Entries for the Moët UK Sommelier of the Year 2014 have now opened, as the Academy of Food & Wine Service launches the 35th year of the competition.
Wine waiters and sommeliers from all sectors of the industry are encouraged to enter the competition, which will see sponsor Moët take all 12 semi-finalists to its cellars in Epernay for an in-depth tour and tasting of past vintages with chef de cave Benoît Gouez.
"Entering this competition is more about the experience and learning opportunity than about getting through to the final," said AFWS executive director John Croft.
"Many of our competitors come back year after year, getting a little further each time. Without fail, they all say it is an enjoyable experience as well as a valuable part of their professional development and training."
Moët marketing director Elsa Corbineau said: "Education and networking are key to the competition, and also something that we value very highly at Moët & Chandon. We take our role as partner very seriously, and believe that we can enhance the learning and experience that every entrant - no matter how far they get - takes away with them."
Entrants have to complete an initial entry form after which they will be sent a first round questionnaire. Those scoring the highest on the questionnaire will be invited to one of five regional finals, being held in Bristol, Edinburgh, Stafford, Tunbridge Wells and London on 6 May 2014.
From the regional finals, 12 people will be selected for the London semi-final on 12 June. Following a morning of tasks, the semi-finalists will eventually be whittled down to just three sommeliers who will contest the title. The final will be held the same day in front of an invited audience of industry guests with the name of the winner and runner-up announced at a Champagne reception afterwards.
Competitors will be tested on their wine and drink expertise, service skills and glassware knowledge in tasks that include a blind tasting, spotting errors on a wine list, a restaurant role-play scenario and, in the final, the Champagne pour.
As well as various educational trips for the winner and runner-up, all six finalists will be given a 12-month complimentary membership of The Wine Guild of the United Kingdom, including an invitation to its annual winter banquet held at Vintners' Hall in London, the historic home of the UK's wine trade.
The Academy of Food & Wine Service is affiliated to Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) with the Moët UK Sommelier of the Year competition forming part of the UK selection process for the ASI's Best Sommelier of the World and Best Sommelier of Europe competitions.