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Today marks the start of the ASI Best Sommelier of the World contest, where 66 candidates from 63 countries come together to fight it out over tastings and workshops to compete for the coveted title of the Best Sommelier in the World 2019.
The competition is taking place in Antwerp and the winner will be 16th person in the world to hold that title since the contest first began 50 years ago. The competition is returning to where it began all those years ago, Belgium.
Held every three years by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI), sommeliers come from all over the world to pit their expertise and knowledge, honed over years of intense training, against each other.
Wine is the centre of the competition, but notions about food, cocktails and spirits, tea and coffee and even more will come into play.
For the first two days, all 66 candidates will complete a whole set of exams and tastings that will put their skills to the test. From that first round, 18 candidates will be selected for the semi-finals, which will involve another series of even harder tests. Only three of those candidates will be selected for the final round, which will take place on Friday, March 15, at the Elisabeth Centre, in the heart of Antwerp.
The week will also include more than 10 master classes, to provide all candidates with more opportunities for learning, covering everything from ancient varieties and vintage tastings to technical master classes about viticulture and winemaking.
Over the course of the week, 5,900 bottles of wine will be opened and poured into some 14,000 glasses. 600 people are expected at the gala dinner on Friday night, and the final round of the competition will be attended by 1,100 people.