The inaugural Asia-Oceanic Final of Best Sommelier Competition held recently turned up the winner Satoru Mori (Japan), Franck Moreau (Australia) second and Nobuhiro Tani (Japan) third.

Mr Mori, a former Sommellier du Monde now goes to the World Final representing the region in Chile next April 2010 for Best Sommelier in the World.

With Tokyo restaurants now ascending to having more Michelin stars than Paris, and Japan having more than 13,000 sommeliers the standard of wine knowledge is quite high.

Both Mr Mori and Mr Tani are sommeliers at LaTour d’Argent at Tokyo’s Hotel New Otani.

Sommelier’s Australia (SA) entrants Franck Moreau (Merivale Group) and David Lawler (Rockpool, Melbourne) were very last minute as Australia has gained observer status. The new enlivened SA joined with L’Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) to participate. Both men made the competition of 20 sommeliers from ten countries in the region.

Competitors had it tough! The competition must be completed in a second language, originally French but any language now that the ASI is truly international. So Franck chose English and David chose French.

What was in the competition? Fifty written questions, two blind taste tests, tasting a dish for a wine complement, three blind spirit tests in three minutes and a practical exam serving wine in four minutes (just like good dining service ought to be).

Both Australians were well prepared after the entry of the Court of Master Sommeliers to Australia in 2008 and the accelerated participation by Australian sommeliers in the Court’s courses -sommeliers come from all Australian states and New Zealand.

The Court has become the SA examining body with sommeliers completing a certified exam for entry. Returning this year the Court represented by four Master Sommeliers (MS) examined 106 eager palates commencing with a two-day introductory course which had a ninety percent pass rate.

Of these sixty-eight took the Certified exam with forty-one passing as Certified Sommeliers. The top ten sommeliers were encouraged to sit the next level-Advanced in either the US or UK held in 2010.

One of the group was a terrific sommelier from Ecco Bistro, Alan Hunter.

The designation MS by a sommelier carries a high reputation, and no doubt the level of credibility provided by the examiners of that organisation, having certain parallels with the Institute of Masters of Wine who confer the qualification Master of Wine (MW) which is more wine writing and wine knowledge than wine service which extends into food, spirits and cigars.

Sommeliers Australia re-organised with joint chairs-Ben Moechtar (Delicado Foods Sydney) and Ben Edwards-pictured (The Wine Guide and contributor to James Halliday’s Wine Companion) drawing the inputs together from the two major restaurant states for these past two years.

Recently Ben Edwards (above) became chair of SA for 2010 with wider board involvement. Queensland’s board member is Peter Marchant.

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