The Academy of Food and Wine Service has revealed the 16 finalists of the Champagne Piper-Heidsieck UK Sommelier of the Year competition, including three from Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck.
This year's judges include wine writer Nick Lander, TerraVina owner and award-winning sommelier Gerard Basset MS, MW, and Matt Wilkin MS, proprietor of H2Vin.
The announcement follows four regional heats that took place this week in London, Tunbridge Wells, Bristol and Manchester.
The finalists are:
Wiremu Andrews Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Cheltenham Loic Avril the Fat Duck, Bray Arnaud Bardary Maze, London Tobias Brauweiler Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham Remi Cousin, the Fat Duck Bray Sergio Dos Santos Atlantic Hotel, Jersey Bavand Foroughi Claridge's, London Michael Jenni L'Autre Pied, London Yohann Jousselin the Vineyard at Stockcross, Newbury Lukasz Kolodziejczyk the Fat Duck, Bray Kathrine Larsen Le Pont de la Tour, London Philippe Moranges Hakkasan, London Adam Pawlowski Northcote, Blackburn Mark Perlaki Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Harrogate Stephen Raducki Lime Wood, Lyndhurst Clement Robert Summer Lodge, Evershot
The sommeliers will now compete in the final at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower, London, on 1 June. Their tasks will include a blind tasting, a food and wine matching exercise and a detailed questionnaire testing their wine knowledge.
The three top finalists will then compete in front of a live audience with another blind tasting, a wine-list correcting exercise, a role-playing scenario and the infamous Champagne pour. The winning sommelier will be announced at the Sommeliers' Dinner the same evening.
Academy chairman Nick Scade said: "This year's finalists includes some familiar names but we've also got some exciting new sommeliers coming to the fore, such as Adam Pawlowski from Northcote, Arnaud Bardary from Maze and Loic Avril from the Fat Duck.
"With such a high calibre of sommeliers getting through to the final, including three from the Fat Duck, we are likely to see one of the most exciting finals in the competition's 32-year history."
Last year's Champagne Piper-Heidsieck UK Sommelier of the Year was Christopher Delalonde, from London-based wine sourcing service Sarment Wines. Delalonde was praised for his extensive wine knowledge and excellent service skills.
The competition, now in its 32nd year, is open to professional sommeliers and waiting staff working in the UK. All entrants achieving 75% on an initial written questionnaire were selected to go through to one of four regional finals. The 16 finalists, the top-scoring sommeliers from the regionals, include last year's runner-up, Yohann Jousselin.
The 2011 UK Sommelier of the Year will be awarded with a trophy and a trip to the House of Champagne Piper-Heidsieck in the Champagne region of France.
At the dinner the winner of the Academy's UK Amateur Sommelier of the Year, being held in association with Decanter.com, will also be announced.
By Gemma Rowbotham
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