Cateys 2021: Wine and Spirit Ambassador Award: Eric Zwiebel, Summer Lodge Country House

08 September 2021
Cateys 2021: Wine and Spirit Ambassador Award: Eric Zwiebel, Summer Lodge Country House

Sponsored by Matthew Clark

Having grown up in the restaurant industry in Alsace, Eric Zwiebel intended to be a maître d', but his love of wine took him on an altogether different journey. His chef father told him that to be a good maître d' you need to really know the wines, and after meeting award-winning sommelier Serge Dubs, Zwiebel knew he wanted to make wine his full-time profession.

After finishing restaurant school, he worked at a number of prestigious French establishments for the next six years, including three-Michelin-starred Auberge de l'Ill and Pavillon Élysée Lenôtre. Under the wing of the late Gerard Basset, co-owner of Hotel TerraVina in Hampshire, Zwiebel carved his talent to become a world-renowned sommelier and wine expert. He is now cellar master at Summer Lodge Country House hotel, where he has spent the past 16 years compiling a world-class wine list and building up a carefully curated cellar of around 1,600 wines.

A master sommelier with an impressive number of awards and competition wins under his belt, his reputation attracts guests to the hotel who specifically wish to meet him and experience his expertise first-hand. While he loves Old World wines, his passion for new grape varieties and regions means he is on a constant quest for fantastic new wines.

During the pandemic, he created a virtual "sommelier's choice" experience for guests, offering private wine consultations along with the opportunity, for the very first time, for the 1,600 wines in Summer Lodge's exceptional cellar to be delivered to guests' home. It created an essential revenue channel for the hotel during this difficult period for the industry.

Always ready to talk to guests and share his expertise with colleagues and the wider hospitality industry, Zwiebel has also devoted time to training and developing young talent. He has mentored individuals to become master sommeliers and succeed in their own competitions including the likes of Nicolas Clerc, Clement Robert and Benjamin Wolf. Multiple lockdowns didn't stop him, as he took the time to train students online from introduction to wine certifications to advanced and diploma-level master sommelier qualifications.

What the judges said

"Eric ticks all the boxes for this award; his selfless giving of his time to aspiring sommeliers is an example to all. The roster of Sommelier of the Year winners and the master sommeliers he has mentored make him a great role model." - Andrew McKenzie

"Eric understands that it is his responsibility, alongside other members of the sommelier community, to ensure the success of our future generations and their careers within this challenging industry." - Rachel Webster

The shortlist

  • Grant Ashton, 67 Pall Mall, London
  • Jan Konetzki, Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square
  • Eric Zwiebel, Summer Lodge Country House, Dorchester

The judges

  • Nicolas Clerc, president, Academy of Food & Wine Service
  • Kevin McKee, Family Taittinger – UK director, Champagne Taittinger
  • Andrew McKenzie, managing director, the Vineyard
  • Xavier Rousset, owner, Blandford Comptoir
  • Ronan Sayburn, head of wines, 67 Pall Mall
  • Rachel Webster, managing director, WSET
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