Top 10 most powerful sommeliers in London: 2019By Lauren Eads
London is home to a remarkable pool of talented wine personalities who are devoted to helping diners enjoy the diverse world of wine. But the people behind the best wine lists in London rarely get the recognition they deserve, especially compared to their chef counterparts.
It was with that in mind that we decided to publish a guide to the Top 50 Most Powerful Sommeliers in London, putting a face to the people who work to ensure that London’s on-trade wine offer remains among the most exciting in the world.
The guide followed on from our Wine List Confidential Top 100 restaurants for wine in London – which ranks restaurants on the strength of its wine list alone – in May last year. We felt it was time to shine a brighter light on the people behind those lists.
And so we introduce Wine List Confidential’s Top 10 Most Powerful Sommeliers in London 2019. The people profiled in this guide have been ordered loosely according to the rankings of restaurants in last year’s Wine List Confidential.
In other words, their position in this publication is related to the ranking of their establishment in our wine list guide from 2018 – which you can order from winelistconfidential.com.
For more on the methodology and reasoning behind our top 50 sommeliers, click here. You can see a full list of the top 50, along with a profile on their career and short Q&As on their life on the floor by clicking here.
Click through to see our top 10, and what makes them, and their wine lists, stand out from the crowd.
NB: Please note, this is a reproduction of rankings published in the Top 50 Most Influential Sommeliers 2019 guide. All roles were correct at time of publication (February), but are subject to change.
10. Hamish Anderson – Head sommelier and wine buyer Tate
Hamish Anderson has worked for Tate for so long, he’s become part of the fabric of the place. This year marks his 20th anniversary at the gallery group. Having been the Tate’s long-time head sommelier and wine buyer, last year Anderson was promoted to the role of chief executive of Tate Catering for the group’s four sites: Tate Britain; Tate Modern; Tate Liverpool; and Tate St. Ives, in Cornwall.
A bottle of 1982 Les Forts de Latour set Anderson on his wine path. Having found his passion, his first few sommelier shifts at Terence Conran’s Bibendum in Chelsea didn’t go swimmingly. “During one of my first shifts I opened a bottle of Champagne and the cork slipped from my grasp, hit the ceiling and landed on a nearby table. There was silence, followed by clapping. The mark on the ceiling was there for the rest of my employment, so I was never allowed to forget it,” he says. Undeterred, Anderson cracked on, spurred on by the guidance of Matthew Jukes, whom he still counts as a good friend.
Joining the Tate group in 1998, Anderson has consistently championed high-quality wines at affordable prices at Tate Britain’s Rex Whistler restaurant, which opened in 1927 as the Tate Gallery refreshment room, and features a Whistler mural depicting a royal party travelling the world in search of exotic food.
To get his hands on Bordeaux that isn’t eye-wateringly expensive, Anderson makes regular trips to the region and buys the wines en primeur, as he does with the Burgundies on his list. Unusually for London, Rex Whistler is only open for lunch, so half bottles of the likes of English fizz Nyetimber, Lebanese star Château Musar and dreamy California Cabernet blend Ridge Monte Bello do a roaring trade.
Anderson also lists his vintage Champagnes at close to retail price, and allows guests to bring their own wine for £15 corkage, so long as they buy an additional bottle from the list. As well as wine, Anderson is a keen champion of craft beers, particularly those brewed locally.
In his spare time, Anderson writes a weekly wine column for the Saturday Telegraph magazine and features for Telegraph Men. His book, Great Wine for Everyday Life, has sold more than 15,000 copies. Topping his wine bucket list is 1976 Grange, though he’d also love to try some pre-communist era Tokaji. The self-confessed Pinot Noir nut has served many a colourful character in his time, including acclaimed Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk.
N/A. Gonzalo Rodriguez Diaz – Head sommelier Seven Park Place (Please note: Shortly after publication, Gonzalo left his position at Seven Park Place, but to reflect his top 10 position in the printed guide we felt it fair to include his profile)
Gonzalo Rodriguez Diaz grew up in Uruguay with his Spanish family. His introduction to wine came at an early age, when he was put in charge of opening the wines at his family’s weekly barbecue, under the watchful eye of his grandfather, a bon viveur who lived by the motto: “wine is life”.
