Gearoid Devaney of London’s Tom Aikens restaurant has been voted UK Sommelier of the Year 2008.
Devaney, runner up in 2007, saw off competition from Isa Bal of The Fat Duck in Bray, and Cyril Thevenet of the Hotel du Vin group, in the closely-contested final in London’s Mayfair yesterday.
Visibly elated at the announcement, Devaney told decanter.com: ‘I’m delighted and excited. I didn’t expect to win. I’ve got to call Tom, he’ll be over the moon. He’s been supporting me all the way and let me take a few days off to compete.’
‘Combating my nerves was the most difficult thing for me, and staying focused on the task at hand. There was so much pressure to perform in front of your peers and people at the top of their game in the wine world.’
The competition, orgainsed by the Academy of Food & Wine, is in its 29th year.
Academy of Food & Wine Director Gerard Basset MW (above left) led the judging panel, which included 2005 winner Matt Wilkin MS and Decanter managing editor Amy Wislocki.
Speaking of the event, Basset said: ‘This year’s competition has really demonstrated that the art of the sommelier is as strong as ever.’
15 sommeliers, selected from 100 initial entrants, competed in the semi-final that involved a five wine blind tasting, questionnaire, and verbal test.
The three top scorers went on to compete on stage in the final in front of a 150-strong audience.
The finalists were put through their paces with a series of tough tasks including a series of role-plays, food and wine matching and pouring a magnum of Champagne into 16 equal measures with no revisits.
According to Devaney, the secret to being a good sommelier lies in ‘hard word and letting your passion for food and wine shine through.’
Champagnes Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck have agreed to a three-year sponsorship of the Awards.
Written by Lucy Shaw