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Wellington Wine Waiter Wins Sommelier 2000

Organisers of this country’s top wine waiter award – Sommelier 2000 - say today’s event proves New Zealand is producing world-class wine service staff.

After weeks of judging and eliminations, Stephen Morris of Wellington was today named New Zealand’s Sommelier Of The Year.

Mr Morris is a 28 year old wine waiter with Copita Restaurant. His winning prize includes a return flight to Paris courtesy of Qantas and to be guests of Moet & Chandon.

The prestigious Sommelier 2000 event was launched earlier this year by Matua Valley Wines, in association with Moet & Chandon, The Heritage Auckland and Qantas.

Eight hopefuls made it through to today’s final - a celebrity luncheon at The Heritage Auckland. Tables of celebrity ‘diners’ were on hand to play the roles of typical, and sometimes rude or demanding customers.

The finalists were judged on their ability to taste and rank wine in a qualitative manner as well as identifying basic faults in a line up of wines.

Each Sommelier was provided with a varied and eclectic mix of wines and beverages, including aged and dessert wines. They then had the task of communicating to the diners their suggested wine or beverage match to the menu.

Working with the Heritage staff, the serving of drinks and meeting the demands of the luncheon guests meant the Sommeliers were put under pressure to ensure a seamless presentation and a memorable experience.

Wine critic and competition director Keith Stewart says Mr Morris’s winning formula was a combination of impressive communication skills, excellent knowledge of wine and a focus on providing the customer with a superior level of service.

”Stephen has outstanding attributes for the role of a Sommelier,” says Mr Stewart.

As part of the judging process, Mr Stewart and one local guest judge interviewed wine waiters at cafes and restaurants all over New Zealand. He says the eight who took part in today’s final could all perform with distinction at any of the world’s prestige restaurants.

”Overall, there was a high standard of knowledge of wine, especially of New
Zealand wine.

“The only area of weakness is in tasting experience. Many waiting staff still have some way to go before they can accurately and succinctly describe the actual taste of a wine.”

Mr Stewart says the results are encouraging for New Zealand. He says our standards in wine service are very high for a small country.

“With continued improvement, our wine service staff will help secure New Zealand a future in wine of the highest quality.”

Matua Valley Wines Managing Director Bill Spence says the competition has set a benchmark for the wine service industry.

“Sommelier 2000 was not simply about picking a winner,” he says.

“The event was about setting standards. It is also the start of a process, which will establish wine & beverage service as a prestige career option.”

“Wine and hospitality already offer huge economic benefits and opportunities for New Zealand. Professional service is one of the keys to that prosperity.”

Mr Spence says the Sommelier competition is now set to become one of the key events on the hospitality industry calendar.


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