Romain Bourger, head sommelier at the Vineyard, Berkshire, has become Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2019.
Bourger beat two head sommeliers from London – Gareth Ferreira from Core by Clare Smyth in Notting Hill, and Alan Bednarski from Texture in Marylebone – into second and third place respectively in a challenging final at The Savoy. The annual competition and premier accolade in UK wine service is organised by The Caterer and for the second year, Champagne Taittinger is the headline sponsor.
Commenting on his win, Bourger said: “I’ve competed six times so patience is a virtue. I had a great time on stage today.
I stressed quite a bit but just kept it inside. I thought I was consistent throughout the day and am delighted to have come out on top.”
Having come through regional heats in April, 15 sommeliers from across Britain began the finals day at The Savoy. After a series of live contests designed to test their knowledge and abilities, the three remaining finalists completed final tasks under high pressure in front of a live audience.
Bourger, Ferreira and Bednarski were subject to a gruelling three-hour competition before invited guests and a judging panel chaired by Nicolas Clerc MS, UK Sommelier of the Year 2007 and President of the Academy of Food & Wine Service (AFWS).
As part of the live element of the competition the finalists were required to identify errors on a wine list, undergo blind taste tests of wines and spirits, serve at a bar and in a restaurant scenario, and finally to pour a magnum of Champagne Taittinger into 19 glasses.
Each of the finalists demonstrated exceptional expertise but the judges, including Clement Robert, Kathrine Larsen, Laura Rhys, Xavier Rousset and Ronan Sayburn – all former winners of the competition – chose Bourger as the overall winner.
Having won this prestigious title, Bourger received a Jeroboam of Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rosé – signed by the family – and will also attend the finalist’s trip to Taittinger in the Autumn.
Kevin McKee, UK Director – Family Taittinger, said: “Champagne Taittinger is honoured to once again be the headline sponsor of this highly regarded competition. The fast-paced race to the finish line has been intense and exciting – it’s clear that each finalist is at the top of their game. It was such a close-run contest this year that we ended with 15 rather than then usual 12 finalists – a clear indication of the high standard of all the competitors.
There has to be a winner and Bourger held his cool under pressure to take the title. Next we look forward to welcoming all 15 finalists to Champagne Taittinger later this year to toast their individual triumphs.”
Now in its 40th year, the Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year is recognised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) and run in partnership with the Academy of Food & Wine Service. Additional sponsors are Berkmann Wine Cellars, M Meiko, Nordaq, Rémy Martin, UCC Coffee and the WSET.
The 15 finalists for 2019 were:
- Vincenzo Arnese, Dinner by Heston
- Alan Bednarski, Texture
- Romain Bourger, the Vineyard
- Pierre Brunelli, L’Enclume
- Emmanuel Cadieu, 67 Pall Mall
- Charles Carron Brown, L’Enclume
- Rupert Crick, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
- Tamas Czinki, Northcote
- Paul Fauvel, the Lanesborough
- Gareth Ferreira, Core by Clare Smyth
- Tony Lecuroux, Moor Hall
- Matteo Montone, Berners Tavern
- Christopher Parker, Lime Wood
- Paul Robineau, Moor Hall
- Toru Takamatsu, Hide