Sommeliers of the world in Athens

Forty-three wine waiters from as many countries will take part in the 11th edition of the World’s Best Sommelier Competition taking place until October 12 in Greece. The organizers, the International Sommeliers Union (ASI), expect more than 500 experts from journalists to oenologists to attend the event, which has taken place at irregular intervals since 1969. Candidates from as far afield as Iceland, Peru and Korea will first take a written test today on winegrowing on the Greek island of Santorini, followed by a practical examination on Sunday in Athens. Tested subjects vary from how wine grows to how it is stored, served and accompanied by other drinks, cigars or chocolate. Four finalists will compete blindfolded in a wine-testing session before an international jury at Athens Concert Hall on October 12. In the last trials, finalists will be called on to correct an erroneous wine menu, compile a menu combining wine and dishes and conduct a decanting operation. Rivals include Britain’s Gerard Basset, Herve Pennequin from the United States, and France’s Franck Thomas, the 2000 European Sommelier champion. [George Loukas represents Greece in the competition.] France’s Olivier Poussier, winner of the last competition in Montreal four years ago, will not be present. The event was originally scheduled to take place in the United States last year but was moved to Athens instead. «The war in Iraq, security issues and international trade problems have led us to believe that the venue of the competition should be moved to an area where there would be fewer causes for concern and conflict for all those involved,» ASI President Giuseppe Vaccarini said in a message. President’s statement On the ASI website (, Vaccarini explains how the decision to move the competition to Athens came about: «…The choice fell on Greece, an emerging country, interesting both because of its oenological traditions and because of its growing numbers of sommeliers… We hope that our American members and the US sponsors will excuse us, because this decision was reached reluctantly, but was necessary given the uncertainties and the conflict on the international scene. «Among other things, the Greek Association was at the top of the list of candidates for the subsequent world competition and, since Greece is a country with an ancient oenological tradition and with a sommellerie which is increasingly alert to the themes leading to the evolution and success of the profession, it did not seem to us to be a random choice: Fertile land must be cultivated, must it not?» Exhibitions and tastings Within the framework of the competition, wine exhibitions and winetastings have been organized on Santorini today and in Athens on Sunday. The Santorini event is to take place today, from 5.30-8.30 p.m. at the old tomato paste factory in Vlychada. The exhibitors are Antoniou, Argiros, Boutaris, Canava, Roussos, Creta Olympias, Daremas, Gaia, Gavalas, Greek Wine Cellars, Hatzidakis, Manousakis, Santowines, Sigalas and Volcan Wines. The Athens exhibition and winetasting will take place on Sunday at the Metropolitan Hotel (385 Syngrou Avenue, tel 210.947.1000) from 5-8 p.m. It will be more extensive, with displays by Alpha, Antonopoulos, Biblia Chora, Boutaris, Cair, Canava Roussos, Chateau Nico Lazaridi, Constantin Lazaridi, Dougos, Evharis, Foivos, Fragos, Gerovassiliou, Glinavos Zitsa, Greek Wine Cellars, Harlaftis, Hatzimichalis, Karypidis, Katogi & Strofilia, Katsaros, Kir Yianni, Lafazanis, Lykos, Lyrarakis, Megapanos, Mercouri, Myrtoa-Montofoli, Nikiforos, Palivos, Papagiannakos, Papaioannou, Parparoussis, Pavlidis, Porto Carras, Repanis, Santowines, Semeli, Skouras, Sokos, Svolos, Tsantalis, Tselepos, Tsolis, the Union of Viticultural Cooperatives of Samos, Vassiliou and Wine Art. Final and gala The final leg of the competition is scheduled to take place from 5-8 p.m. at the Athens Concert Hall (1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.720.8000) and will be followed by a champagne cocktail party and gala dinner. People who are not already listed as delegates or other participants may attend both events by registering online at the competition’s website. The fee for the live final is set at 20 and 10 euros, while entrance to the cocktail and dinner costs 200 euros per person. (AFP, Kathimerini)