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Fourth-time lucky for UK Sommelier of Year winner Konetzki

Jan Konetzki of London’s Restaurant Gordon Ramsay has won the 2012 UK Sommelier of the Year – at the fourth time of trying.

Konetzki narrowly beat Clément Robert of London’s Medlar Restaurant, with Laurent Richet of Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham coming third.

Konetzki, 31, a judge at the Decanter World Wine Awards and contributor to Decanter has reached the semi-finals of the competition three times previously but said this year he was ‘really up for it’.

‘It was my fourth attempt this year – I tried it the first time when Gearoid (Devaney) won it in 2008. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to try until I manage to do it’ and this year I was really up for it, I really wanted it.’

Despite this, the German-born sommelier (pictured) said he was never confident he would win – especially as he did not complete one task in the allotted time and thought he had made too many errors in the theory exam.

However chairman of judges and technical director of the Academy of Food & Wine Service, Gerard Basset OBE MW MS, said Konetzki’s overall ability, and his tasting skills in particular, saw him edge ahead.

‘It was one of the closest finals for many years,’ said Basset. ‘But Jan completed the tasks with true panache and demonstrated a real talent and considerable knowledge.’

The competition is notorious for its difficulty: the three finalists had to correct errors on a wine list, blind-taste a number of wines and spirits and, in a restaurant scenario, demonstrate their serving skills and food- and wine-matching abilities – all in front of an audience of their peers and previous winners of the competition.

The final task, now infamous in the world of sommellerie, involves pouring a magnum of Champagne equally into 16 glasses, without returning to top up any of them.

The semi finals and final of the competition, organised by the AFWS, was this year held for first time at the London International Wine Fair.

It was the first year the competition was sponsored by Moët & Chandon Champagne, which also sponsors the European and World’s Best Sommelier competitions – the latter won in 2010 by Basset, the current reigning champion.

Konetzki won a trophy, trips to Champagne and Chile, jeroboams of Moët & Chandon and Viña Emiliana’s Coyam 2009, and a selection of Riedel glasses.

2012 judging panel:
Gerard Basset (Hotel TerraVina)
Ronan Sayburn MS (Chairman of the UK Wine Guild)
Victoria Moore (Wine Correspondent at the Telegraph)
Joseph Rorke (Moet & Hennessy Account Manager)
Brian Julyan (Court of Master Sommeliers)

UK Sommelier of the Year Hall of Fame:
2011: Yohann Josselin
2010: Christopher Delalonde
2009: Laura Rhys
2008: Gearoid Devaney
2007: Nicolas Clerc
2006: Claire Thevenot
2005: Matthew Wilkin
2004: Eric Zweibel
2003: Loic Maillet
2002: Xavier Rousset
2001: James Payne
2000: Matthieu Longuere
1999: Alan Holmes
1998: Ronan Sayburn
1997: Vincent Gasnier
1996: Franck Massard
1995: Henri Chapon
1994: Mark Walter
1993: Nicholas Mobbs
1992: Gerard Basset
1991: Michael Simms
1990: John Walker
1989: Gerard Basset
1988: Stephen Wilcock
1987: Simon Hopkinson
1986: Michael Varney (deceased)
1985: David Hair
1984: Michael Simms
1983: Bryan Dawes
1982: Charles Piggin
1981: Claudia Harris
1980: June Schmidt-Lowe

Written by Tina Gellie

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