User login

Best Sommelier of the World competition

Valéria Gamper and Salvatore Castano, in preparation for the Best Sommelier of the World competition

On February 12, 2023, the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale will elect its new Best Sommelier of the World. SommelierS International was interested in the preparation for the competition of two candidates whose titles allowed direct qualification for the competition: Valéria Gamper, winner of the title of Best Sommelier of the Americas, and Salvatore Castano, Best Sommelier of Europe and Africa.


Salvatore Castano et Valeria Gamper

How do you prepare for the competition, both for the theoretical and practical part?

V.G. : I follow a calendar of studies, which includes theory, service and tastings. I try to be realistic in terms of the amount of time I can dedicate to studies and distribute the topics logically. Although, it is never enough, I usually start the preparation 4 or 5 months in advance.

S.C. : As you know the theory is the hardest part and takes most of your time to prepare it. I have not much time to study, but I try to do it in my free time, during my meals, on the Tube on the way to work. The practical part is the easiest one in my opinion, because is something that you do everyday at work, serving clients and tasting wines.


How do you get the cuvees for training? Do you have sponsors?

V.G. : I usually buy the wines from a distributor, so I get better prices, and use a Coravin. Some wineries sent me some samples, which really helped me. Also tasting in group is helpful and you can learn a lot from each other.

S.C. : I do not have any sponsor or trainer, I pay for the wines I use to prepare myself.


What tests do you expect and fear the most?

V.G. : The whole experience is stressful. Even though I have worked many years on the floor, the worst moment for me is when you are called to go to THE room for the service tasks! You walk down the hall, you stand behind the door waiting for them to open it, and then you enter the room. That’s the most nerve wracking moment even thought at the end is fun! And what I like the most are the tastings.

S.C. : In this kind of competitions you can expect anything, so you need to be well prepared in order to do well. I think being in the final can be scary because you don't know how your brain will react.


In your opinion, what "little extra thing" do you have compared to others?

V.G. : Honestly, I try not to compare myself with others and work my own path to be a better version of myself after the competition.

S.C. : It's hard to say, because I believe that all the candidates will be on the same level of preparation and knowledge, and this will make the competition harder for everyone. 


What would the title of Best Sommelier of the World bring you?

V.G. : It would be a breakthrough moment in my career. It would be an honor for me but it also brings a great responsibility. I would try to be a better professional every day and help others being better and advance on their paths.

S.C. : Winning the Best Sommelier of the World contest will be a dream coming true. The reason why I love competition is to understand what is my level of knowlwdge, so for me would be more a personal achievement than an International recognition. 

Interview by Sandy Bénard-Ravoisier
Photos : Association de la Sommellerie Internationale