Romain Bourger has been named the Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2019.
Having excelled in the live tasks in front of an audience of wine industry leaders, the Vineyard at Stockcross, near Newbury. head sommelier won, having beaten Gareth Ferreira and Alan Bednarski in a closely fought final at the Savoy hotel in London today.
Ferreira, head sommelier at Core by Clare Smyth in London’s Notting Hill, placed second, while Texture in London’s head sommelier Bednarski was third in the competition, organised by The Caterer in partnership with the Academy of Food and Wine Service and sponsored by Taittinger.
Speaking after his win, Bourger said: “I’ve competed six times, so patience is a virtue. I had a great time on stage today.
“I stressed quite a bit but just kept it inside. I thought I was consistent throughout the day and am delighted to have come out on top.”
Having come through regional heats in April, 15 sommeliers began the finals day at the Savoy London. They took on a series of tasks before being whittled down to three, who completed the final tasks in front of a live audience.
As part of the live element of the competition, the finalists were required to identify errors on a wine list, undergo blind taste tests of wines and spirits, serve at a bar and in a restaurant scenario, and finally to evenly divide a magnum of Taittinger between 19 glasses.
After each sommelier had demonstrated their skill and knowledge under significant pressure, the panel of judges, including president of the Academy of Food and Wine Service Nicolas Clerc, Ronan Sayburn and Xavier Rousset – all former winners of the competition – chose Bourger as the overall winner.
Kevin McKee, UK director at Family Taittinger, said: “Taittinger is proud to be the headline sponsor of this prestigious competition for the second time this year. Being here at the final you can see why the competition is held in such high regard. This year’s competition has been particularly exciting, with 15 finalists taking part rather than the normal 12. The standard was so high in the regional finals that the decision was made to extend the number this year, making it even more closely fought than ever.
“Today’s final was a perfect example of the incredibly high standard of sommeliers working in the UK; the competition was very close and all of the finalists showed superb composure under the pressure to take the title.
“A big congratulations to Romain and, in fact, to all the finalists, who all deserve credit for the commitment and excellence they have shown.
“We are looking forward to hosting all today’s finalists at Taittinger later this year to celebrate their success.”
The Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2019 is run in partnership with the Academy of Food & Wine Service and sponsored by Berkmann Wine Cellars, Meiko, Nordaq, Rémy Martin, UCC Coffee and WSET.
The UK Sommelier of the Year competition has been running since 1980 and in that time has recognised the UK’s best-known and most lauded sommeliers, including Gerard Basset, Ronan Sayburn, Gearoid Devaney and Xavier Rousset.
Now in their 40th year, the awards are recognised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). They seek to find the best wine waiter or sommelier based on wine and spirits knowledge, and front of house beverage skills.
The 2019 finalists
Vincenzo Arnese, head sommelier and wine buyer, Dinner by Heston, London
Alan Bednarski, head sommelier, Texture, London
Romain Bourger, head sommelier, the Vineyard, Stockcross
Pierre Brunelli, operations manager, L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
Emmanuel Cadieu, deputy head sommelier, 67 Pall Mall, London
Charles Carron, assistant head sommelier, Brown, L’Enclume, Cartmel, Cumbria
Rupert Crick, junior assistant head sommelier, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Tamas Czinki, head sommelier, Northcote, Langho, Lancashire
Paul Fauvel, head sommelier, the Lanesborough, London
Gareth Ferreira, head sommelier, Core by Clare Smyth, London
Tony Lecuroux, sommelier, Moor Hall, Aughton, Lancashire
Matteo Montone, director of wine, Berners Tavern, London
Christopher Parker, head sommelier, Lime Wood, Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Paul Robineau, sommelier, Moor Hall, Aughton, Lancashire
Toru Takamatsu, assistant wine manager, Hide, London