His introduction to fine dining came equally early in life, as his grandfather used to take him to restaurants, where he remembers ordering the same food as the adults, and was occasionally allowed to try a sip of their wine. Rodriguez Diaz cut his teeth in the catering industry in San Sebastián, in northern Spain, when he was 17. The region’s proximity to Rioja gave him the perfect excuse to take off for a few days and explore the vineyards, which ignited his passion for wine.
Today, this passion has “evolved into an obsession, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge”, says Rodriguez Diaz, who takes every chance he can to visit the world’s wine regions. His wine journey in the UK began in 2013 at River Café alumnus Theo Randall’s eponymous restaurant at The InterContinental hotel on Park Lane, where he worked as a supervisor, moving on to the role of sommelier at Thackeray’s restaurant in Tunbridge Wells a year later. His big wine break came in 2016 when he was appointed head sommelier and wine buyer at St James’s Hotel and Club.
Nestled in the boutique hotel is art-strewn Michelin-starred restaurant Seven Park Place. Catering to only 26 covers spread across nine tables, Rodriguez Diaz is in charge of the restaurant’s 104-page ‘wine book’, filled with 1,100 drops, including some of the finest wines known to humanity, all of which can be delivered to the bedrooms of hotel guests via room service. As well as his beloved Spain, and adored Nebbiolo, Burgundy holds a special place in Rodriguez Diaz’s heart, and his passion for Pinot is reflected in his list, which includes the likes of Vosne Romanée Les Gaudichot.
Despite his day job keeping him busy, Gonzalo has also found the time to make his own wines in the Spanish regions of Cigales and Toro, which he hopes to be able to serve soon at the hotel. “I love escaping London to my vineyard in Toro and relaxing there with my wife,” he says. “The project gives me a chance to express my artistic side.” At the top of his wine bucket list are Vega Sicilia Unico 1942 and Krug Clos du Mesnil 1985. However, the wine to have moved him most so far is Château Lafleur 1982. “I remember the feeling of happiness and confusion when I tried it. It was so sublime I was lost for words and couldn’t think about anything other than the wine for days.”
9. Christophe Lecoufle – Head sommelier Les 110 de Taillevent
Don’t be fooled by his fresh-faced looks – Christopher Lecoufle couldn’t be more serious about wine. Born in Normandy in 1994, Lecoufle trained to be a fireman, but cut his wine teeth in Paris, starting his sommelier journey at the Michelin-starred restaurant Lasserre, where he began as a commis waiter and worked his way up to become a commis sommelier.
Lecoufle got his first taste of Taillevent at fine-wine retailer Les Caves de Taillevent. A year later Gerard Basset MS MW took Lecoufle under his wing at the TerraVina hotel in the New Forest, where he worked for a year as a sommelier, learning the tricks of the trade from one of the greatest names in the business. But London called, and in August 2015, Lecoufle made the move to the capital, where he began working for the ambitious Gardinier brothers at their first London outpost of their popular Paris restaurant, Les 110 de Taillevent, which, as the name suggests, serves no fewer than 110 wines by the glass.
Les 110 is a more casual concept of the flagship Taillevent in Paris, which opened in 1946. The historic restaurant takes its name from Guillaume Tirel, who was nicknamed Taillevent (meaning ‘wind cutter’) because of his long nose, and who wrote what is considered to be France’s first cookbook, Le Viandier, in 1310. Thierry, Stephane and Laurent Gardinier bought a controlling stake in the Taillevent Paris group in 2011, and also own Domaines Les Crayères in Champagne. Housed in a former Coutts bank in Cavendish Square in London’s Marylebone, the 80-cover UK outpost of Les 110 de Taillevent boasts a cellar stocked with almost 1,500 bins.
Like its Parisian sister, the London outpost boasts an evolving list of 110 wines by the glass, overseen by Lecoufle, who was made head sommelier in April 2016. Each of the wines is designed to be paired with 30 seasonally inspired dishes created by head chef Ross Bryans to harmonise with the wines. Three years after opening, Lecoufle is on track to reach the full capacity of 1,500 bins by the bottle at Les 110 de Taillevent London. While the DNA of Taillevent might be Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Rhône and the Loire, Lecoufle is keen to champion small and big-name producers.
