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Rengasamy wins sake sommelier competition

The first Sake Sommelier of the Year competition to be held outside Japan has been won by Rajan Rengasamy of wine supplier Spinneys, based in the UAE.

Barry McCaughley of London’s Chotto Matte and Sam Tse of the Hong Kong Wine Academy were runners-up.

The competition was organised by the Academy of Food & Wine Service, together with the Sake Sommelier Association. Said Xavier Chapelou, director of the London-based Sake Sommelier Association: “Although the standard of competitors was exceedingly high, Rajan’s knowledge and skill made him stand out as a top class sake sommelier. He was cool under pressure and was able to clearly demonstrate his service skills and sake knowledge.

“We are delighted with the response we have had in the first year of this competition – it’s a great start, and a fantastic boost to the skills of sake sommeliers all over the world.”

Rajan receives a fully-funded trip to Kyoto and Hyogo in Japan to take the five-day Sake Sommelier Association Advanced Sake Sommelier course. On receiving his award, Rajan commented: “Winning the competition is a huge sense of relief, but I am also very proud. Even though I was the winner, I still feel that I can learn so much more about sake.”

The launch of the competition, sponsored by Gekkeikan, one of the world’s oldest and finest sake producers, was prompted by the huge growth in the number of varieties of sake available outside Japan and the fact the skills of the sake sommelier are becoming more prominent. The Sake Sommelier of the Year is designed to raise awareness of sake and sake sommeliers within the industry and amongst the general public and to promote sake education across the world.

Around 50 sake sommeliers entered the competition, whittled down to five semi-finalists based on a written questionnaire and essay questions. Of the five, three were then chosen to go through to the grand final in front of a live audience, with tasks including a food pairing test, a service task and a blind tasting, all using traditional Japanese crockery.

The Sake Sommelier Association (SSA) is the first and only organisation to offer sake education in the UK. Candidates passing the Introductory Sake Professional and Certified Sake Sommelier become sake sommeliers, a certificate accredited by the SSA.

22 November 2013 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor