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The prestigious Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (CMB) wine competition kicked off in Slovakia on Friday, making it the first Central European country to host one of the world's top five wine contests.
The talents of 305 connoisseurs will be tested by 8,168 wines from 50 countries during the three-day event in this quaint capital.
An EU member since 2004, Slovakia is pinning its own hopes on 214 domestic wines that are quickly earning a global reputation.
At a recent Viniales Internationales Paris competition, Slovak wines won nine gold and 38 silver medals, outperforming France itself in addition to varieties from neighbouring countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
During its nearly twenty-year history, the Belgium-based CMB has been hosted by seven western European nations.
"It was more than normal that we eventually moved to the central Europe," CMB chief Thomas Costenoble told AFP at the launch of the event Friday.
"It's an opportunity for jury members to discover new grape varieties they didn't know in traditional countries," he said.
"We have more than 200 wine samples from Slovakia, up from last year's less than 100 samples. I'm sure a lot of them will reach the medal level," he added.
Winners of this year's CMB are to be announced on May 16.