The first time I heard about the UK Sommelier of the Year competition was around 6 years ago but I never paid too much attention to it.
It wasn’t until 2016 that I took part in it. At that time I felt very cocky about my wine knowledge having just completed my WSET Level 3 Advance Course in Wines and Spirits.
It really stroke me the fact that some of the participants were either starting their WSET Diploma or were already half way through. Needless to say that the tests took me completely by surprise and I did not get through to the next round.
At that point I learned about the Court of Masters sommeliers a parallel organisation also offering wine qualifications in the UK and worldwide.
Two years have gone by and after careful consideration I decided to undertake the final WSET qualification, the match sought Diploma in Wines and Spirits rather than starting from scratch at the Court of Master sommeliers.
This year the Regional Final I took part in was held in Manchester, other than the location there was something else different, my understanding of it. I went down south without too many pretensions and mainly wanting to meet fellow sommeliers from around the country.
The blind tasting showed case a Soave from Italy and a Pinot Gris from Alsace for whites and a Chilean Carménère and a Barosa Shiraz to represent the red wines.
Following the blind tasting there was an exam with “true/false” questions as well as short answer ones. To top it up the role play exam took place before noon.
After lunch the three finalists were announced and they took part in the last part of the Regional Final.
A blind tasting with menu pairing took place as well as a wine decanting exercise and the traditional Champagne pouring, were the tests the finalists had to endure before the Winner could be announced.
After having taken part twice in this competition my piece of advice to future candidates is to follow the Court of Master sommeliers path and to try to work in either a Michellin star environment or a trendy wine bar where premium wines come as standard. WSET offer excellent wine and spirits knowledge, but they will still consider teaching lesser quality wines just because they are a commercial reality.