After whittling 100 sommeliers down to just 12, the stage was set for the final of the Moët UK Sommelier of the Year 2017 at The Savoy’s Lancaster Ballroom.
In front of hundreds of ‘champions of industry’, ‘the great and the good’ and ‘rising stars’, The Caterer’s Mark Lewis announced the 12 semi finalists who had competed in a gruelling morning of tasks. From those, only three made it through to the afternoon’s most daunting challenges.
Ultimately, victory was Five Fields head sommelier Mathias Camilleri’s, with Core by Clare Smyth’s head sommelier Gareth Ferreira a close second and Fat Duck sommelier, Julia Sewell in third.
But, it was by no means an easy road to victory for Camilleri, who had to wow the judges and hold his nerve in front of the crowd.
The three contestants took it in turns to appear on stage and identify errors on wine lists, blind taste wines and spirits, and serve a difficult table in two restaurant scenarios. Each then left the stage and returned for the second round in which they had to pour a magnum, and recommend wines from different countries for a tasting menu. All rounds were timed.
The third and final round saw the three contestants on stage together, answering questions in a Mastermind-esque showdown, and pour a magnum of Moët into 20 glasses in six minutes.
Camilleri, Ferreira and Sewell all shone in different rounds as they displayed different approaches to the tasks and service. There was very little in it when the judges sat down to deliberate.
‘This has been a very international final,’ said Gerard Basset MW OBE, judging panel chair and winner of the 2010 Best Sommelier in the World competition. ‘Blind tasting is hard at the best of times but doing it on front of such an esteemed audience is terrifying.’
Basset, who compared many of the tasks, commended the finalists on their individual skill throughout the three-hour final and was impressed by the self-assured and confident performances displayed by each.
Camilleri was always well within time and had a natural rapport with the restaurant guests. He was methodical in the blind tastings and held his nerves throughout.
His prize? A rest, one would hope, and receiving mentoring, an all-expenses-paid educational trip to one of Europe’s top vineyards provided by Matthew Clark, and a Coravin wine preservation system.
Moët UK Sommelier of the Year is in its 38th year and has been organised by The Caterer and sponsored by Moët & Chandon Champagne.
Full list of finalists below:
• Serdar Balkaya, head sommelier, the Royal Automobile Club, London
• Romain Bourger, head sommelier, the Vineyard, Stockcross, Berkshire
• Mathias Camilleri, head sommelier, Five Fields, Chelsea, London
• Tamas Czinki, head sommelier, Northcote, Langho, Lancashire
• Gareth Ferreira, head sommelier, Core by Clare Smyth, London
• Olivier Frayssinet, assistant head sommelier, La Trompette, London
• Alexandre Freguin, head sommelier, Moor Hall, Aughton, Lancashire
• Corin Ireland, assistant sommelier, Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
• Rudy Le Metayer, sommelier, Summer Lodge, Evershot, Dorset
• Chris Parker, assistant head sommelier, Lime Wood, Hampshire
• Julia Sewell, sommelier, the Fat Duck, Bray, Berkshire
• Pierre-Marie Raure, head sommelier, the Lanesborough, London