Alex Freguin, head sommelier at Moor Hall in Ormskirk, West Lancashire has been crowned the Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2018.
Alex beat Tamas Czinki, head sommelier at Northcote in Lancashire, and Pierre Brunelli, the beverage and wine manager at L’Enclume in Cartmel, into second and third respectively in a close fought final at the Savoy hotel. The competition is organised by The Caterer and sponsored by Champagne Taittinger.
Commenting on his win Freguin said: “I feel tired but so happy. We all work hard and know how tough it is, but this is incredible".
“I was in the final with two other great sommeliers and we all had the chance to train together as we all work in businesses in the north, so it was special to be in the final with them. There is a real family relationship between us, which I hope we can maintain.
“I’m loving work every day at Moor Hall on the floor. It’s a passion and I’ve worked hard for this and I’m just so pleased it’s happened for me today.”
Having come through regional heats in April, 12 sommeliers from all over Britain began the finals day at the Savoy. After a series of tasks they were whittled down to three, who completed the final tasks in front of a live audience.
They were subject to a gruelling three-hour competition before invited guests and a judging panel chaired by Gerard Basset MW, winner of the 2010 Best Sommelier in the World competition.
As part of the competition the finalists were required to identify errors on a wine list, undergo blind taste tests of wines and spirits, serve tables of former winners in a restaurant role play situation, and finally to pour a magnum of Champagne Taittinger into 20 glasses.
Each of the finalists showed different strengths but the judges, including deputy head judge Nicolas Clerc, Ronan Sayburn and Xavier Rousset – all former winners of the competition – chose Freguin as the overall winner.
Having won, Freguin will benefit from a mentoring programme and an all-expenses-paid educational trip to Rioja provided by Matthew Clark along with a Jereboam of Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rosé and a Riedel decanter. He will also go on the finalist’s trip to Taittinger in the Autumn.
Kevin McKee, UK Director – Family Taittinger, said: “Champagne Taittinger is proud to be the headline sponsor of this prestigious competition for the first time this year. Being here at the final you can see why the competition is held in such high regard.
“Today’s final was a closely fought race, with the standard of competition impressively high. Alex showed superb composure under pressure to take the title, but all the finalists deserve credit for the commitment and excellence they have shown.
“We are looking forward to hosting all today’s finalists at Champagne Taittinger later this year to celebrate their success.”
The Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2018 is run in partnership with the Academy of Food & Wine Service and sponsored by the AA, Eurocave, Robert Welch, UCC Coffee, Winterhalter, and WSET.
The 2018 finalists were:
- Melania Battiston, head sommelier, 28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen
- Markus Berlinghof, head sommelier, The Clove Club
- Daniele Di Blassio, sommelier, Trishna Restaurants
- Pierre Brunelli, beverage manager, L’Enclume
- Tamas Czinki, head sommelier, Northcote
- Gareth Ferreira, head sommelier, Core by Clare Smyth
- Alex Freguin, head sommelier, Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms
- Mikael Grou, assistant head sommelier, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
- Martin Jezek, senior sommelier, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
- Rudy Lemetayer, sommelier, Summer Lodge
- Paul Robineau, sommelier, The Fat Duck
- Julia Sewell, sommelier