Clement Robert, head sommelier at Medlar Restaurant, London, has been crowned the Moët UK Sommelier of the Year 2013.
Speaking to Caterer and Hotelkeeper, Robert said: "I felt a great sense of relief. It was my third time on that stage and the last two times I heard someone else's name being called out. When I heard my name this time I had a great sense of pride and happiness."
Robert, originally from Normandy, France, added that he was proud to be joining the great list of past winners. "When I first came to the country seven years ago I looked up to the likes of Gearoid Devaney and Nicolas Clerc and thought it was a mountain to climb to achieve what they achieved. But now I can say I am a little closer to them, which is a great honour."
Robert beat 15 other finalists to a place in the grand final alongside head sommelier at the Ritz, Tobias Brauweiler and Kathrine Larsen of Zuma, who came second and third respectively. Larson was also awarded the Young Sommelier of the Year prize for the youngest competitor to go the furthest in the competition.
In front of a live audience, the three top sommeliers undertook a blind tasting, completed a task involving correcting errors on a wine list and a food and wine matching exercise and executed the perfect Champagne service in which a magnum of MoÁ«t & Chandon Rosé Champagne had to bepoured equally into 16 glasses, without returning to any of them, in seven minutes.
Gerard Basset, chief judge and technical director of the AFWS and owner of Hotel TerraVina, Hampshire, said: "The competition this year was incredibly close, but Clement's Champagne pour won it for him. It was a confident performance from a very knowledgeable, competent sommelier who set a high standard all round."
Now in its 34th year, the MoÁ«t UK Sommelier of the Year competition seeks to find the best wine waiter or sommelier based on wine and drink expertise, ability to deal with customers, and front of house service skills.
Clement won a unique trip to Maison MoÁ«t & Chandon to taste the Grand Vintage collections with chef de cave BenoÁ®t Gouez and a hand-crafted and engraved silver Jeroboam of MoÁ«t & Chandon. He also received a stunning Riedel Tyrol Decanter, a collection of Riedel Vinum glasses and a Magnum of 2009 Domaine Boutinot La Côte Sauvage Cairanne. He will also have the opportunity to stay as a guest of Domaine Boutinot at their vineyard in the Southern Rhône valley during the 2013 harvest.
The two runners-up received an engraved magnum of MoÁ«t & Chandon Imperial NV, an engraved Riedel O Decanter with Vinum glasses and a finalist certificate.
The six semi-finalists were 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 2013 FINALISTS
Loic Avril, The Fat Duck, Bray
Romain Bourger, The Vineyard at Stockcross, Newbury
Tobias Brauweiler, The Ritz, London
Remi Fischer, Gleneagles, Perthshire
Michael Jenni, Launceston Place, London
Lukasz Kolodziejckyk, The Fat Duck, Bray
Kathrine Larson, Zuma, London
Olivier Marie, Coq d'Argent, London
Tanguy Martin, Hotel TerraVina, Hampshire
Stefan Neumann, The Fat Duck, Berkshire
Marcin Oziebly, Albert Square Chop House, Manchester
Mark Perlaki, Hotel du Vin, Harrogate
Laurent Richet, Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
Clement Robert, Medlar Restaurant, London
Stuart Skea, 21212 Restaurant, Edinburgh