Alex Freguin has been crowned the Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2018.

The head sommelier at Moor Hall in Ormskirk won having beaten Tamas Czinki and Pierre Brunelli in a close fought final at the Savoy hotel today.

Czinki, head sommelier at Northcote in Lancashire placed second, while Brunelli, the beverage and wine manager at L’Enclume in Cartmel was third in the competition, organised by The Caterer and sponsored by Taittinger.

Commenting on his win Freguin said: “I feel tired but so happy. We all work hard and know how tough it is, but this is incredible.

“I was in the final with two other great sommeliers and we all had the chance to train together as we all work in businesses in the north, so it was special to be in the final with them. There is a real family relationship between us, which I hope we can maintain.

“I’m loving work every day at Moor Hall on the floor. It’s a passion and I’ve worked hard for this and I’m just so pleased it’s happened for me today.”

Having come through regional heats in April, 12 sommeliers began the finals day at the Savoy. After a series of tasks they were whittled down to three, who completed the final tasks in front of a live audience.

As part of the competition the finalists were required to identify errors on a wine list, undergo blind taste tests of wines and spirits, serve tables of former winners in a restaurant role play situation, and finally to pour a magnum of Taittinger into 20 glasses.

Each of the finalists showed different strengths but the judges, including deputy head judge Nicolas Clerc, Ronan Sayburn and Xavier Rousset – all former winners of the competition – chose Freguin as the overall winner.

Having won, Freguin will benefit from mentoring programme and an all-expenses-paid educational trip to Rioja provided by Matthew Clark along with a Jereboam of Taittinger Prestige Rose and a Riedel decanter.

Kevin McKee, UK Director – Family Taittinger, said: “Taittinger is proud to be the headline sponsor of this prestigious competition for the first time this year. Being here at the final you can see why the competition is held is such high regard.

“Today’s final was a closely fought race, with the standard of competition impressively high. Alex showed superb composure under pressure to take the title, but all the finalists deserve credit for the commitment and excellence they have shown.

“We are looking forward to hosting all today’s finalists at Taittinger later this year to celebrate their success.”

The Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2018 is run in partnership with the Academy of Food & Wine Service and sponsored by the AA, Eurocave, Robert Welch, UCC Coffee, Winterhalter, and WSET.

The UK Sommelier of the Year competition has been running since 1980 and in that time has recognised the UK’s best-known and most lauded sommeliers including Gerard Basset, Ronan Sayburn, Gearoid Devaney and Xavier Rousset.

Now in their 39th year the awards are recognised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI). They seek to find the best wine waiter or sommelier based on wine and spirits knowledge, and front of house beverage skills.

The 2018 finalists were:

Melania Battiston, head sommelier, 28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen
Markus Berlinghof, head sommelier, The Clove Club
Daniele Di Blassio, sommelier, Trishna Restaurants
Pierre Brunelli, beverage manager, L’Enclume
Tamas Czinki, head sommelier, Northcote
Gareth Ferreira, head sommelier, Core by Clare Smyth
Alex Freguin, head sommelier, Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms
Mikael Grou, assistant head sommelier, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
Martin Jezek, senior sommelier, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Rudy Lemetayer, sommelier, Summer Lodge
Matteo Montone, head sommelier, Edition Hotel
Paul Robineau, sommelier, The Fat Duck