The 15th edition of the most prestigious sommelier competition in the world will be held at the Elisabethzaal in Antwerp between 11 and 15 March 2019. The event returns to Belgium after 50 years when the first ever competition took place in Brussels.
This unique triennial world championship is the initiative of A.S.I. (Association de la Sommellerie Internationale/ International Sommelier Association). It will be organised in conjunction with the Belgian Sommeliers Union and their president William Wouters, a resident of Antwerp. The first edition of this competition took place in Brussels in 1969. Now three years after it was last held in Mendoza, Argentina, the competition returns to its roots in Europe.
Two cities were in the running to host the 2019 competition and surprisingly Antwerp overcame Bordeaux. “Antwerp is an extremely important harbour for importing wines worldwide. Furthermore Belgians are well-known for being true wine lovers and experts. We are obviously very delighted to bring the competition back to Belgium, 50 years after the first edition here” said William Wouters.
This competition is considered to be the World Cup for sommeliers. A total of 65 sommeliers will take part in the competition in March 2019 which starts with the quarter final on the 11th March and ends with the grand finale on 15th March. In the final, the three best sommeliers will battle for the most prestigious title in their craft worldwide. 62 countries will each present their most qualified candidate. This will include the three winners of the continental championships, namely Europe, Africa, Asia-Oceania and America.
As there will only be space for 2,000 spectators in the ‘Elisabethzaal’ in Antwerp, the competition will also be broadcast live on a big screen with a live stream online.
The new edition of this international competition will be the perfect opportunity to show professionals and the public how the craft of sommeliers has evolved over the years. “Today the job involves much more than just pouring wine. Not only does a sommelier dispense a broad knowledge of the ever dynamic wine industry, but also other drinks such as beer, spirits, water, coffee, saké, etc. They also need to have an eye for human interactions, have a broad social intelligence and need to deal with several economic criteria such as efficient management of supplies” said William Wouters.
The chairman of the A.S.I., Andres Rosberg from Argentina, said: “Wine expertise and trade skills can be gained in specialised schools, but experience is learned during informal processes, for example picked up in practice. This reality creates an obvious need for continued education, strengthened by personal experience, which is what A.S.I. allows sommeliers to accomplish by organising different activities.”
The Belgian Guild of Sommeliers will organise the championship in Antwerp. Founded in 1963, the Belgian Guild of Sommeliers has been actively present and participating from the very beginning in the development of sommeliers on an international level. The frst A.S.I. Championship was organized in Belgium in 1969. The President of the Belgium Guild, William Wouters, is also Vice-president for Europe and the key figure behind the organisation of this new edition of the competition in Antwerp, Belgium.
Belgium has always been a leading country in wine promotion and wine education. For many years, the Guild has organized several competitions for young sommeliers. Many of them managed to win the professional competition in a further stage of their career.
There will be 65 participants from 62 countries. The countries taking part in the 2019 edition are Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic (Observer), Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand (Observer), Norway, Philippines (Observer), Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand (Observer), Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela.