Vincenzo Arnese, head sommelier at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London, has become Champagne Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2022.
Arnese beat two head sommeliers also from the capital – Agnieszka Swiecka from The Five Fields in Chelsea, and Gareth Ferreira MS from Core by Clare Smyth in Notting Hill – into second and third place respectively in a demanding final at The Savoy. The annual competition and premier accolade in UK wine service is organised by The Caterer and for the third year, Champagne Taittinger is the headline sponsor.
Having competed at the regional finals on 25th April at Grosvenor House, yesterday 11 sommeliers from across Britain began the finals day at The Savoy. After a series of live contests designed to test their wine wisdom and skills in service, 11 were reduced to three frontrunners, who completed final assignments under high pressure in front of a live audience.
For 2022, a June visit to Taittinger in Reims formed part of the competition. This experience included a masterclass with Chef de Caves, Alexandre Ponnavoy, which fed into one of the final tasks at The Savoy.
Arnese, Swiecka and Ferreira were subject to an arduous 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 exhibited outstanding proficiency but the judges, including Clement Robert, Kathrine Larsen, Laura Rhys, Xavier Rousset and Ronan Sayburn – all former winners of the competition – chose Arnese as the overall winner.
Having won this esteemed title, Arnese received a Jeroboam of Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rosé – signed by the family – while the two runners up were each presented with a Magnum of Prestige Rosé and all the finalists took home a bottle of Taittinger Les Folies de la Marquetterie.
Kevin McKee, UK Director – Family Taittinger, said: “The Taittinger Family are delighted to be continuing our partnership with The UK Sommelier of the Year competition in 2022. We all know the unprecedented factors at play within hospitality at the moment and believe that supporting the finest sommelier talent can only be good for the trade and ultimately for the guest. An evening enhanced by the amazing knowledge of a well-trained sommelier is an evening to be remembered. We were lucky to meet nearly all the finalists at our home in Champagne recently and it was clear that this would be another closely fought competition with outstanding knowledge and skill shown by all.”
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 and Riedel.
The 11 finalists for 2022 were:
Stefano Barbarino, Coravin Wine & Bubbles Bar
Melania Battiston, The Medlar Restaurant
Biagio Castaldo, Maison Estelle
Lorenzo Tonelli, Maison Estelle
Vincenzo Arnese, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Philipp Reinstaller, Trivet
Emma Denney, The Clove Club
Agnieszka Swiecka, The Five Fields
Dion Wai, 67 Pall Mall
Elvis Ziakos, TILA Gareth Ferreira, Core by Clare Smyth