Montone, originally from Italy, is currently wine director at Soho’s London Edition Hotel. ‘I worked really hard for this. I’ve learned from the mistakes I made in the previous edition and this time I really wanted to make it,’ Montone told Imbibe. ‘I wasn’t expecting to win, but I knew I did better than last year.’
The competition is organised by gastronomic society Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and is open to sommeliers working in Britain aged 21 to 30. It involves a three-part test split into theory, service and blind tasting.
The theory section is a four-hour written exam, with topics ranging from wine production to viticulture and geography, as well as spirits, beer and cider knowledge. The service part includes decanting and champagne-pouring and is aimed at judging the contestant’s competence, poise and professional attitude. During service, somms may be asked questions on food pairings or on specific vintages. The third and last part of the competition entails the blind tasting of white and red wines to establish vintage, grape variety, country and region of origin, as well as the blind tasting of six spirits.
Coming second in the contest was Salvatore Castano of Mash in London, while Paul Robineau, sommelier at Moor Hall, came third. Fourth was Paul Fauvel, head somm at Lanesborough Hotel London. Fauvel was awarded the Gerard Basset Tasting Trophy, a brand new prize for the best blind-tasting and food-matching performance created to commemorate Basset, who passed away in November.
Basset collaborated with the Chaîne up until last year and was key in devising the Young Sommelier competition in 2008. ‘Gerard loved competitions,’ explained Basset’s wife Nina, who was in charge of delivering the trophy. ‘After he won all of them and became too old to compete, he liked to be involved as an organiser.’
All four finalists received a champagne sabre from Gaggenau, Schott Zweisel glassware and bottles from leading UK sparkling wine producer Nyetimber.
Montone will now go on to represent Britain at the International Young Sommelier finals in Seoul, South Korea, on 19-20 September. ‘[The final] is going to be a lot more challenging,’ said Montone. ‘I’ve already been studying consistently for the past two years, blind tasting three, four or five times per week. I’m trying to be prepared for any scenario.’
Montone will compete for the coveted title of International Young Sommelier of the Year against fellow somms from around the globe under the mentorship of members of the Court of Master Sommeliers UK.