Dion Wai - NZ Sommelier of the Year 2019
Dion, who works as a sommelier, most recently at Huka Lodge and currently at Auckland’s Baduzzi Restaurant was raised in Auckland. Dion is a graduate of AUT and the New Zealand School of Food and Wine’s Professional Wine Programme and he holds qualifications from both the WSET - the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level 3 - and through the Court of Master Sommeliers is a Certified Sommelier. This year Dion has won the New Zealand Sommelier of the Year for the second time.
We interviewed Dion a few months ago about Leadership in Wine for his insights into building a career in wine in New Zealand. You can also read his article about competing in the Castel Cup in Hong Kong in 2018 where Dion placed 2nd in the competition by the thinnest of margins - one quarter of a mark – ¼ mark!
Dion is moving to London shortly to pursue new opportunities as a sommelier and to build his profile internationally.
How did you prepare for the competition? What challenges did you face?
I'm constantly reading and researching but I focused specifically on NZ viticulture, history and producer profiles, along with spirits and fortified wines in revision for the competition.
Which part of the competition was the most challenging? And why?
I actually found the 3rd task the hardest due to a tight time constraint. In hindsight it would have been faster for me to focus on going through the seven course menu with all my NZ wine recommendations first, as my NZ producer knowledge is stronger and to have then gone back and started with my French and international examples.
What is your next professional challenge following your award?
Finding a job in London and preparing for my next qualification level.
What advice would you give to Sommelier of The Year candidates next year if they wish to be successful?
Time yourself doing some basic service activities so you have a rough idea and feel for practical task time management.