The 12 sommeliers who will be taking part in the finals of the Moët UK Sommelier of the Year Competition 2016 have been named.
Organised by the Academy of Food & Wine Service (AFWS) and The Caterer, the awards test the UK's sommelier talent regionally, before inviting a dozen exceptional candidates to a final day of competition.
The winners of the five regional heats held in Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, and London earlier this week will be joined by the next five highest-scoring candidates from all heats, as well as the competition's 2015 runner-up, Maze head sommelier Arnaud Baudry, and the winner of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Young Sommelier Competition.
The finalists are:
- Serdar Balkaya, head sommelier, Royal Automobile Club
- Ladislav Basta, head sommelier, The Kitchin
- Mathias Camilleri, head sommelier, The Five Fields Restaurant
- Tamas Czinki, head sommelier, Northcote
- Remi Fischer, head sommelier, Old Course Hotel
- Terry Kandylis, head sommelier, 67 Pall Mall
- Jess Kildetoft, head sommelier, Mash London
- Olivier Marie, head sommelier, Coq d'Argent
- Christopher Parker, assistant head sommelier, Lime Wood
- Petri Pentikainen, sommelier & assistant restaurant manager, The Three Chimneys Restaurant
- Niels Sluiman, assistant head sommelier, Restaurant Sat Bains
- Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Young Sommelier Competition winner (to be announced 18 March)
All 12 will be attending an educational trip to Epernay courtesy of Moet & Chandon for an in-depth tour and technical tasting. As well as learning from the celebrated Champagne house's winemakers, they will complete a task for the final too, which will be help on 16 May at The Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park.
At the final the sommeliers will complete three tests, before being reduced to six. After more assessments, the six will be whittled down to three, who will compete in the grand final that afternoon in front of an audience of invited guests and a judging panel chaired by Gerard Basset OBE, MW, MS, winner of the 2010 Best Sommelier in the World competition and the recipient of the inaugural Wine and Spirit Ambassador Award at the 2014 Cateys.
Academy of Food & Wine Service executive director Suzanne Weeks said: "This week's regional finals once again demonstrated the skills, depth of knowledge and passion for wine that Sommeliers in the UK possess. The rounds were tough and tested their knowledge, it will prove to be an exciting final on the 16 May in London where they will battle it out for this year title."
Chair of the judges Gerard Basset added: "The regional finals of the UK Sommelier of the Year 2016 have provided us with some great winners and runners up from what were truly highly disputed competitions. That augurs well for the grand Final on the 16 of May."
The winner will benefit from mentoring programme and an all-expenses-paid educational trip to one of Europe's top vineyards provided by Matthew Clark. Prizes also include an engraved Riedel decanter and a collection of Riedel glasses.
Julie Nollet, marketing and communication director, Moët Hennessy UK, said: "Our four years of working with AFWS for this competition has shown us that the UK has some of the highest standards of sommellerie of anywhere in the world. Our mission is to enhance the learnings and experience that every entrant - no matter which stage of the competition they reach - takes away with them, and we're very pleased to be able to do this again for the fifth year."
The Moët UK Sommelier of the Year 2016 is also supported by AdVini, BaxterStorey, Hildon, Matthew Clark and Winterhalter.
Now in their 37th year, the awards are run by the Academy of the Food and Wine Service (AFWS) and The Caterer, and is internationally recognised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). They seek to find the best wine waiter or sommelier based on wine and spirits knowledge, and front of house beverage skills.