Jan Konetzki from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was last night crowned winner of the Moët UK Sommelier of the Year 2012 competition in a closely contested final at the London International Wine Fair at ExCel.
German-born Konetzki fended off tough competition from runners-up Laurent Richet of Restaurant Sat Bains and Clement Robert from Medlar Restaurant. The 31-year-old became head sommelier at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey 18 months ago.
“It’s very exciting - I’m delighted to have won,” said Konetzki. “I really enjoyed the competition today, there was a real feeling of camaraderie among all the sommeliers. It was tough, but it was also fun.”
Video of UK Sommelier of the Year Regional Final
In front of an audience of invited guests, the three top sommeliers, whittled down from 12 throughout the day, were set rigorous tasks designed to test their wine and drink knowledge, service skills and ability to manage staff and deal with customers under pressure.
In the 'restaurant scenario' the sommeliers were tested on their serving skills and their food and wine matching ability. The extremely demanding customers in the scenario were made up of eight previous winners of the competition. The finalists were also asked to correct errors on a wine list, complete a blind drinks tasting and finally the infamous perfect Champagne pour, in which a magnum of Moët & Chandon Champagne was poured equally into 16 glasses, without returning to any of them.
Chairman of judges Gerard Basset added: “It was a fantastic final against three really top class sommeliers and the marks were very close. But Jan completed the tasks with true panache and demonstrated a real talent and considerable knowledge in all aspects of being a sommelier.”
Joe Rorke, on-trade account manager at Moët Hennessy UK and a former sommelier, was also on the judging panel. He said: “We were impressed with the level of knowledge and skill shown by all the finalists today. Moët & Chandon has been dedicated to and actively involved in sommelier education since 1989, so it’s fantastic to see that these young sommeliers are so enthusiastic about wine and about improving their level of knowledge.
"The drinks trade can be a fast-moving industry, and it is the job of a good sommelier to keep abreast of these changes while also remaining true to customers’ needs. Well done to Jan, Laurent and Clement for standing out against such strong competition.”
Last night's victory means Konetzki has now qualified for the European Sommelier of the Year competition, organised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale. As part of his prize, he will also visit Maison Moët & Chandon and have the chance to taste the Grand Vintage collection with Chef de Cave, Benoît Gouez.
He also received a sommeliers’ selection of glasses from Riedel, an engraved jeroboam of Moët & Chandon Champagne and a jeroboam of Coyam 2009 from Emiliana Wines, with an all-expenses paid trip to their vineyards and winery in Chile.
The regional finals took place on 30 April 2012 at five locations – Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol, Tunbridge Wells and London. Entrants undertook a written paper, a blind tasting and an oral service task. The three highest scoring entries then completed two practical service elements and an oral food and wine matching sessions.
The five regional winners and the four highest scoring candidates then competed in yesterday’s final, along with the previous year’s runners-up and the winner of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs junior sommelier competition.
The 12 finalists for the AFWS Moët UK Sommelier of the Year competition were:
- Loic Avril, The Fat Duck
- Arnaud Bardary, Maze Gordon Ramsay
- Tobias Brauweiler, Ellenborough Park
- Remi Cousin, The Fat Duck
- Sergio Dos Santos, Atlantic Hotel
- Bavand Foroughi, Savoy Grill
- Lukasz Kolodziejczyk, The Fat Duck
- Jan Konetzki, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
- Katherine Larsen, Orrery
- Stephen Raducki, Hotel du Vin
- Laurent Richet, Restaurant Sat Bains
- Clement Robert, Medlar Restaurant
The Sommelier of the Year competition is organised by the Academy of Food and Wine Service and has been running since 1980. Past winners include some of the UK’s best known sommeliers including Gerard Basset, Ronan Sayburn, Alan Holmes, Matt Wilkin, Gearoid Devaney and Laura Rhys.
For more information, visit www.sommelieroftheyear.co.uk .