Isa Bal, head sommelier of Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck in Bray was today announced as the winner of the Academy of Food & Wine's Dom Perignon Award for Excellence.
The award is the third accolade for Isa this year. In May, he became the Best Sommelier in Europe, while the previous month he was announced as the runner-up in the Academy's own UK Sommelier of the Year competition.
Roy Ackerman, the Academy's president, said: "Over the past year Isa has shown complete dedication to the role of sommelier. His commitment is an example we hope others will follow in the future."
The Academy's annual awards, launched in 1988, recognise and reward those individuals, companies and colleges the Academy believes are doing the most to raise the profile and improve the standard and skills of front-of-house as a profession.
Ackerman said the awards are important as front-of-house service is often overlooked.
"So often in the industry it's chefs that gain the recognition, but we must remember that front-of-house staff are responsible for looking after our customers in the most direct way," he said.
Other award winners were:
Company of the Year Award (Sponsored by the Academy of Food & Wine)
- Jumeirah Hotel Group, Dubai
College of the Year Award (Sponsored by Aramark)
- Bournemouth & Poole College, Poole, Dorset
The Savoy Educational Trust Sommelier Scholarship 2008 (Sponsored by The Savoy Educational Trust and Prosecco (Eviva) )
- Jade Koch, sommelier, Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britain, London SW1
The Philip Thornton Award (Sponsored by The Savoy Educational Trust )
- Lucy Rhyddid, a candidate from Coleg Powys, nominated by City & Guilds
The Wines of Germany Travel Award (Sponsored by Wines of Germany)
- Anja Gottwald, sommelier, Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, Dornoch
The New Zealand Wine Travel Bursary (Sponsored by New Zealand Winegrowers)
- Jackson Watson, sommelier, Chez Bruce, London SW17
Matthew Clark California Travel Award (Sponsored by Matthew Clark)
- Agustin Trapero, Macdonald Randolph Hotel, Oxford
Honorary Fellowships for 2008
- Michael Druitt, non-executive chairman, Michael Druitt Vintners
- Daniel Pecorelli, managing director, Exclusive Hotels
- Ken Wilkins, brand ambassador, Champagne G.H. Mumm
By Daniel Thomas