February 11, 2013

At the end of last year I was approached by SOMLAY, the Malaysian Sommelier society to cover the South East Asia Best Sommelier Competition. They wanted me to attend the three day competition as their official writer, attend master classes on Provence and Alsace as well as dinners and cocktail receptions with a bunch of like-minded people from the wine trade. OK If I must…….

It has been a while since I found myself in a room full of people with whom I knew I could talk freely and openly about grape varieties, fermentation temperatures and maturation in french versus american oak barrels without fear of someone falling asleep! The words heaven and seventh spring to mind. We were all eager to hear about the varied soils and their influence on wines in Alsace, we couldn’t wait to taste the Provencal rosés, particularly those affected by maritime influences and understand the ideal food pairing to each of the region’s wines.

Anyway what I really wanted to report is that we should feel very excited that as a result of such competitions standards of wine service in Asia are improving and can only get better. This was the third competition in the region. Difficulty levels have been raised following each one and consequently next year’s competition, in Singapore, will be even more intense. The country that has won each competition so far? Malaysia! Well done SOMLAY and the F&B industry here in general.

I have passed a few wine exams in my time but this Grand Final was pure theatrics. My written papers usually required me to taste and identify three wines and offer a concluding answer in 45 minutes. These guys were asked to identify 4 wines and 2 rogue beverages in 6 minutes, live on stage, in front of 300 people; awesome!!

At the press conference prior to the final dinner it was made clear that the industry needs to continue to sponsor and train their staff as well as improving language proficiency to enable the country and of course the region to strive for the top.

I have always enjoyed living in the developing Malaysia, it isn’t perfect but progress gets made in so many ways and I think this initiative is very important. I hope that we can look forward to much more.


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