He also shines a light on New World winemakers, with drops on pour from Australia’s William Downie, Mac Forbes, and Ten Minutes by Tractor. After a shift he likes to relax with a glass of Yellow Chartreuse, and his pet peeve is diners who chill their wine with ice cubes. When it comes to food and wine matching, his apogée is the union of Comté and a glass of Arbois.
8. David Moore – Restaurateur and owner of Pied à Terre
Born in County Monaghan in Ireland, after studying for a diploma in hotel management, in 1985 Moore seized the opportunity to do work experience at The Box Tree in Ilkley, Yorkshire, which had two Michelin stars. A year later he moved to the revered Le Manoix aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, where he was taken under the wing of Raymond Blanc.
During his time there, Moore broadened his wine horizons, and learnt his Pouilly-Fumé from his Pouilly Fuissé. He cites the then restaurant manager, Alain Descenclos, as the most influential mentor of his career. After six fruitful years at Le Manoir, in 1991 Moore struck out and opened his first restaurant, French fine-dining venue Pied à Terre on Charlotte Street, which won a Michelin star a year after opening. From 1996 to 1999 the restaurant held two stars under fiery head chef Tom Aikens. Disaster struck in late 2004 when a fire ripped through the site, leading to its closure for most of 2005.
Determined to keep the business going, the venue reopened in late September 2005. Two years later Moore opened a second restaurant, L’Autre Pied, in Marylebone, which closed last September after a decade in business. Pied à Terre boasts one of the most diverse wine lists in London, with bottles ranging from the late £20s to more than £8,000 (for Petrus 1982). Featuring drops from prominent estates and a broad range of vintages, the majority of wines on the list are bought directly from the châteaux. The site has long been a champion of esoteric wines from lesser-known regions, such as Slovenian Malvasia, Greek Viognier and Israeli Chardonnay, with wines from Serbia and Uruguay also making an appearance on the list. A household name in the restaurant industry, Moore has become a vocal spokesman for the London restaurant scene.
This summer he blamed the UK government for the “Brexit-induced restaurant Armageddon” going on in the UK, accusing the government of “sitting on its hands” while dozens of restaurants are forced into administration because of rising rents. A diehard white Burgundy fan, Moore has recently acquired a taste for white Bordeaux – Haut-Brion Blanc 1990 tops his bucket list. When it comes to natural wines, the jury is out.
“Sometimes you have to intervene if Mother Nature doesn’t play ball. If I don’t enjoy or understand a wine I can’t recommend it,” he says. Moore is also a founding partner of the London Cocktail Club, which has eight sites in the capital and has recently raised £1m for expansion. He has appeared on MasterChef: The Professionals and BBC2 series The Restaurant with Raymond Blanc. He dreams of owning a vineyard in Sussex.
7. James Lloyd – Head sommelier – Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
James Lloyd’s sommelier career began in 2002, when he worked as a commis sommelier at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea. There, he moved his way up to become assistant head sommelier.
Hungry for adventure, in 2006 he moved to New York to be part of the opening team for hotel restaurant Gordon Ramsay at The London. After an inspiring stint in Piedmont working both as a sommelier and an apprentice winemaker, on his return to London in 2008, Lloyd worked at some of London’s top fine dining establishments, including Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.
Changing direction slightly, in 2011 Lloyd swapped Michelin-star dining for The Playboy Club, where he worked as head sommelier and assistant restaurant manager before coming full circle and returning to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in 2016, this time as head sommelier, taking over from Jan Konetzki. An avid Italophile, Lloyd is passionate about listing wines that are ready to drink, so that each bottle he opens is guaranteed to perform. “I love wines with maturity, which tend to work well with our food, meaning the guest has a more balanced and enjoyable experience,” says Lloyd, who believes some sommeliers have become slaves to fads, and should learn to trust their palates more.
Having to uphold the site’s three-Michelin-star standards, he and head chef Matt Abé spend up to six weeks tweaking the food-and-wine pairings on the tasting menu, ensuring all are seamless. During the creative process, Lloyd tastes every element of the dish to come up with the perfect wine pairing, which is usually chosen from a shortlist of four. One of the pairings he’s most proud of is Abé’s Dexter beef short rib dish with peas, broad beans and smoked bone marrow matched with Ca’ del Bosco Maurizio Zanella 1999, a Bordeaux blend from Lombardy.
