Vuk Vuletić – best sommelier of Balkans

Vuk Vuletić - champion (center), Đurđa Katić, Ivan Nikolić (far right), Ivan Peršolja president of Slovenian sommelier association (2nd from left) and myself
With the champion

Belgrade, the capital of sommelier mastery … Yes, it is precisely this title that Serbia’s capital should have been nicknamed this past week-end. The setting – the luxurious Hyatt Regency hotel, the directors – SERSA (Serbian Sommelier Association), the star – Vuk Vuletić first sommelier champion of the Balkans.

This reads like an intro for a block-buster, but believe me, this is precisely what it looked and felt like. Let me start straight away by congratulating SERSA for organizing such a competition and on such a high level and professionalism, everything’s been impeccable. And Vuk Vuletić, man you’ve got talent! The knowledge, confidence and passion you showed were standing out in any possible way, kudos and keep on rocking my firend!

It’s been an intense week-end for sure and it highlighted not only what the mastery of sommelier is about but also served as a great introduction into Serbia’s viticulture and winemaking scenery.

Friday evening was all about introductions, getting acquainted and get a glimpse into wines of Serbia. A total of 19 candidates coming from Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Montenegro, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey with guest competitors from Sweden and Norway introduced themselves and we got a chance to taste some of the wines that accompanied us through the week-end.

The competition

Saturday begun early; 8am sharp, sommelier uniform suited-up candidates ready for the start of competition. Quarterfinals started with the blind tasting of 3 wines and 5 beverages, followed by an extensive written test and 2 practical tasks in serving and decanting wine.

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In the semi-finals qualifiers had to show their skills in serving Champagne and preparing two cocktails, a task that proved to being a tiebreaker, but it highlighted all of their skills and knowledge. At the end we saw all of the quarterfinalists united to identify 10 wines and vintages in a blind test.

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Sunday evening finals approached, you could sense the tension in the air. Ultimately finalists were announced: Julia Scavo – Romania, Norbert Kovacs – Hungary and Vuk Vuletić – Serbia with Fredrik Lindfors – Sweden as guest competitor. And what a finale we have witnessed. Blind tasting of 5 wines, pairing with local dishes from the Balkans, decanting of an aged wine, blind tasting of 5 beers and the service of a Port wine and a cigar. And at the end all of the finalists joined on stage and had to guess what was shown on images and to pour a magnum bottle of Champagne in 19 glasses. An unforgettable show! Vuk Vuletić was declared the winner of the first Balkan sommelier contest, Julia Scavo qualified as second and Norbert Kovacsz positioned as third.

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An eno-gastronomic mollycoddle

But SERSA had prepared also a programme for guests and media representatives. This was the opportunity to highlight some of the best Serbia has to offer in terms of wine and gastronomy.

Saturday while we were competing guests could enjoy in the master class about Serbian white wines.

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Evening spoiled our palates at Fish i zeleniš, a cosy restaurant at the shore of Sava river. After the initial toast with Dunja (traditional quince brandy) we indulged in local dished revised in a modern way. All of these accompanied by wines from local winemakers.

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Sunday morning donned the colour of red. We were introduced to Serbia’s red wines and the specifics of different terroirs. A well conducted master class which gave us a thorough look into the ampelography, winemaking and wines of Serbia.

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My personal takeaway

Most of all I feel grateful for being trusted with the honour of representing Slovenia in the championship. It gave me a lot of insights and understanding and it gave me the courage and will to go forward and develop my knowledge and skills. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people and I’m looking forward in staying in touch with all of them.

A big kudos to Dejan Živkovski, Đurđa Katić and all of the guys at SERSA for organizing such an event. The effort invested into such an organization has been felt and you should be proud of yourselves! Hopefully you’ve paved the way to a competition that will become a traditional event.

It’s been an absolute pleasure to meet the winemakers and taste some of Serbia’s wines which without a doubt deserve a deeper insight. It definitely made me intrigued and hopefully I’ll be cruising around the vineyards and wine cellars in the near future broadening my knowledge.

Make sure to follow SERSA’s Facebook page for additional information, videos and photos from the competition. And naturally to stay in touch with news from them.

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