Sommeliers and wine professionals from across the United States convened in Kansas City to battle for a coveted title – The Best USA Sommelier. After a challenging two-day competition, first place was awarded to Dustin Chabert, Illinois Market Manager for DNS Wines and Sommelier at Spiaggia.
Beyond being dubbed the best sommelier in the country at the inaugural 2019 competition, Chabert will be the first competition winner to compete as the U.S. delegate to the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) “Best Sommelier of the World 2019” competition taking place in Antwerp, Belgium, March 10-15, 2019.
Following a thorough first-round theory competition in January, the top four candidates were selected to compete in-person in Kansas City. Representing an array of hometowns and wine industry professionals, finalists included Chicago-based Jill Zimorski, MS; New York-based Maxime Blaise; and Seattle-based Paul Coker.
The final round was held in timed stages, during which competitors were tested on the traditional sommellerie disciplines of blind wine tasting and identification, food pairing and wine service, all in a second language. Judging was conducted by a panel of prominent U.S. sommeliers among whom included Doug Frost, MS, MW and Véronique Rivest, former finalist in the Best Sommelier of the World 2013 in Tokyo and winner of the Best Sommelier of the Americas contest in 2012. Second place was awarded to Jill Zimorski, MS.
“The rigors of testing and the amount of preparation required was incredibly extensive,” said Chabert. “I will proudly represent the U.S. in Belgium in March.”
The inaugural Best USA Sommelier competition served to recruit a U.S. representative for the global contest conducted by the ASI, bringing a U.S. candidate back to the major international stage after some years. “Perhaps more importantly, through this U.S. competition, ASI has become more active and visible in the U.S. to support the thriving sommelier community here,” said current ASI president Andres Rosberg. “We seek to promote the sommelier profession and provide an opportunity for American sommeliers compete internationally and grow their professional skills.”
The Best Sommelier of the World winner holds the title for three years, enjoys significant visibility and professional opportunities. The reigning Best Sommelier of the World, Arvid Rosengren of Legacy Records in New York, is a U.S.-based sommelier.
The ASI organization celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, this year’s Best Sommelier of the World competition will include 66 candidates representing 63 countries across Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Based in Paris, the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale is a non-profit organization founded in Reims in 1969. It brings together the national sommelier associations of sixty countries and represents a global community of thousands of sommeliers around the world. The organization seeks to encourage standardized global practices and guidelines for sommeliers, supports national organizations and promotes their founding in new countries.
ASI enhances sommellerie worldwide by increasing awareness about the profession, developing sommellerie where it doesn’t yet exist, improving the level of sommeliers where it does, and educating consumers and professionals alike. It defends the ethics of the profession and advocates for the consumption of alcoholic beverages in moderation. It is notably responsible for major international sommelier competitions, including three continental contests and the ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition held every three years since 1969.