Sommeliers from some of the country’s top Michelin restaurants went palate to palate, spittoon to spittoon last week at the Bellavita Expo in London, dedicated to showcasing the best in Italian food and wine, in a competition to find the UK’s Best Sommelier with the greatest knowledge of Italian wine. To do so they needed to show their blind tasting, writing and service skills in a closely fought event…
The fourth annual Bellavita Best UK Sommelier competition attracted some of the leading talent across the UK restaurant, bar and on-trade sector for a competition dedicated to highlighting the trade’s knowledge and appreciation of Italian wine.
It’s one thing working with and serving Italian wine as part of your daily job, but it is quite another putting your knowledge of all things Soave, Chianti or Sangiovese to the test as part of a professional sommeliers competition.
But that is what the Bellavita Best UK Sommelier competition is all about. It is the Italian Wine Professional, ISWA Award, the most prestigious competition dedicated to finding the best sommelier specialising in Italian wine. It therefore attracts some serious competition from right across the UK restaurant trade.
The event is also supported by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and the Italian Signature Wines Academy made up of eight of the most prestigious producers from right across Italy including Allegrini, Arnaldo Caprai, Feud di San Gregorio, Fontanafredda, Frescobaldi, Masciarelli, Planeta and Villa Sandi. The competition certainly lives up to the ambitions of the Academy to come together in a bid to raise awareness of the quality of Italian wine at key events around the world.
It is open to sommeliers working in the UK on-trade and is a true test of their skills as it involves three rounds of judging to assess their blind tasting skills, their knowledge of Italian wine in a written exam, and then their ability to perform wine service skills by going through a series of live tests. Contestants were then scored by leading Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine from some of the country’s best restaurants and wine merchants.
This year’s competition attracted entrants from over 40 different establishments including 11 Michelin star restaurants such as Le Gavroche, Aquavit, Roux at Parliament Square, Locanda Locatelli, The Five Fields, Murano, Galvin at Windows, Savoy Grill, 67 Pall Mall, Margot, M Restaurant, The Glasshouse and Outlaw’s at the Capital.
After all was said and done, Andre Cunha, sommelier at Margot in Covent Garden came out top and wins an all-expenses paid wine experience for two to five different Italian regions, discovering some of the best local wine producers and vineyards.
Cunha said of his award: “It was always my dream to become a sommelier. I always loved wine, I studied hard and I’m very happy now.”
Second and third place were taken by Jolanta Dinnadge, head sommelier at Corrigan in Mayfair and Alessandro Pesarini, sommelier at Outlaw’s at The Capital in Knightsbridge.
“Bellavita Expo has always focused on awarding excellence and wine is no exception,” says Bellavita founder and chief executive, Aldo Mazzocco. “Italian wine is one of the most difficult to master because of the huge variety of grapes available. For that reason, the winning sommelier and runner-ups really demonstrated great passion, knowledge and the correct service skills.”
The competition was also supported by The Buyer and Harpers Wine & Spirit.
Bellavita Expo was held last week at London’s Business Design Centre between June 17-19 and attracted major wine and food professionals interested in catching up on the latest Italian food, drink and wine trends. It also included a panel looking specifically at the opportunities for Italian wine within the on-trade hosted by The Buyer and featuring representatives from Bibendum, Armit Wines, Berkmann Wines, North South wine distributors and Carson & Carnevale importers and distributors of Italian wine.
Bellavita Expo continues its journey around the world over the coming months with a series of future events to be held in Amsterdam, Warsaw, Chicago, Toronto, Mexico City, Bangkok, Moscow and Hamburg.