On his way to securing the title of Canada’s best sommelier, Pier-Alexis Soulière was asked to decant a magnum of red wine and pour it into 15 mismatched glasses. The goal was to give an equal measure to each guest, but there was no way for competitors to calibrate the size of each pour beyond instinct.
The task was designed to test the sommeliers’ mettle and their grace under pressure.
“You just do it and reset for the next task,” says Soulière, who has been actively competing since winning the title of World Young Sommelier of the Year in 2014 and is one of only a few in his profession to earn the Master Sommelier title, in 2016, before the age of 30.
“It’s hard to describe being in that moment,” the 34-year-old says. “You want to display your skill and be effortless. Hopefully all of the time and effort put in over the years comes along.”
Soulière, who works at Le Clan, Stéphane Modat’s new restaurant in Quebec City, will compete at the World’s Best Sommelier Competition in 2023 for the second time. He finished in the Top 10 in 2019.
The Quebec City native was one of 10 competitors in the two-day Best Sommelier of Canada held in Penticton, B.C., last week. He says he was impressed by the level of talent in the room.
Contestants faced a variety of challenges to test their theoretical and practical wine knowledge and service skills. There were wine lists to be corrected, samples of wines to be identified without knowing specifics about their vintage or origin and even a cocktail making contest.
“I have so much respect for the other competitors. They are all high-quality professionals,” Soulière says. “It makes this competition more and more difficult to win.”
The runner-up was Matthew Landry from Vancouver. Emily Pearce from Toronto placed third.
The sommelier competition was conducted as part of the fourth annual Wine B.C. Bootcamp organized by Wine Growers British Columbia to create awareness and celebrate the wines of the province.
Soulière explains the wine tour experience was an enjoyable chance to connect with colleagues and discover some new wines to promote. The riesling and Gamay he tasted from Orofino Winery in Cawston in the Similkameen Valley were exciting new discoveries.
Tasting wines from Le Vieux Pin and Summerhill Pyramid wineries added to his overall appreciation of their portfolios. Asked for a specific suggestion, Soulière singled out Le Vieux Pin Ava 2020, a white wine that blends viognier, roussanne and marsanne, as being “unique and delicious.”
Some other wines to seek out this week: a selection of red and white wines that are suggested for collectors, gift givers or wine lovers on the hunt for distinctive and enjoyable wines.
Crasto 2019 (Portugal), $18.95
This always impressive dry red blend from Portugal’s Douro Valley delivers a ripe and intense wine in 2019. There’s freshness to balance the fruit, while the smooth texture makes for a wine that’s easy to appreciate. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $21.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $19.45 in Quebec (2018 vintage).
Frind Chardonnay 2018 (Canada), $29.95
Frind is a new estate on Boucherie Road in Kelowna, B.C., located near Quails’ Gate and Mission Hill. The enjoyably bright and vibrant style of chardonnay produced makes a terrific first impression. Its refreshing and ripe character is enhanced by a firm texture that adds substance to the style. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $29.99 in Prince Edward Island, $29.97 in Newfoundland, the 2019 vintage is $25.99, available direct through frindwinery.com.
Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (United States), $119.95
The family-owned Groth Winery continues to be one to watch for top-quality cabernet with fragrance and finesse. The house style is sleeker and more elegant than the rich and rewarding character common to the modern styles coming from the Napa Valley today, which makes for a serious red with layers of flavour and a long, lingering finish. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay 2019 (United States), $114.95
Made in the rich and ripe style that has defined Kistler chardonnays since the winery’s start in 1978, this offers appealing ripe fruit, toast and spice notes. The balanced, bright and concentrated character makes this stand out. Drink now to 2029. Available in Ontario.
La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2019 (United States), $34.95
The Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is the largest production red made by La Crema, one of the boutique producers operating as part of the Jackson Family Wines portfolio. It offers appealing pure fruit flavours with subtle oak spice and a smooth, supple texture. The style is fresh and inviting. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario at the above price, $38.99 in British Columbia and Manitoba, various prices in Alberta, $31 in Quebec, $39.99 in New Brunswick.
Pesquié Édition 1912 m Ventoux 2019 (France), $17.95
The name of this harmonious red blend refers to the height of Mount Ventoux, which is a landmark in this appellation of the Rhône Valley. This smooth and ripe red is a solid bistro wine to enjoy with or without a meal. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, direct through thevineagency.com, $19.29 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $16.25 in Quebec.
Vina Perez Cruz Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Chile), $14.95
An expressive and enjoyable cabernet from a family estate in Chile’s Maipo Valley, Perez Cruz Reserva from 2019 offers textbook cassis and berry fruit with fragrant mint and bay leaf notes. The smooth and inviting texture is easy to appreciate. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
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