Team Belgium Takes the Grand Prize, Team USA Wins Best Dessert at 9th Copa Jerez Competition

By Gabby Romero

By

Gabby Romero

Over 250 professionals in food and wine flocked to Jerez De La Frontera in Andalusia, Spain on November 9th and 10th to celebrate the region’s most iconic export: Sherry wine. Hosted by The Sherry Wine Regulatory Council, the Copa Jerez Forum and Competition is the world’s largest event that combines gastronomy with three thousand years of Spanish winemaking tradition.

The eight finalists, each representing a different country, served three dishes with wine pairings from the Jerez region to a distinguished panel of judges. The lineup of award-winning sommeliers, food critics, chefs, and industry experts critiqued each course based on three factors: the overall quality of the menu, the harmony between the food and the wine pairing, and the explanations from each team. 

Based on the jury’s findings, seven awards were granted to five of the participating teams. The prize for the best overall pairing menu went to Belgium’s Fabian Bail and Paul-Henri Cuvelier. The chef/sommelier team from Paul de Pierre, based in Maarkedal, won unanimously for their inventive menu and clinched individual awards for Best Sommelier and Best Chef. 

Bail’s starter fused mackerel and chorizo with dashi, artichoke, bok choy, and lavas oil. To cut the rich proteins, Cuvelier paired the dish with bright and dry Fino Viña Corrales from Bodegas San Francisco. For the main course, the team served a complex plate of lamb and manchego-stuffed zucchini blossoms with equally nuanced Oloroso from Gutiérrez Colosía. Rounding out the meal was a pear poached in tobacco and spices alongside a lemon crèmeux and a goat cheese ice cream. Cuvelier paired the tangy dish with the toasty, balanced sweetness of the medium dry “Old Harvest'' from Bodegas Ximénez Spínola. 

While Belgium’s team took the grand prize, Chef Nicolás López Pelaz and Sommelier Jordi Paronella Vidal of New York’s Mercado Little Spain were awarded the competition’s best dessert. Team USA’s final course featured a cheesecake with creamy Payoyo cheese. Paronella Vidal built off the rich goat cheese with the deep and silky notes of “Moscatel Dorado” from Bodegas César Florida.

The remaining awards for Best Starter Pairing, Best Main Course Pairing, and Best Creative Pairing went to The Netherlands, Denmark, and Russia respectively. Sommelier and co-owner of El Celler de Can Roca Josep Roca, who led this year’s panel of judges, noted the high level of competition at the 2021 Copa Jerez: “We were amazed by the depth of knowledge that each of the participants had of the wineries, of all the aspects involved in food and wine pairing, and also about the current trends in gastronomy and how to match them well with Sherry Wines.”

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