Search is on for UK’s Sommelier of the Year

The search is on to find the next UK Sommelier of the Year, one of the most sought-after titles in the profession.

Run by the Academy of Food & Wine Service (AFWS) and sponsored by Moet, the competition is now in its 34th year and seeks to find the best wine waiter or sommelier in the country based on factors such as wine and drink expertise, ability to deal with customers, and front of house service skills.

It is open to sommeliers across the hospitality sector including high street restaurants, pubs, hotels, as well as fine dining establishments.

"The competition has really broadened in appeal over the past few years," commented AFWS executive director John Croft. "The tasks not only test wine expertise, but competitors’ service skills, personality and general drinks knowledge too.

"We hope this year will see entries from a wide range of establishments. Taking part is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about wine and wine service as well as the chance to network with other industry professionals."

The winner will receive a bespoke trip to Moet's historic cellars in Epernay – including tastings of new, current and rare vintages with chef de cave Benoit Gouez, vineyard visits with Francois Lhotte and a food and champagne pairing experience at Trianon.

Furthermore, the Boutinot Bursary will fund an all-expenses paid trip for the winner to visit the Southern Rhone Valley during the 2013 harvest.

Emelie de Vitis, marketing manager for Moet & Chandon, said: "As the world's best loved champagne, we know very well just how demanding and fast moving this area of the hospitality industry can be.

"Sommeliers who successfully show their knowledge of, professionalism in and enthusiasm for wine deserve the recognition and rewards that this competition gives."

To enter, sommeliers must fill out an entry form and a first round questionnaire, to be completed by February 15th 2013.

The top scoring candidates will be chosen to compete in the regional finals towards the end of March with winners going forward to the semi-final and final at London's Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, on May 28th.

And if sampling some of the world's best wines on a regular basis sounds like a fun, then a job as a sommelier could be the perfect type of hospitality work for you.

Of course, it's not all drinking various varieties of champagne and fine wines, there is a great deal of hard work involved in becoming a sommelier.

Employers, whether it be fine dining restaurants or those advertising for hotel jobs, will look for someone with an excellent knowledge of wines and who can advise customers confidently on which to choose and with what dish.

Sommeliers may also be asked to help develop the wine list for a restaurant, as well as present and serve wines to the highest standard.

There is no one official qualification that entitles someone to become a sommelier, but employers will often look for someone who has completed training with one of a number of recognised bodies, such as the Wine & Spirit Education Trust or the Court of Master Sommeliers.

But it takes more than just an expert knowledge of wine to be a top class sommelier and win awards such as the AFWS UK Sommelier of the Year.

You also need to be an expert salesman, a good manager and competent waiter, says Gerard Basset, one of the best sommeliers in the business.

"A sommelier isn't there to preach or tell the customer what to have, the first thing they're there to do is give the customer a good time," Harpers quotes him as telling a packed audience at the Restaurant Show back in October.

Basset said that it's more important a sommelier is "a people person" and "smiley and friendly", adding: "He isn't there to impose his view."

Berkeley Scott provides specialist advice and support to help you with hospitality careers