We also have the second and third best too

After a fiercely fought contest involving plenty of spitting and swallowing Alex Freguin, head sommelier at Moor Hall in Ormskirk, has been crowned the Taittinger UK Sommelier of the Year 2018.

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

The three finalists, all based at restaurants in the North West, were narrowed down from an original shortlist of twelve competitors during a series of regional heats held in April. 

I’ve worked hard for this and I’m just so pleased it’s happened for me today

Many of the UK’s top restaurants, including Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and The Fat Duck in Bray, put forward their best sommeliers to compete in a series of wine-related tasks.

The final was held at London’s Savoy hotel in front of a live audience and a panel of expert judges including deputy head judge Nicolas Clerc, Ronan Sayburn and Xavier Rousset – all former winners of the competition. 

The three finalists were challenged with identifying errors on a wine list and asked to undertake blind taste tests to identify various wines and spirits. They also had to undergo a restaurant role-play situation serving a group of very discerning former winners and finally, they were required to pour a magnum of Taittinger quickly and evenly into sixteen glasses.

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Alex Freguin is head sommelier at Moor Hall in Ormskirk

Ultimately, it was Alex Freguin, from Moor Hall in Aughton who was hailed the winner, taking the title of UK Sommelier of the Year 2018. Moor Hall, whose restaurant is run by ex-L’Enclume head chef Mark Birchall, has won a string of awards since it opened in spring 2017 including a Michelin star.

In addition to the honour of the title, Freguin’s prize package includes an in-depth mentoring programme to further his expertise, along with an educational trip to Rioja provided by Matthew Clark, a Jereboam of Taittinger Prestige Rose and a Riedel decanter.

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

“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.”

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The three finalists on stage at the Savoy Twitter

Kevin McKee, UK Director at Family Taittinger, said: “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.”

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.

Speaking of, here's our interview with Manchester's finest, George Bergier.

Manchester's Master Sommelier George Bergier from Manchester Confidential on Vimeo.