Yohann Jousselin, head sommelier at the Vineyard at Stockcross in Newbury, Berkshire, has been crowned the 2011 Piper-Heidsieck UK Sommelier of the Year.
Organised by the Academy of Food and Wine Service (AFWS), Jousselin won the prestigious competition in his third attempt at the title, following a final held at London’s Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel. He placed second last year and third in 2009, the year he also won the UK’s Young Sommelier of the Year title.
“It’s quite a relief,” Jousselin said. “I wanted to get there and I felt on a high during the competition and quite relaxed throughout. It was a tough competition this year and although I felt I made a few mistakes, I am delighted to win.”
Jousselin beat an impressive line-up of 15 other sommeliers to a place in the grand final alongside two sommeliers from the Fat Duck in Bray. They were senior sommelier Loic Avril, who was awarded a prize for scoring the highest mark in the blind tasting, and the eventual runner-up Lukasz Kolodziejczyk, who was also awarded the Young Sommelier of the Year prize for the youngest competitor to get the furthest in the competition.
The three sommeliers each completed a restaurant role-play situation in which they were asked to recommend wines to match the customers’ food choice, invent a fish-based menu with accompanying wines and identify the vintages of four glasses of Armagnac. The finalists also had to demonstrate their diplomacy by dealing with a customer who thought she had shards of glass in her wine, but which were in fact tartrate crystals, the sediment that can occur in white wine.
The finalists went on to complete a blind tasting, correct mistakes on a wine list and execute the perfect Champagne pour in which a magnum of Champagne had to be poured equally into 16 flutes without returning to any of them.
Chief judge and AFWS technical director Gerard Basset MS, MW, said that this year’s competition had been particularly tough with some very challenging tasks. “Yohann’s experience won through on the day, he was the more complete sommelier – he has very good service skills and has that extra flair that the judges were looking for. The final three were all of a fantastic standard.”
The Champagne Piper-Heidsieck UK Sommelier of the Year competition seeks to find the best sommelier or wine waiter in the UK based on wine knowledge, customer service skills and tasting ability. The competition, now in its 32nd year has seen previous winners including Laura Rhys from Hotel TerraVina in Hampshire, Gearoid Devaney, then of Tom Aikens, London, and Nicolas Clerc of the Milestone Hotel, London.
This year’s finalists were:
Wiremu Andrews, Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Cheltenham
Loic Avril, The Fat Duck, Bray (third place)
Arnaud Bardary, Galvin at Windows, London
Tobias Brauweiler, Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham
Remi Cousin, The Fat Duck, Bray
Sergio Dos Santos, Atlantic Hotel, Jersey
Bavand Foroughi, Claridge’s, London
Michael Jenni, L’Autre Pied, London
Yohann Jousselin, The Vineyard at Stockcross, Newbury (winner)
Lukasz Kolodziejczyk, The Fat Duck, Bray (runner-up)
Kathrine Larsen, Le Pont de la Tour, London
Philippe Moranges, Hakkasan, London
Adam Pawlowski, Northcote, Blackburn
Mark Perlaki, Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Harrogate
Stephen Raducki, Lime Wood, Lyndhurst
Clement Robert, Medlar Restaurant, London
By Kerstin Kühn
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