Kathrine Larsen has been named the Academy of Food & Wine Service’s Moët UK Sommelier of the Year 2014.
It was fourth time lucky for 32-year-old Larsen, the former head sommelier at Zuma in London, who is currently taking a sabbatical and was third in the competition last year, when she was also crowned Young Sommelier of the Year 2013.
The competition took place at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, with a morning session whittling down the 12 semi-finalists to a group of six. After a series of further tasks, just three sommeliers were chosen to take part in the final in front of a live audience.
After completing a blind tasting, spotting errors on a wine list, a quick-fire question round and a role play testing their customer skills, the candidates were required to pour a magnum of Champagne into 16 glasses without returning to any of them.
In addition to Larsen, the other finalists were Loic Avril of The Fat Duck in Berkshire, who took second place and was awarded The Wine Guild of the United Kingdom Young Sommelier of the Year 2014 prize, and Tanguy Martin of Hotel TerraVina in Hampshire, who finished third.
”Winning this competition is a fantastic achievement, said Larsen. “It feels like all the hard work has paid off and that’s an amazing feeling. I have been studying wine for 10 years, and preparing for this competition has been very intense.”
Ronan Sayburn MS, chairman of this year’s judging panel commented: “It was a very tight competition this year with just a few marks between all three of the finalists. But Kathrine was a worthy winner – her theoretical knowledge was particularly strong.”
Larsen’s prize includes an all-expenses paid trip to Moët & Chandon for a tasting of the house’s Grand Vintage collection with chef de cave Benoît Gouez, followed by dinner at the brand’s Château de Saran. On being announced as winner, she was presented with a Jeroboam of Moët & Chandon, an Amadeo decanter and set of Vinum glasses from Riedel and a magnum of Domaine Boutinot La Côte Sauvage Cairanne.
Larsen has also been awarded the Boutinot bursary, which will include a study visit to Piedmont accompanied by last year’s winner Clement Robert and Boutinot’s master sommelier Nigel Wilkinson.
All three finalists were awarded a year’s complimentary membership of The Wine Guild of the United Kingdom, including an invitation to its annual winter banquet held at Vintners’ Hall in London.