Alex Freguin, head sommelier at Moor Hall in Ormskirk, West Lancashire, has claimed the Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2018 title.
‘I feel tired but so happy. We all work hard and know how tough it is, but this is incredible’, said Freguin.
With the final taking place at the Savoy Hotel, Freguin had to beat off rivals Tamas Czinki, head sommelier at Northcote in Lancashire, and Pierre Brunelli, the beverage and wine manager at L’Enclume in Cartmel, who placed second and third respectively in a close-fought final.
‘I was in the final with two other great sommeliers and we all had the chance to train together as we all work in businesses in the north, so it was special to be in the final with them. There is a real family relationship between us, which I hope we can maintain,’ he said.
12 sommeliers made it from regional heats all over Britain began the finals in London. From there, and after a series of tasks, they were whittled down to three, who completed the final tasks in front of a live audience.
The 2018 finalists were:
Melania Battiston, head sommelier, 28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen
Markus Berlinghof, head sommelier, The Clove Club
Daniele Di Blassio, sommelier, Trishna Restaurants
Pierre Brunelli, beverage manager, L’Enclume
Tamas Czinki, head sommelier, Northcote
Gareth Ferreira, head sommelier, Core by Clare Smyth
Alex Freguin, head sommelier, Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms
Mikael Grou, assistant head sommelier, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Martin Jezek, senior sommelier, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Rudy Lemetayer, sommelier, Summer Lodge
Paul Robineau, sommelier, The Fat Duck
Julia Sewell, sommelier
The three-hour competition was judged by a panel comprised of Nicolas Clerc, Ronan Sayburn and Xavier Rousset and chaired by Gerard Basset MW, winner of the 2010 Best Sommelier in the World competition.
Freguin and his competitors were required to identify errors on a wine list, undergo blind taste tests of wines and spirits, serve tables of former winners in a restaurant role-play situation, and finally had to pour a magnum of champagne into 20 glasses.
With his win, Freguin will gain access to a mentoring programme and an all-expenses-paid educational trip to Rioja provided by Matthew Clark, along with a Jereboam of Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rosé and a Riedel decanter. He will also go on the finalist’s trip to Taittinger in the autumn.
‘Today’s final was a closely fought race, with the standard of competition impressively high. Alex showed superb composure under pressure to take the title, but all the finalists deserve credit for the commitment and excellence they have shown,’ said Kevin McKee, UK director for Family Taittinger.