THE Academy of Food & Wine has announced that the UK Sommelier of the Year 2008 is Gearoid Devaney from Tom Aikens restaurant.
Devaney beat off competition from Isa Bal of The Fat Duck, and Cyril Thevenet from the Hotel du Vin group in the final.
The competition, in its 28th year, had more than 100 sommeliers enter. They were then whittled down to 70 following a written paper test, with five regional finals deciding the semi-finalists.
The finals last night were held at The Royal Society of Medicine in London, and the sommeliers went through role playing scenarios, blind tasting and other tests, culminating in the challenge of pouring a magnum of champagne equally into 16 glasses without going back to any.
Chief judge Gerard Bassett MW, MS, said “The competition involves the best sommeliers in the country. Standards are improving all the time as restaurants are putting more emphasis on wines and the sommeliers are expected to know far more than they ever did.
“Now any wine list includes wines from anywhere in the world - there are now a lot more countries making wines with many more producers.”
Judge Matt Wilkin MS, director of the Academy of Food & Wine said: "The skill of the sommelier is often overlooked but these winners will now go on to become role models for young people to pursue careers in front-of-house service."