NZ Somms at ASI Asia Oceania Competition - Kyoto 2018
NZ Somms at ASI Asia Oceania Competition - Kyoto 2018
The ASI Association of Sommeliers InternationalAsia Oceania Competition was held in Kyoto. Andrea Martinisi and Marek Przyborek were representing New Zealand, and placed 5thand 6threspectively. Out of 24 candidates including high-ranking sommeliers from Australia, China and Japan, the Japanese sommelier Wataru Iwata named as overall champion. Interestingly Wataru Iwata had previously spent three years studying and working in New Zealand, and credits this time for igniting his passion for wine. He worked as chef at Renkon in Ponsonby and studied English at Unique English school from 2011 – 2013.
My Sommelier Pathway
I was born in a very small rural town in central Italy called Brufa. My journey in wine started very young helping my grandpa bottling wine bought in bulk from the local farmer or cooperative. I have worked in many places around the globe, from high-end Michelin starred restaurants like the Fat Duck, to smaller business including Gerard Basset MS MW’s Hotel Terravina in the New Forest in UK. Now I live in Auckland, and work as beverage director for The Grove and Baduzzi Restaurants, two of the best restaurants in this country.
This October, I had the honour and privilege of representing New Zealand in the competition for the ASI Best sommelier of Asia and Oceania in Kyoto, Japan. The two best sommeliers of 12 countries were put to the test during three days of hard exams, tasting and trials under high pressure.
This was my first competition of this scale and I am very pleased to have been placed in 5th position. I consider this a good result as I had to prepare in just over 6 weeks for this very intense week. A lot of hard work, sweat and fears. However, it has been an experience that will last in my memory forever. It allowed me to learn heaps, to meet some amazing professionals, share our passion, share our knowledge, share our worries and joy, share some amazing food and drinks. Because in the end that’s what the hospitality business is all about: sharing and growing.
The most exciting part of being part of these competitions is the opportunity to check in with yourself, see where you are at, how much you grew from this on a personal level but also and most importantly, how much you still have to work, improve and learn. It is certainly an humbling experience.
As the ASI President Andres Rosberg said in one of the speeches: “We all are better sommeliers today than when we joined the competition”. No words could be more true. I have learned so much in these few days.
I would strongly recommend any sommelier to take exams and compete as it is an amazing and rewarding experience. Every competition has only one winner, so my advice is, whatever your results are, make sure you learn from the experience and leave with something more than a position or a trophy. Take everything you can during this time, like you do every day at work. Enjoy the journey of learning and growth that leads you there. They’re all parts of a picture that is you, a sommelier.
Marek is originally from Poland and worked in the UK from 2014 -2017. While the world of wine has been dominating his activities in recent years, Marek also holds a masters degree in management from the Warsaw School of Economics. Marek is Head Sommelier at Sky City’s Huami Restaurant in Auckland.
My impressions of ASI Best Sommelier of Asia and Oceania Competition
You wake up early. I mean early! Maybe 6 o’clock. Not ‘hospitality early’ at 10 o’clock-ish. Kyoto wakes up with you. You can nearly greet the sun, putting on your black jacket. Wine knife, matches, pen, extra wine knife just in case. Ready, set, go! You are stressed waiting. Time flows slowly. Thousands of objects in your head. Wine regions, vintages, grapes, crossings, descriptors… Repeat, repeat, repeat! Somebody calls your name. A couple of your ‘rivals’ shake your hand and wish good luck. Climbing up the stairs and the stage is yours.
That is the essence of competitions.
To get to these competitions, you have to spend hours with flashcards, writing theory papers, testing wines, executing some practical tasks. Intense, but you love this! Flashing lights! Cameras! Legends you revere, watching and checking your every move. Someone from the audience reminds you to smile. How the time flies! You can forget about your blocked nose. Talking wine, smelling spirits, trying not to feel eyes on you. Another task! Wine to open, glasses to pour, dishes to match. Applause! You may leave the stage.The most exciting part of being part of these competitions is the opportunity to check in with yourself, see where you are at, how much you grew from this on a personal level but also and most importantly, how much you still have to work, improve and learn. It is certainly an humbling experience.
Dreaming of having a pint of beer on the way to dinner. Wonderful complex cuisine. More Japanese wines than you have ever seen. People bowing politely. You wait, stress grows. You wish to hear your name. When you do – it’s hard to believe. If you don’t – you may sit and watch the others. Quick chat with one of the legends you admire. Last set of flashcards. Tomorrow is another day, another task.
But you know what is important? Them. All the people around. You learn from them, share the table, experiences and a glass of wine.
At the end you are more happy that you see your friend on the stage than disappointed that you could not be there. This is what happens at these competitions, relationship building.