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Quebec sommelier is first woman to make podium at major competition

Sommelier Véronique Rivest pour a glass of red wine in this Sept. 23, 2008 file photo in Chelsea, Que. Rivest placed second at a worldwide sommelier competition that wrapped up Friday in Tokyo, Japan.

Michel Lafleur/CP

A Quebec woman has officially become one of the world's top wine experts.

Veronique Rivest placed second at a worldwide sommelier competition that wrapped up Friday in Tokyo, Japan.

Rivest is the first woman to make it onto the podium at the competition, which is hosted every three years by the International Sommelier Association.

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"I'm in the clouds," she said Friday from Tokyo. "There has never been a woman in the finals so it's a historic moment."

The competition involved a series of written tests, blind tastings, and challenges related to serving wine.

A Swiss sommelier, Paolo Basso, finished first out of a field of 60 competitors.

Rivest won the Canadian sommelier competition in 2012 and, following that, the "Best Sommelier of the Americas" before she headed to the worlds.

This was her third time at the international competition. She finished in the top 12 in her first two appearances.

Rivest said she's devoted years of study to developing her wine tasting skills. She got her very first restaurant job at the age of 16.

"I have a very accessible approach. I thought that was something that would work against me in my first years of competition," Rivest said. "I think today that worked in my favour and I have gotten more and more positive feedback for that."

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Rivest, who is a wine columnist for Ottawa's Le Droit newspaper and Radio-Canada, said she expects the second place finish will lead to new opportunities.

"It's clear that it opens doors on the international scene, but I'm not thinking about that too much right now," she said. "I've been so focused on preparing for the competition."

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