Entries are now open for the Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2019, the awards that recognise the very finest talent in wine service.
Organised by The Caterer, in partnership with the Academy of Food and Wine Service, the competition is open to professional sommeliers and waiting staff working in the UK.
The Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year award is widely regarded as the premier accolade in UK wine service. Past winners number some of the industry’s leading lights when it comes to wine knowledge, including the late Gerard Basset, Ronan Sayburn and Xavier Rousset.
Candidates are judged on their wine and drink expertise as well as their ability to deal efficiently and knowledgeably with customers by demonstrating exemplary front of house skills.
Last year Alexandre Freguin from Moor Hall in Ormskirk, Lancashire, impressed the judges with his breadth of wine knowledge, confident performance and ability to control the stage under the significant pressure of the live final.
Entries are paper-based, before nationwide regional heats in Manchester, Bristol and London on 26 April. The closing date for entries is 11 March. Two sommeliers from each heat will progress to the finals day, which is held in front of a live audience at the Savoy hotel in London on 8 July.
All finalists will win a trip to Taittinger’s iconic cellar in Reims, while the final six will be given a year’s complimentary membership to the Wine Guild of the UK and will be invited to attend its Annual Winter Banquet at the Vintners Hall. The final three will also receive a free subscription to The Caterer.
Family Taittinger UK director Kevin McKee said: “Following last year’s successful launch as headline sponsor of the UK Sommelier of the Year competition, Champagne Taittinger is delighted to be supporting the best talent in the wine service industry once again in this stellar competition. It really sets the benchmark for the industry.
“At Taittinger we’re passionate about supporting the development of young professionals and promoting high standards of service among sommeliers. We wish all applicants the best of luck for 2018 and look forward to seeing who will win the ultimate crown and who will be joining us in the autumn on our unique trip to Taittinger for all the finalists.”
How to enter
To enter the UK Sommelier of the Year, go online and answer in no more than 200 words why you are a sommelier, what your greatest wine experience has been to date and what winning would mean to you. This needs to be accompanied by a CV and nomination from your current employer by midnight on 11 March 2019.
Those that are successful will be invited to regional heats taking place in Manchester, Bristol and London on 26 April 2019.
What last year’s sommelier finalists had to say
“Sommelier of the Year is a great personal challenge. The exposure is great and it gives you credibility. It’s also great for the industry to give consumers an idea of what a sommelier does.”
Alex Freguin, 2018 Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year
“The most important thing is to learn something from this, especially if you fail. If you fail, you get better next time. It’s a competition with yourself, really. For me, the tasting was a bit more challenging than I thought it would be, as were the snap questions, which you can’t really prepare for.”
Pierre Brunelli, beverage manager, L’Enclume, Cumbria
“I keep on doing it because I keep on getting better at it, and it becomes a bit like a drug in that respect. It makes you think outside the box. The trickiest part for me is being put on the spot and having to deal with it.”
Gareth Ferreira, head sommelier, Core by Clare Smyth, London
“It’s an amazing opportunity, from meeting different sommeliers to having that kind of experience under pressure. My hot tip? Do a bit of meditation beforehand – imagine yourself in the situation. When it comes to the restaurant scenario, then just imagine you are in your own restaurant, trying to make everyone happy.”
Tamas Czinki, head sommelier, Northcote, Lancashire
UK Sommelier of the Year hall of fame
2018 Alex Freguin
2017 Mathias Camilleri
2016 Terry Kandylis
2015 Tanguy Martin
2014 Kathrine Larsen
2013 Clement Robert
2012 Jan Konetzki
2011 Yohann Jousselin
2010 Christopher Delalonde
2009 Laura Rhys
2008 Gearoid Devaney
2007 Nicolas Clerc
2006 Claire Thevenot
2005 Matthew Wilkin
2004 Eric Zweibel
2003 Loic Maillet
2002 Xavier Rousset
2001 James Payne
2000 Matthieu Longuere
1999 Alan Holmes
1998 Ronan Sayburn
1997 Vincent Gasnier
1996 Franck Massard
1995 Henri Chapon
1994 Mark Walter
1993 Nicholas Mobbs
1992 Gerard Basset
1991 Michael Simms
1990 John Walker
1989 Gerard Basset
1988 Stephen Wilcock
1987 Simon Hopkinson
1986 Michael Varney
1985 David Hair
1984 Michael Simms
1983 Bryan Dawes
1982 Charles Piggin
1981 Claudia Harris
1980 June Schmidt-Lowe