Wine waiters of the world gathered in Tokyo on Wednesday for a competition to find the planet's best sommelier.
Entrants from 54 countries began three days of events designed to test their skills as they marry wines to foods and serve demanding consumers, with all of them having to work in a foreign language.
"A good sommelier not only has to have good knowledge of wine, but he also needs to be able to put customers at ease and know what to do to let them enjoy the food," explained Serge Dubs, chairman of the jury and a former champion.
Contestants from Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Sweden are among those competing for an award won last in 2010 by Britain's Gerard Basset, when the contest was held in Chile.
"A sommelier has to be a very good communicator, he has to know what his clients want and how to make them remember their experience at the restaurant," Basset told AFP on Tuesday.
"The sommelier should also be a good cellar manager and act as an ambassador for producers, constituting a kind of link between the growers and consumers," he said.
Candidates will be selected in two preliminary rounds on Wednesday and Thursday, before a final among the top three on Friday in front of some 5,000 spectators.
Contestants will undergo a series of written and oral examinations that test their ability to recognise and describe wines, their skills in matching food and drink and the quality of their service in a foreign language.
The contest, which began in 1969, is being held for the 14th time.