Alex Freguin, head sommelier at Moor Hall in Ormskirk, West Lancashire, has been crowned the Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2018 at the competition’s final in London last night.
The UK Sommelier of the Year competition awards, now in its 39th year, are recognised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) and seek to find the best wine waiter or sommelier based on their wine and spirits knowledge and front of house beverage skills.
Previous winners include renowned sommeliers Gerard Basset, Ronan Sayburn, Gearoid Devaney and Xavier Rousset.
Having won their regional heats, 12 sommeliers from all over the UK competed at the Savoy Hotel yesterday in a series of tasks, which included identifying errors on a wine list, blind tasting of wines and spirits, and serving tables of former winners in a restaurant role play situation. The final test was to pour a magnum of Champagne Taittinger into 20 glasses.
The judging panel was chaired by Gerard Basset MW, alongside deputy head judge Nicolas Clerc, Ronan Sayburn and Xavier Rousset, who whittled competitors down to just three. In a closely fought final, Freguin beat Tamas Czinki, head sommelier at Northcote in Lancashire, and Pierre Brunelli, the beverage and wine manager at L’Enclume in Cartmel, to be crowned this year’s winner.
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.”
Freguin will benefit from a mentoring programme and an all-expenses-paid educational trip to Rioja provided by Matthew Clark, along with a Jeroboam of Champagne Taittinger Prestige Rosé and a Riedel decanter. He will also go on the finalist’s trip to Taittinger in the autumn.
“Today’s final was a closely fought race, with the standard of competition impressively high,” said Kevin McKee, UK director of Family Taittinger. “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 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