsman, he started working in restaurants to finance his studies. The glittering world of fine dining in Monaco made him want to change careers. He started working for Monte-Carlo SBM and has been there ever since. After receiving his Sommelier Certificate, in 1994 he was runner-up of the semifinals of the SOPEXA Best Sommelier of France for the South of France and Monaco. Bruno passed the BP Sommelier diploma and he became Maître Sommelier of the Union de la Sommellerie Française. As President of the Monaco Sommelier Association and Deputy Treasurer of ASI, he judged many competitions. When he met his wife-to-be Iulia, in 2009, he started coaching her for the international and European ASI competition, giving up his functions on the Board. Coaching renewed his thirst for competition. In 2016 he passed the WSET Level 1 Award in Sake, followed in 2017 by the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines. He obtained his ASI Certification in 2018 and took part in the quarter finals of the ASI Best Sommelier of The World in 2019. Bruno plans to continue studying and competing. He is the father of two children. He received the Château de Beaucastel Scholarship.
Iulia Scavo, Romania
Iulia was born in Craiova, Romania. Her father, an academic and an electrical engineer, taught her from an early age to always stay informed and curious. In 2002, she moved to Lyon, France, to study engineering and mathematics. But Iulia says she spent all her spare time in vineyards, tasting and analyzing. She was hooked and switched majors to study wine. Over the years, she has worked as a sommelier in several restaurants. Today, she works as a wine consultant, and she considers competitive events as a way of staying attuned to wine culture. Iulia has spent years competing. She was runner-up of Best Sommelier of Romania in 2008, a title she eventually won in 2018. She was ranked fifth and seventh in the ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2013 and 2019. Among other titles, Iulia is the first woman ever to win the Master of Port in 2017, and the first French edition of the Ruinart Sommelier Challenge 2018. Iulia is ASI Diploma Certified, with a WSET Level 3 and is awaiting final results of WSET Level 4. The Confreria do Vinho do Porto recently named her Knight, rewarding her engagement. She was awarded the Bordeaux Wine Council Scholarship.
Guillermo Cruz, Spain
Guillermo was the head sommelier and front-of-house manager at Mugaritz (one of Spain’s top restaurants), which designs its meals around the wine experience. He has recently been named Director at Ambivium restaurant in Peñafiel, as well as Brand Ambassador at Pago de Carraovejas & Ossian. Born in Zaragoza, he grew up among the vineyards and studied at the local catering school, before taking his sommelier course at Madrid’s Tasting School. Named Best Sommelier of Spain in 2014, he has continued to compete internationally and is training to become a Master Sommelier (MS). Guillermo says participating in SOMM360’s bootcamp is another valuable tool to stay competitive. He received the Coravin Scholarship.
Piotr Pietras MS, Poland
Piotr is a Master Sommelier and an independent wine consultant. He is based in Warsaw, where he runs his import business TERROIRysci. He holds a BA in hotel management. After developing one of the largest wine lists in Poland at City Park Hotel, he moved to London in 2013 and worked with chefs Gordon Ramsey (Maze), Richard Corrigan (Corrigan’s Mayfair) and Tim Allen (Launceston Place). Until recently, he was director of wine services at Michelinstarred HIDE Restaurant, where he managed London’s largest wine list as well as a team of 18 sommeliers. He has been named Best Sommelier of Poland twice, second-best sommelier of Europe in 2017, Best Young Sommelier of the World 2017 and sixth Best Sommelier of the World 2019. A judge for Decanter World Wine Awards and International Wine & Spirit Competition, Piotr says he appreciates competitions not only because they improve his knowledge, service and blind-tasting skills, but because they also allow him to work on his public speaking and to increase his ability to deal with stress. He received the Domaine Queylus Scholarship.
Eric Zwiebel MS, United Kingdom
Eric has been cellar master at the Summer Lodge Country House Hotel in Dorset, England, since 2004. Born into a family of restaurateurs in Alsace, France, he gravitated quickly to working in the dining room, where he enjoyed looking after guests. After moving to the UK in 1999, he became Master Sommelier (MS) in 2001. Eric stays abreast of the wine world by constantly participating in competitions and travelling to wine regions around the world. He continues to train for competitions, and he says stress management can often make the difference. That’s why taking part in SOMM360’s bootcamp was so important to him. He is the recipient of the VDP.Die Prädikatsweingüter Scholarship.
Carl Villeneuve-Lepage, Canada
The head sommelier at the prestigious Montreal restaurant Toqué!, this young sommelier is considered one of the rising stars of the profession. He has thrived on competition since studying music at a very young age. Articulate and personable, he has a gift of making wines attractive and accessible with his clear explanations and his ability to transmit his passion. Having placed first in the Best Sommelier of Canada competition in the fall of 2017, he believes that preparation for sommelier competitions is an essential part of his journey. He says that challenges are what nourish him and push him to always want to improve. Carl loves studying, stands up to pressure well and says he really appreciates the new tools he received at SOMM360’s bootcamp. Carl got the Rhône Valley Vineyards Scholarship.
Fredrik Lindfors, Sweden
Fredrik was born and raised in Stockholm, and he now oversees the wine program for the Grand Hotel there. A two-time winner of the Best Sommelier of Sweden competition, he won the Nordic Sommelier Championship in 2017. Fredrik says he started to compete while he was still studying wine and gained instant gratification by putting his newly learned skills to the test. He considers that his challenges are just beginning, as he will be the Swedish candidate for the Best Sommelier of Europe Competition in 2020. He continues to train daily, thrives on competition and received the Tanaka Shuzo Brewery Scholarship.
Pascaline Lepeltier MS, United States
As beverage director of Rouge Tomate Chelsea in New York City since 2009, Pascaline has built up one of the world’s best wine lists. Born in Anjou, France, she was destined for an academic career after earning her degree in philosophy. But, along the way, she fell in love with the wine world and decided to seek her sommelier certificate. A Master Sommelier (MS) since 2014, she has won two more major titles in her homeland: in 2018, she was named “Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France—sommellerie” and Best French Sommelier. In January 2019, the famous La Revue du Vin de France (RVF) named her Personality of the Year 2019, the first woman to receive such a prestigious recognition. Pascaline also teaches young sommeliers but still loves the competitive aspect of the industry. She was awarded the DOC Rioja Scholarship.
Reeze Choi, China
Reeze Choi is an Advanced Sommelier of the Court of Master Sommeliers, a holder of the WSET Level 3 and Certified Specialist of Wine, and a recognized senior sommelier of the Hong Kong Sommelier Association. He has worked in some of Hong Kong’s prestigious restaurants, including L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. In 2018 and 2019, Reeze placed 2nd in the ASI Asia-Oceania Best Sommelier Competition and 16th in the ASI Best Sommelier of the World Competition. He was named Best Sommelier of Greater China in 2016 and 2017 and represented Hong Kong in the Asia Best Sommelier in French Wines Competition organized by Sopexa in Vietnam and Taipei. He was also one of the judges of International Wine Challenge China. Reeze says he was honored to participate in the SOMM360 bootcamp with top sommeliers from around the world and considers it an important learning experience. He received the Wines of Portugal Scholarship.
Photo: Krystel V. Morin (hero picture), André-Olivier Lyra (event pictures), Jean Bernard (mentors and last picture)
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