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Psychologists hired to coach French sommelier to victory

The Union of French Sommeliers has hired a team of psychologists, drama teachers and sports coaches to help French sommelier David Biraud win the World’s Best Sommelier competition for the first time in 19 years.

Head sommelier at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, Biraud will represent France for the third time in the final of the Best Sommelier in the World competition in Antwerp.

On 15 March, Biraud will compete in Antwerp on behalf of France at the ASI World’s Best Sommelier Competition, in the hopes of taking home the title for the first time in nearly two decades.

In 2010, French-born Gerard Basset, who died last month, won the world’s best title, but he had been representing the UK.

The competition takes place every three years in one of the ASI member countries, and sees sommeliers from all over the world compete in front of a live audience on all aspects of blind tasting, service and wine knowledge, as well as spirits.

Head sommelier at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, Biraud qualified to represent France for the third time in the final of the 2019 competition in February 2018. 

In 2016, Biraud finished in the top three, alongside fellow runner-up Julie Dupouy of Ireland and winner Jon Arvid Rosengren of Sweden.

This year, the French Union of Sommeliers is upping their efforts to help Biraud, by hiring a team to help coach him through the final, as reported by The Times.

Psychologists are helping him to control his stress levels and drama teachers are being brought in to improve his performance, revealed Philippe Faure-Brac, chairman of the sommeliers’ union, who himself won the world title in 1992.

“The prize has escaped us for 19 years and so we really want to prepare David Biraud for the competition,” he said.

Faure-Brac also complimented the Scandinavians on their approach to the competition, who he said the French had become fearsome competition, with the absence of a winemaking tradition working to their advantage.

Whereas French wine-waiters were brought up on French wine, their Swedish counterparts acquired global knowledge, he told the paper.

“What was once a handicap has become an asset,” he said. “We southern Europeans tend to talk about wine in more emotional terms, whereas international juries tend to want a more technical language. In France, we might say that a wine is the colour of a sunset. But the Anglo-Saxons will define it as light, medium or dark.”

Other sommeliers competing include Julie Dupuoy for Ireland, Eric Zwiebel for the UK, Fredrik Lindfors of Sweden and Nina Højgaard Jensen of Denmark.

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