Fat Duck sommelier voted best in Europe

21 May 2008 by
Fat Duck sommelier voted best in Europe

Isa Bal, head sommelier at the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, has been named the winner of this year's Best Sommelier of Europe competition.

Now in its 11th year, the biennial event, which took place in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital city, earlier this week, is organised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI).

Isa, who came second in the Academy of Food & Wine's UK Sommelier of the Year competition last month, beat 30 sommeliers from 30 European countries including Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, France, Norway, Finland, Portugal, Turkey and Sweden.

Paolo Basso of Switzerland came second, while Eric Zweibel from the Summer Lodge Country House Hotel in Evershot, Dorset, came third.

Sophie Roberts-Brown of the Academy of Food & Wine said: "All the sommeliers competing were of an extremely high standard. The fact we had two UK-based winners placed first and third just shows that British restaurants are now attracting and training the highest calibre of staff."

The Best Sommelier of Europe competition aims to test sommeliers' knowledge and skills beyond merely serving wine. Competitors must display an innate ability to deal with customers, show an understanding of purchase and stock management, and have a good knowledge of marketing.

The three finalists were asked to complete a series of tests including decanting red wine, serving Champagne and tasting and characterising two white and two red wines and giving food recommendations for them.

They were also asked to suggest appropriate beverages for a menu presented by the jury, recognise hard alcohols in dark-coloured glasses, and complete a cigar serving.

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By Kerstin Kühn

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