Lloyd is custodian of some of the priciest wines in London, with just 15 bottles on the list coming in at below £50, and more than 100 costing over £1,000, including first-growth Bordeaux dating from 1900. His most memorable wine experience thus far was the chance to try a bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild 1894, though an “exceptional” bottle of Latour ‘45 came pretty close. Topping his wine bucket list are Château Rayas 1978, and Château Latour 1899 – if there are any bottles left.
6. Daniele Chelo – Head sommelier Clos Maggiore
One of the youngest sommeliers in our list, 25-year-old Daniele Chelo was born in Milan but has called London his home since 2015. Having gained valuable work experience while at catering school in Italy, at the tender age of 18 Chelo completed a stage as a commis sommelier at Phil Thompson’s Michelin-starred Auberge du Lac in Welwyn Garden City, which set him on his fine-dining path. Back in Milan, he “fell in love with hospitality” at the Michelin-starred Al Pont de Ferr, under the stewardship of head chef Matias Perdomo.
“The friendly atmosphere and service really opened my eyes,” says Chelo, who was particularly inspired by Perdomo’s creative approach to cuisine. While working there he experienced a wine epiphany after a bottle of 2004 Amarone della Valpolicella from Trabucchi d’Illasi, which drew him deeper into the wine world.
Keen to improve his English, Chelo moved back to the UK in 2015 and got his big break at Jason Atherton’s Michelin-starred City Social, where he worked his way up from junior sommelier to head sommelier in just two years. Along the way he was named a certified sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Chelo is now in charge of the wine list at one of London’s best-loved and most romantic restaurants, Clos Maggiore in Covent Garden, where he took over from former head sommelier Antonin Dubuis in July 2018. The 2,500-bin wine list at Clos Maggiore opens with a quote from Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon: “Wine is one of the most civilised things in the world and one of the most natural things in the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensual thing”.
Before he left, Dubuis ensured that not all of the Burgundies on the list require diners to remortgage their homes. The Big Little Burgundy section features top domaines such as Leflaive, and rising stars including Meursault’s Domaine Pernot Belicard. To acclimatise to London’s soggy climate, Chelo warms his cockles with a dram of Scotch. He dreams of owning a vineyard in the Langhe in Piedmont. “Every time I go there I feel so peaceful and am so amazed by the landscape. Add to that the people and the food and you’ve got a dream scenario,” he says. If he wasn’t a sommelier, he could have been a taxi driver, “or maybe I could sell watermelon on the beach”.
5. Elvis Ziakos – Head sommelier The Greenhouse
After three years in charge of the wine list at two-Michelin-starred restaurant The Greenhouse under his belt, Elvis Ziakos, advanced MS and wine judge, is one of the UK’s most influential sommeliers.
Described by Wine List Confidential’s expert reviewer Douglas Blyde as a “supermodel collection” and “an invincible list”, Ziakos manages no fewer than 3,500 bins – stored in four cellars – with huge verticals of everything from François Raveneau Chablis to Penfolds Grange.
The menu itself stretches to 120 pages. Born in 1976 (“one of the warmest vintages in history”, he told Wine List Confidential in 2016), his career began in his native Greece, where he completed sommelier studies at the Le Monde Institute in Athens, and worked as head sommelier at Kohylia restaurant at the Grand Resort Lagonissi from 2002 to 2007.
He went to the two Michelin-starred Spondi in the city by the end of the year, while he completed his WSET Diploma, before moving to London to join Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley in 2012. Then it was onto his first role at The Greenhouse in Mayfair a year later, where he remains head sommelier.
In 2013, Ziakos was awarded an Advanced Sommelier certificate – one of the highest accolades from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Ziakos holds the belief that wine is not merely a profession, but a lifestyle, and his love for the drink is only enriched by a passion for gastronomy.
He is, in his own words, “dedicated to serving epicurean excellence” at The Greenhouse. The success of the Mayfair haunt comes in part from the chemistry between Ziakos and head chef Arnaud Bignon, who trained under Eric Fréchon of the three-Michelin-starred Le Bristol in Paris, and, like Ziakos, also worked at Spondi in Athens.
Not just a London heavyweight, the sommelier represented Greece at the Best Sommelier of the World Competition in 2007. Ziakos’s competitive nature shines through during service, telling us that he loves the challenge of a customer who has a deep knowledge of wine, but those with less experience are just as enjoyable to work with, he says. “Everyone has their own character, and as a sommelier you have to follow and adapt.”
