Young Sommeliers Competition - 2009

Six of Great Britain’s leading young sommeliers gathered at Gaggenau showroom, Central London, on Wednesday 10 June 2009 for the national final of international gastronomic society, Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’ International Young Sommelier Competition in association with Gaggenau and Pernod Ricard.

The Chaîne des Rôtisseurs’ International Young Sommelier Competition is the only international level competition of its kind and one of only two competitions dedicated to the art of sommellerie. The other is the UK Sommelier of the Year Competition run by the front-of-house professional body, the Academy of Food & Wine, the UK branch of the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale.

“As the UK’s professional body for sommelier, we have been delighted to support this competition,” commented Sophie Roberts-Brown, executive director of the Academy of Food & Wine and member of the competition’s judging panel. “Our mission has always been to promote best practice and to promote and encourage young people into the front-of-house profession. It was particularly rewarding to see the impressive skills of these young sommeliers and to see how dedicated and professional they were.”

The prestigious panel of judges, lead by Master of Wine Master Sommelier Gerard Basset, assessed contestants through a series of rigorous tests designed to test their drinks knowledge, tasting skills and service skills including decanting, champagne service and food and wine pairing. Personality and passion for wine also plays a big part. “A top sommelier has a great personality and good communication skills and also the ability to help a customer feel at ease without lecturing or over-selling. Wine and food knowledge can be taught, but much of a sommelier’s skill is intuitive,” Gerard Basset said.

Judge Xavier Rousset, Master Sommelier and owner of Texture restaurant in London added: “It’s very interesting to see the different angles to approach the same job, where they work and their culture really determines their outcome and how they are perceived.”

25-year-old Yohann Jousselin (French) from Hotel du Vin in Winchester scooped the title of Great Britain’s Young Sommelier of the Year. Jousselin first became interested in wine helping his uncle in his vineyard in the Loire valley and has grown into a seasoned sommelier currently studying to become a Master Sommelier.

Judge Stephen Spurrier, international wine consultant said: “I tend to only judge wines and very seldom judge wine people so I enjoyed the experience. The competition was very interesting, there was one clear winner and then as a judging panel we debated over the second place. The winner was very knowledgeable, second place went to a brilliantly intuitive individual.”

In second place was 24-year-old Erica Laler (Swedish) of Texture restaurant in London. Laler first became interested in wine at the age of 18 when a friend sommelier gave her four different red wines to blind taste: “After that I was mesmerized”, she said.

26-years-old Daniel Kubini (Czech Republic) Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton came third place. Also participating in the competition were 20-year-old Tom Pridham of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, 29-year-old Jiri Chovan of Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath and 30-year-old Thomas Wellwood of Myres Estate in Fife.

First time sommelier competitior, Wellwood said: “It was very intense, and it was de!nitely interesting to see the format of a professional competition. I suppose you are taken out of your comfort zone as all your skills are put into a completely different context. I’ve worked in the industry for the past 10 years but never taken a competition, if I was to do it again my whole take would be different.”

Bryan Julian, Master Sommelier and CEO of the Court of Master Sommeliers said: “They all performed extremely well but first time entrants in sommelier competitions always find it difficult. They need to learn how to be ‘competition wise’”.

In September, winner Yohann will represent Great Britain at the international final of the competition competing against 30 winners of national finals in countries across the globe for the title of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs International Young Sommelier 2009.

Judges Profiles

Gerard Basset, Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, (Chair) Echanson, La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs

Gerard Basset was born in St Etienne but now holds both British and French nationalities. After training in Lyon, Gerard moved to England to start his career as a sommelier quickly becoming Head Sommelier at Chewton Glen, the Michelin-starred hotel in Hampshire. In 1989 he qualified as a Master of Wine and won UK Sommelier of the year in 1989 and again in 1992. He has subsequently been named Best Sommelier in Europe and three times 2nd best Sommelier in the World. Gerard serves as the Worldwide Vice President at the Court of Master Sommeliers. In 1994 Gerard and Robin Huston established the Hotel du Vin hotel chain and more recently the Hotel Terra Vina.

Stephen Spurrier, International Wine Consultant & Judge, Consulting Editor, Decanter

Stephen Spurrier joined the wine trade in 1964 as a trainee with Christopher & Co. London’s oldest wine merchant. In 1970 he moved to Paris where he opened Les Caves de la Madeleine, a highly regarded specialist wine shop in Paris. In 1973 he opened L’Academie du Vin, France’s first private wine school. Today his roles include a director of Christie’s Wine Course, which he founded with Christie’s Education in 1982, wine consultant to Singapore Airlines and consultant editor of Decanter. He has received several international awards for wine writing including the Bunch Prize and Le Prix de Champagne Lanson. He is the author of several books on wine.

