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Wine Service Award Highlights Encouraging Trends

Wine Service Award Highlights Encouraging New Trends

The changing face of New Zealand wine service has been revealed after the first round of the prestigious Sommelier 2000 competition...

Seven women are among the 41 hopefuls, named today as semi-finalists in the nationwide search for New Zealand's top wine waiter.

Event organisers say they're encouraged to see talented women now emerging in an area, which was once almost completely dominated by men.

The Sommelier 2000 competition was launched by Matua Valley Wines, to reward professional skills and encourage excellence in the service of wine. The event was last held in 1986. Wine critic and competition director Keith Stewart says this year's semi-finalists come from cafes, bars and restaurants from all over the country, ranging from Pokeno near Auckland to Riverton in the south.

Mr Stewart says the large number of semi-finalists reflects the very high standard of entries.

"Overall knowledge of local wines has increased dramatically in the 14 years since the last sommelier competition," he says. "This change in focus reflects the rapid advances made by the local wine industry in that time."

Mr Stewart says the challenge now for the hospitality industry is to meet the needs and expectations of foreign visitors.

"New Zealand is now enjoying an increasing international focus as a visitor destination. The hospitality industry must ensure we deliver our wines in the right context, presenting a truly international image." Matua Valley Wines Director Bill Spence says the depth of knowledge of New Zealand wine is particularly pleasing. He says he's also encouraged by the calibre of those who have entered the competition.

"One of the aims of this event is to highlight the exciting long-term potential of a career in wine service," says Mr Spence.

"Two of this years semi-finalists were also finalists in 1986. It is reassuring to know they have remained within the industry. Their knowledge and experience has not been lost."

The complete list of semi-finalists includes a strong showing from the main centres including Auckland (12 ), Wellington (6) and Christchurch (9).

Regional areas also fared well, with wine waiters from Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo, Hastings , Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Nelson and Southland all making it through to the semi-finals.

Blenheim and Queenstown, two areas with strong links to wine & tourism, have also made it through to the next round, with 3 and 2 entrants respectively.

Mr Spence says the wide geographical spread is a major achievement, reflecting an increased interest and sophistication in food and wine, which is nationwide.


Sommelier is the French term for a specialist wine waiter and is commonly used within the New Zealand hospitality trade. The Sommelier usually manages the service of wine in the restaurant, including wine lists, ordering cellaring and training of staff.

Over the next few weeks, all semi-finalists will be interviewed and judged at their place of work. Finalists will be flown to Auckland for a full service lunch performance before a panel of judges at The Heritage Auckland on August the 23rd.

The winning Sommelier will receive a return trip for two to France, courtesy of Qantas. The trip will include time spent with Moet & Chandon in Epernay - France's Champagne capital.


Bill Spence or Simon Beck Matua Valley Wines Phone: 0800 628 829 Facsimile: (09) 411 7982 Email:

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