The nerves of UK sommeliers were particularly tightly stretched last night at the De Vere Holborn Bars where the final of the Champagne Ruinart UK Sommelier of the Year 2007 took place. After a particularly close final, the title was won by Nicolas Clerc of the Milestone Hotel, Kensington. Nicolas, from Savoie, was second in the competition last year. Gearoid Devaney, of Tom Aikens in Chelsea came second, and Cyril Thévenot from Hotel du Vin in Henley third.
Shame that mainland Britain couldn't field a finalist, with two Frenchman and an Ulsterman taking the prizes – and no women.
The event, sponsored for the past 16 years by Champagne Ruinart, was hosted by Ruinart's president and UK managing director Stéphane Baschiera and George Atkinson-Clark and Jeremy Rata, chairman of the Academy of Food & Wine Service.
More than 150 would-be sommeliers entered this year's competition and Nicolas Clerc beat 15 fellow sommeliers at the end of a day which judged their practical skills, including a blind tasting and matching food to wine. Compère was Jo Wadsack and the three finalists completed their tasks in front of an audience of wine trade and restaurant professionals. The final task was the usual: to pour a magnum of champagne into a precise number of glasses without re-visiting them. (Presumably these competitors practice with magnums full of water for hours.)
The Academy of Food & Wine Service subsequently chooses who will represent the UK in the biennial pan-European competition.