Eric Zwiebel: England now one of the best places in the world to be a sommelier

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wine, England, Restaurant

Eric Zwiebel from the Summer Lodge hotel in Dorset has won a competition to represent the UK at the prestigious ASI World Sommelier contest being held in Japan next year
Eric Zwiebel from the Summer Lodge hotel in Dorset has won a competition to represent the UK at the prestigious ASI World Sommelier contest being held in Japan next year
Eric Zwiebel from the Summer Lodge hotel in Dorset has been chosen to represent the UK at the ASI World Sommelier contest and has said this country is now one of the best places in the world to work as a sommelier.

Earlier this week Zwiebel won a competition organised by the Academy of Food & Wine Service (AFWS) held at Gerard Basset's Hotel TerraVina to choose the UK representative for the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) contest.

The triennial competition aims to award the world's best sommelier and next takes place in Tokyo in 2013.

Basset, who himself represented the UK a number of times in the ASI final​ before winning in 2010, was one of the panel of judges who decided Zwiebel was the best candidate after a written paper, a blind tasting, a skills test and an error test.

Zwiebel beat two former UK Sommeliers of the Year as well as the current holder of the title, Jan Konetzki of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay​.

Rule change

Speaking to BigHospitality, Zwiebel revealed he had previously been a finalist in the competition representing France in 2007. 

"I am going to try everything that is possible to win. I can do it," he said

The rules of the ASI contest have recently been changed meaning contestants no longer have to have won the national title of the country they represent but must have worked for the last three years in the country they are competing for.

England

It is regularly argued by some in the industry that there are not enough British-born sommeliers​. "In England it is very difficult to find staff who are English. They don't think hospitality is something nice to do. With time this will change," Zwiebel said.

He argued developments in catering colleges and the ability for students to specialise in wine would change the situation and help British students compete with foreigners who come to the country with the required tools already.

"I was honoured to take part in the contest for France but I am even more honoured to take part for England. Not because I try to be English but because English hospitality is great. If you are good at what you are doing people believe more in you than they do in France. It is why some of us are so successful here.

"About 15 years ago the French were arrogant and thought the country was not great for sommeliers. Now a lot of places like Pied a Terre and Square are all run well and the range of sommeliers is extremely powerful," he concluded.

Eric Swiebel's Top Five tips for aspiring sommeliers:

  1. Modesty
  2. Research - "You need to read and follow all the updates on the industry."
  3. Travel 
  4. Food - "It is important to work in a nice environment where the food helps you respond to the restaurant guest's needs."
  5. Perseverance

Related topics: Events & Awards, People, Restaurants, Hotels

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