4. Terry Kandylis – Head Sommelier – 67 Pall Mall
Kandylis was studying physics at the University of Athens, while working for some of the best restaurants in Greece, when the wine bug bit.
“My inspiration was my cousin, who influenced my first steps and opened the gates for me to discover what is hidden in the wonderful world of wine,” he says. After completing the first three levels of his WSET qualifications in Greece, he moved to the UK, where he landed a position at Heston Blumenthal’s revered gastro-molecular pub The Fat Duck in Bray.
Upon completing his WSET Diploma, he went on to become assistant head sommelier at The Ledbury, before joining private members’ club 67 Pall Mall, where he is today head sommelier, working under the leadership of Ronan Sayburn MS.
“I was lucky enough to work with some of the most respected wine professionals like Ronan Sayburn and The Fat Duck’s Isa Bal, who taught me how to think and how to approach things. I learned a lot and keep on learning from them.”
However, Kandylis counts the late Gerard Basset as his biggest inspiration in the world of wine. “His ethos, humble approach and character is what I call ‘to lead by example’.” A sense of camaraderie among sommeliers, fostered in part by Basset’s support of fresh talent, is one of the reasons that Kandylis enjoys working in London so much. “It’s a community that makes you proud to be part of it,” he says. “An amazing mix of professionals from around the world that strive for perfection and are constantly thirsty for knowledge and excellence.”
That drive for perfection has led Kandylis to achieve a number of career milestones. In 2015 he earned the title of Best Sommelier in Greece, and represented the country in the European final in Vienna in 2017, where he managed to go through to the semi-finals. In 2016, he was crowned the 2016 UK Sommelier of the Year, has passed the advanced level of the Court of Master Sommeliers exam and is currently preparing for his MS Diploma exams. To aspiring sommeliers his advice is simple: “Be prepared for many hours of hard work, patience and lots of study, and if you are persistent and focused on your target, you will be rewarded.”
As for famous faces, the most memorable customer Kandylis has served is none other than Hollywood A-Lister Brad Pitt. “He didn’t care about people looking at him, and enjoyed every bit of his meal. He had fun and was cracking jokes with the staff that were as nervous as the guests around him.”
3. Hans Weinfalk Larsson – Head sommelier – Hide (Above)
Larsson took over the coveted task of managing the gargantuan list at wine Mecca Hide late last year, after the departure of the restaurant’s director of wine, Piotr Pietras MS.
In the restaurant’s two sections, Above and Ground, there is a mind-boggling 6,500 bin wine list, with Larsson in charge of service and selection at Hide’s more formal Above restaurant, and his fellow head sommelier Dmytro Goncharuk in charge of the less formal Ground restaurant.
The mammoth wine list takes in not only the enormous number of bottles stored in the restaurant’s cellars, but also the stock at nearby Hedonism, where anything can be rustled up for high-spending guests. Larsson, from Sweden, began his career in wine after receiving a sommelier-education course for his 18th birthday. A stint at Château Cantenac-Brown in Bordeaux soon followed, where he was able to gain a first-hand insight into the process of winemaking, before setting off for Australia.
There he worked for a couple of wineries in Hunter Valley, before taking on a sommelier role at Luke Mangan’s Glass Brasserie restaurant in Sydney.
Since then, Larsson has gone on to work at several Michelin-starred restaurants in Stockholm and London, including the two-Michelin-starred Oaxen Krog in Sweden, where he was head sommelier. Keen to deepen his knowledge further, he is studying for his Master Sommelier title, and, looking back, has a few words of advice for young sommeliers starting out on their path to vinous employment.
“Travel to more wine regions and study more. The experience and knowledge gained is so important when learning about wine. There is always something new to learn.”
His position at Hide certainly lends itself to enjoying many a rare treasure, but it is a bottle of Gentaz-Dervieux 1989 that most recently struck a chord with the ambitious sommelier.
“I’m a huge Rhône wine geek so tasting this wine was incredible,” he said. “It’s a wine that I have had on my bucket list for so long. It was just spectacular.”
