Summer Lodge sommelier named fourth best in the world

By Peter Ruddick

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wine

Eric Zwiebel, sommelier at the Summer Lodge hotel in Dorset, has been named as the fourth best sommelier at a contest in Tokyo
Eric Zwiebel, sommelier at the Summer Lodge hotel in Dorset, has been named as the fourth best sommelier at a contest in Tokyo
Eric Zwiebel from the Summer Lodge hotel and spa in Dorset has been named as the fourth best sommelier in the world at the finals of the prestigious Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) contest held in Tokyo.

Zwiebel, who was chosen to represent the UK after winning a competition organised by the Academy of Food & Wine Service (AFWS) last July,​ successfully made it through the gruelling quarter-final and semi-final stages only to narrowly miss out on one of the three places up for grabs in the grand final.

Beating the Canadian and Belgian contestants, Switzerland's Paulo Basso, from the Conca Bella restaurant located near the Swiss/Italian border, was named the winner of the triennial competition which was held over three days last week at the Tokyo International Forum. 

Professionalism 

The Dorset-based sommelier competed against 53 of his peers in a series of increasingly tricky challenges and did very well to beat both the well-fancied French and Japanese candidates. Speaking to BigHospitality however, Zwiebel said he wished he had gone one stage further and made the final three.

"I am pleased about the position because it could have been worse but I would have loved to have done better," he admitted. "It was an open, difficult competition but I was upset I made small mistakes. I was a bit naive about the practical part because they put in things to try and make you lose control. 

"I made a mistake and it is still in my mind because my professionalism and my pride have been affected," the sommelier said. 

French-born Zwiebel represented his home country in the contest in 2007 but last year said he would be even prouder to represent the UK because 'English hospitality is so great'.​ He also said it was his belief that this country was now one of the best places in the world to be a sommelier, alongside France. 

Test

In the quarter-final, the sommeliers had to finish a written exam, complete extensive and timed wine description challenges, identify three mystery products and take part in a practical challenge which involved opening and serving a bottle of wine.

After getting down to the final twelve, the semi-finalists faced another written exam, more wine description and mystery product challenges with less time to complete them, a food and wine pairing challenge in front of the large audience and a final practical challenge where the sommeliers had to perfectly pour a bottle of red wine for 10 in six minutes.

Zwiebel said fellow staff and guests at his Evershot workplace were proud of his performance and intrigued to hear about the contest. "They know for me it is never enough and I would like to do so much better," he said.

The sommelier has vowed to take part in the next ASI world final in 2016 - this year's winner scooped the top prize at his fifth time of asking.

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