At the sixth edition of the 2022 Best Sommelier of the Americas competition held in Santiago de Chile from February 16 to 19 organized by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) and hosted by the National Sommelier Association of Chile, Valeria Gamper from Argentina won the top award, making her the best sommelier on the continent.
Over three days the best wine professionals from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, the USA, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela competed for the title of Best Sommelier in the region as well as a place in the Concours ASI du Meilleur Sommelier du Monde 2023, which will be held in France.
“This is an enormous honor, I’m very pleased and gratified. It’s a privilege to have won such a difficult competition, maybe the hardest I’ve ever been in. I trained for six very intense months with a strict regime of theory and tastings. The training I did in Paris with Sommelier Armandine Pastourel and his team at the restaurant La Dame de Pic was key and now it’s with great passion and excitement that I set my sights on the next World Cup,” Gamper told Wines of Argentina.
Valeria Gamper is already training for the World Cup
The Best Sommelier of the Americas competition consisted of three stages: the first round in which all the sommeliers took a written exam, did a blind tasting with pairings and were judged on their service.
Those who passed the first round went on to the semi-finals which on this occasion featured Valeria Gamper and Martín Bruno from Argentina; Tiago Roberto Locatelli from Brazil; Hugo Duchesne from Canada, and Mark Guillaudeu and Dustin Chabert from the United States.
During the following day, the semi-finalists once again underwent examinations in blind tasting and service until, on Saturday 19, during the competition’s main ceremony, the names of the three finalists: Bruno, Duchesne and Gamper, were revealed.
The fact that two of the three finalists were from Argentina is an indication of the country’s potential in the field.
“It was really very difficult, especially the written exam, I’d never had to do some of the tests before, like the one with tea in the semi-final, or sake turning up during the pairings. The competition was very demanding and in that regard I’d like to emphasize the quality of training that sommeliers get in Argentina, even though we sometimes find it difficult to get access to wines from around the world. The schools are producing great professionals, I don’t know how often you find training programs at this level elsewhere,” Gamper added.
Broadcast live on YouTube from the Sheraton Santiago Hotel & Convention Center, the competition had the sommellerie world watching with bated breath as the contestants performed different tasting tasks and recognized a range of wines and styles. They then underwent a difficult service test and finally a challenge that required them to identify images of different vineyards, personalities and viticultural objects from across the world.
After a lengthy debate, the jury announced that the Argentinian Martín Bruno had won third place. Peer F. Holm, President of the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale, then announced that Valeria Gamper was 2022’s Best Sommelier of the Americas.
It’s the second time that a sommelier from Argentina has won the award (Paz Levinson did in 2015, which was also held in Chile) and the country has now also won another place at the Concours ASI du Meilleur Sommelier du Monde 2023.
“With regard to the present state of sommellerie in Argentina, I think this is a period of great creativity. Our profession has been energized by the wines and other products that are being produced. People aren’t afraid to experiment, there are new categories that didn’t exist when I started out and there is a great deal of commitment. During the pandemic when no one knew when restaurants and wineries would be able to open again, I saw the enthusiasm with which my colleagues promoted their work. Thanks to that, and in spite of all the difficulties, I still received a lot of messages from people asking where they could study. That was very encouraging.”
Who is Valeria Gamper?
Named the Best Sommelier in Argentina in 2019, Valeria Gamper has extensive experience in international competitions: in 2018 she won fourth place at the Best Sommelier of the Americas competition in Canada, which she had qualified for after achieving second place in the national competition of 2017.
Having moved to Spain in 2020, Gamper is now a wine consultant and educator. Her CV notes her teaching work at the CAVE sommelier school where she studied and also the IAG gastronomy school.
She began her professional career at the Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires, and also worked for the distributor Cluster Selected Wines, as well as acting as Wine Ambassador for Viña Cobos.