Other wines he is keen to sample include a Raymond Trollat from St Joseph, Krug Clos de Mesnil 1979, all the first growths of Bordeaux pre-phylloxera, and a 1905 Salon. Working at Hide, he might just stand a chance of tasting them all.
2. Jan Konetzki – Director of wine – Ten Trinity Square Private Club
One of the nattiest dressers in the drinks trade, Jan Konetzki (Wine List Confidential’s 2018 Sommelier of the Year) is rarely seen without a tailored blazer, pocket square and signature round specs in a variety of shades.
Born in Lüneberg in northern Germany in 1980, before oenology crossed his mind Konetzki began training as a baker, bartender and waiter, then became lured into the world of wine. He got his big break when he was appointed head sommelier at the three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road in London’s affluent Chelsea district.
Known for his impeccable manners and irreverent sense of humour, Konetzki has worked his way up to become one of the most revered and celebrated sommeliers in London. Balancing the zeitgeist with tradition, his distinguished wine selection at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was recognised as one of London’s finest, earning him the title of Moët UK Sommelier of the Year in 2012. Having served everyone from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to The Rolling Stones, before he left, he initiated a radical redesign of the wine list to make it more interactive for diners, incorporating features such as an aroma wheel, wine maps and a bottle size guide. The ambitious project took Konetzki six months to develop.
Today you’ll find him working the floor at Michelin-starred French restaurant La Dame de Pic, overseen by acclaimed French chef Anne-Sophie Pic, and Asian fusion spot Mei Ume at The Four Seasons Hotel at Ten Trinity Square in Tower Hill. In 2016 Konetzki was made director of wine at The Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square and Ten Trinity Square Private Club, where he is also a Château Latour and Artemis Domaines ambassador.
Supervising the work of several highly skilled sommelier teams, his list at Ten Trinity Square Private Club features no fewer than six pages dedicated to Château Latour, including a dazzling array of magnums, double magnums, Jeroboams and imperials dating back to the 1930s, including his beloved 1959. His list also includes several rare white Rhônes from Château Grillet, Grands Echézeaux from Domaine d’Eugenie, ‘cult’ Californian wines from Eisle Vineyards, majestic bottles from Clos du Tart, and Champagnes from top names including Salon, Selosse and Krug Clos du Mesnil.
“The list is young and composed of some great bottles from our treasure chest. The club is a place to marvel at the past and future while enjoying what drinks well at present,” he says.
1. Ronan Sayburn – Head of Wine – 67 Pall Mall
Famously modest and generous with his time, Ronan Sayburn MS has been in the wine industry for nearly 20 years. He has worked with some of the world’s biggest chefs at many of London’s most famous restaurants, including Pied à Terre, The Greenhouse, Hotel du Vin, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, 45 Park Lane, Royal Hospital Road, Claridge’s, The Connaught, The Savoy, Boxwood Café and Maze, to name a few.
Sayburn was executive head sommelier of the Gordon Ramsay Group for eight years, and his address book no doubt reads like a Who’s Who of the food-and-drink industry. However, it is his dedication to supporting the next generation that makes him such an important figure.
He has guided many a sommelier from the back bar to front of house, and his 5,000-strong wine list at 67 Pall Mall is the best in London. “We had an idea to create a place for sommeliers to work and learn. We currently have 17 sommeliers, and most have been put through Court of Master Sommeliers or WSET courses, which 67 has paid for.” It’s fitting, therefore, that Sayburn’s own career in wine began with the help of another legend of the trade, Gerard Basset OBE MS MW.
Born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Sayburn began his career with a course in hotel catering and management, and had aspirations to become a chef, until he spotted Basset’s face on the cover of Restaurant Magazine and it dawned on him that he could work with wine for a living. Sayburn wrote to Basset, who helped him get his first break, at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons. The rest, as they say, is history.
From here, he went on to be crowned UK Sommelier of the Year in 1998, competed twice representing the UK in the European Sommelier Competition, and gained his Master Sommelier qualification in 2005. Last year Sayburn became CEO of the Court of Master Sommeliers. “I am inspired by anyone going through the Court of Master Sommeliers courses. They are very tough exams. With the long hours that are involved in catering, putting in the extra hours of study takes extreme discipline and persistence.” In another life, Sayburn worked as a diving instructor in the tropical seas of Thailand, and still enjoys diving to shipwrecks off the south coast of England.