Xavier Rousset, Master Sommelier & Founder of Texture

Born in France Xavier Rousset studied to be a sommelier in Saumur and at the early age of 20 started as an Assistant Chef Sommelier at Gerard Basset’s Hotel du Vin in Bristol. In 2002 Xavier was promoted to Head Sommelier at Hotel du VIn and won Ruinart UK sommelier of the year. He also passed the Master Sommelier exam and became the youngest Master Sommelier in the world. In 2004 he became Head Sommelier at Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons. In 2007 Xavier and Agnar Sverrisson opened Texture, which was recently named Newcomer of the Year by Hardens Restaurant Guide.

Philip Evins, Chairman of Winchester Wine Appreciation Society & Head of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs GB

Philip Evins comes from a business background in high tech industries and his career involved him travelling to and living in a number of different countries. These two factors meant that he was continually exposed to the world’s different customs and foods. It was on his travels that he first came to know Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and the benefits of its camaraderie and high dining standards. Philip joined the Chaîne in USA but now spends most of his time in the UK where he established a branch in Winchester. Since 2007 he has represented the UK on the International Board. Philip has been Chairman of the Winchester Wine Appreciation Society for the past 14 years.

Bryan Julian, Master Sommelier & CEO Court of Master Sommeliers

Bryan has worked in all areas of the hospitality industry and held numerous positions including Cellar Master, Event Consultant for The Lord and Lady Clifford of Chudleigh and Catering Manager for Summer Army camps. His consultancy clients have included The Grosvenor House, The Savoy, The Ritz Hotel and Millennium Copthorne Hotels in London. In 1972 he passed the prestigious Master Sommelier Diploma and in 1977 proposed the formation of the Court of Master Sommeliers, a worldwide examining body providing education, training and certification in wine knowledge, wine tasting and service. Bryan is an International Judge for wine, restaurant service, national and international sommelier competitions.

Sophie Roberts-Brown, Director and General Manager of The Academy of Food and Wine Service

Sophie Roberts-Brown joined the Academy, the industry’s professional training body in 2003. Her background in PR and her previous role at the Restaurant Association has proved invaluable for re-positioning the Academy as a highly respected, professional organisation. Sophie combines day-to-day management with developing the Academy’s strategy and member relations. She also spends much of her time, liaising with potential sponsors for the Academy and developing new events, competitions and fundraising activities.


Gaggenau brings the professional kitchen into the home and uses the highest quality materials for built-in kitchen appliances combining uncompromising performance and design. Working alongside both professional chefs and product designers, Gaggenau’s researchers and developers have consistently been at the forefront of the industry, launching technically innovative appliances and achieving a number of ‘firsts’: the world’s first built in oven; first glass ceramic cook top; first pyrolytic self cleaning oven system and combination steam oven for domestic use.

Gaggenau is associated with fine wine and dining as well as the support, nurturing and development of some of Europe’s finest chefs. Michelin starred chef, Raymond Blanc, has selected Gaggenau appliances for the working kitchen in his world-renowned cookery school, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons found near Oxford.

As well as offering professional standard kitchen appliances across all categories, Gaggenau’s also offers a sophisticated line up of specialist wine cooling cabinets of ‘professional’ performance for the domestic environment.

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Pernod Ricard UK

Pernod Ricard UK is part of the Pernod Ricard Group, co-leader of the global wines and spirits industry. Globally, Pernod Ricard now represents 91 million cases of spirits and 25 million cases of wine, and owns 19 of the world’s top 100 brands.

Pernod Ricard UK has identified 14 key brands as priorities in the UK market: ABSOLUT, Campo Viejo, Chivas Regal, Havana Club, Jacob’s Creek, Jameson, Malibu, Martell, The Glenlivet, Tia Maria, Montana, G.H. Mumm, Pernod and Perrier-Jouet. Pernod Ricard UK is a member of The Portman Group promoting responsible drinking,

Download the Young Sommelier of the Year Competition 2009 - Press Release (.PDF 1.7MB)

Winner Yohann Jousselin, with Philip Evins, Bailli Délégué
The panel of judges: L-R, Bryan Julian, Stephen Spurrier, Sophie Roberts-Brown, Xavier Rousset, Gerard Basset, Philip Evins
2nd place Erica Laler
Finalist Thomas Wellwood