Master sommelier Christopher Delalonde has been named Sommelier of the Year, after a nerve-racking final in London on Wednesday.
Delalonde (pictured, centre, with Victor Lanson of importers First Drinks and Christian Holthausen of Piper-Heidsieck) formerly of London restaurant The Square and now part of millionaires’ sommelier service Sarment Wines, came close to tears as he accepted his prize at the Westbury Hotel.
The 36-year-old was last year’s runner-up but – in common with many taking part in the gruelling competition – came back for another shot at the title.
‘This year I came here to win,’ he said. ‘It has been six months of hard work but I’m delighted to have won.’
The competition, run by the Academy of Food and Wine and sponsored by Champagne Piper Heidsieck, consists of a series of regional heats producing 15 semi-finalists.
After written answers to questions on every aspect of wine, beer and spirits production in every region of the world, three finalists undertake a restaurant role play in front of an audience of dozens of their peers. Their last trial is to pour 16 glasses of Champagne in magnum to exactly the same level, without returning to any glass, and leaving the bottle empty.
Delalonde was a worthy winner, Lanson said. ‘His ability to stay calm under pressure, think on his feet and the depth of wine and service knowledge shone through.’
In second place was Yohann Jousselin of the Vineyard at Stockcross, with Clement Robert of Summer Lodge Hotel in Evershot taking third place.
The competition, now in its 31st year, is widely recognised as being one of the industry’s toughest and most prestigious.
Previous winners include some of the country’s most experienced sommeliers: Ronan Sayburn of the Greenhouse, Gearoid Devaney – one of Delalonde’s colleagues at Sarment, and Nicholas Clerc of the Milestone Hotel in London.
Last year’s winner was Laura Rhys of TerraVina in Hampshire.
Clement Robert won Young Sommelier of the Year, given to the youngest sommelier in the semi-final or the main competition.
The winner was Daniel Brown (pictured: second from right) from London, who was presented with a new silver trophy by Adam Lechmere, editor of decanter.com. He also wins dinner for two at the Michelin-starred Texture in London.
The winner was chosen from several hundred entrants who answered 20 questions taken from the main competition; three finalists then had to do a virtual role play in which they chose wines for a table of four diners with disparate needs and appetites.
COMING SOON. Decanter’s chief sub-editor Tina Gellie competed in the final alongside the 15 professional sommeliers. Read her blog on decanter.com next week!
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Written by decanter.com staff