Find out more about the world-renowned names that make up the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards judging line-up in this Q&A series.
Isa Bal MS is the DWWA 2014’s Regional Chair for Southern and Eastern Mediterreanen (including Turkey). He has been head sommelier at Heston Blumenthal’s three Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck for the past eight years and studied hospitality in his native Turkey. Bal was awarded the title of Best Sommelier of Europe in 2008 and last year he represented Turkey in the Best Sommelier of the World competition in Tokyo.
Read our interview with Isa Bal MS below…
☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why?
I was born in 1971 and I think I’m happy with that. There were great Burgundies, Piedmont reds, and wines from Alsace and Germany.
☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it?
I only started being interested in wine when I was 28, and I think one wine that really got me excited was a 1969 Chambertin by Armand Rousseau. It had an ullage of about 10cm but the wine in it was sublime.
☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar and what is your most recent addition?
I don’t know how many bottles I have in my cellar. I recently bought some 2012 Burgundies but it will be a while before I see those bottles.
☆ How many years have you been working in the wine industry and what was your first job?
I have been in wine industry since 2000 (14 years) and my first job was as a commis sommelier at The Vineyard at Stockcross, which I believe is one of the best wine destinations in the UK.
☆ Which vintage and region do you wish you’d bought a whole case of wine from?
I just wish I’d bought more 2002 Burgundies.
☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
It is a close one between Pinot Noir and Syrah.
☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why?
I think Spain is starting to make some very interesting whites at the moment. Turkey made huge strides in their search for quality too.
☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)?
I have learnt from many great people: Edoardo Amadi gave me the opportunity to work with wine; people like Gerard Basset, and many more.
☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment?
Currently we have a duck dish with umbles and black pudding, which is a very wine-friendly dish – most Pinot works very well with it but the 2005 Monthélie 1er Cru, Les Duresses by Domaine des Comtes Lafon is something else.
☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?
This is a tough one. I would ask someone to choose it for me and I would drink it with… that is also difficult to say, but probably with our small wine lovers group in Izmir, Turkey.
☆ What’s the highest number of wines you’d had on one of your wine lists?
☆ What is the oldest bottle of wine you’ve served?
1895 Chateau d’Yquem.
☆ What do you enjoy most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
I enjoy the excitement of finding a wine that really deserves recognition, and sharing this with fellow judges. Also, it has now become an annual meeting point for many people in the wine world.
For more information on this year’s competition, including how to enter, visit the Decanter World Wine Awards website
Written by Decanter