2019 Winners Announced

  • Celia Hay

Media Release: July 30, 2019

Dion Wai wins New Zealand Sommelier of the Year, for the second time. 


Dion Wai wins New Zealand Sommelier of the Year, for the second time.  The annual competition, held at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine in Auckland on Sunday 28 July includes the Sommelier of the Year and Young Sommelier of the Year and Young Wine Professional, a competition for people working in sales and marketing roles. The guest judge was Master Sommelier John Szabo, who travelled from Canada to be part of this event.

“This award recognises the vital role played by the hospitality professional as part of the dining experience and serves to inspire others to look beyond the traditional roles of chef and server. 

“At this level a sommelier must have developed an exceptional palate and comprehensive knowledge of beverages. While wine styles, grape varieties and regions are important, a sommelier must also be knowledgeable about cocktails, spirit brands, beer and sake as well as tea and coffee. A sommelier must also have excellent communication skills, ” says Celia Hay, chair of the New Sommeliers and Wine Professionals.

Dion Wai, who won Sommelier of the Year 2016 as a 26 year old, has gone on to build his knowledge and skills competing in 2018 in Hong Kong at the Castel Cup. 

"I enjoy the excitement and challenge of these competitions as you are forced to test your knowledge on a broad range of subjects and in the practicals to think quickly and respond to the time pressure to complete the series of tasks. These are all part of the day to day role of working as a sommelier," says Dion.

Dion, works as a sommelier, most recently at Huka Lodge and currently at Auckland’s Baduzzi Restaurant. Raised in Auckland, Dion is a graduate of AUT and the New Zealand School of Food and Wine’s Professional Wine Programme. He holds the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level 3 and is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Dion wins a trip to compete at the Australian National Sommelier Competition in 2020 with flights and accommodation sponsored by the New Zealand School of Food and Wine.


New Zealand Young Sommelier of the Year

Nikki Weir, from Sid at The French Café, won the Young Sommelier of the Year 2019. Originally from Scotland, Nikki has been working in Auckland for some time and was runner-up in 2018.

Nikki wins at trip to discover the North Canterbury Wine Region sponsored by Pegasus Bay, Black Estate and Greystone Wineries.


New Zealand Young Wine Professional

Victoria (Tori) Haysom wins the New Zealand Young Wine Professional which included a public speaking task with candidates informed of the subject, 24 hours prior the challenge and then presenting before the judges for 5 minutes. The topic was: Imports are growing of international wines into New Zealand. How would you advise a small, artisan New Zealand winery to compete in this market?

Candidates were also asked to prepare a sales pitch and select one of four wines to convince the judges to invest in for their wine retail business. These wines were:

* Giesen SV Fuder Series Clayvin Chardonnay 2015 * Elephant Hill Syrah 2017 * Herzog Nebbiolo 2013 * Clos Marguerite Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Tori works as a sales rep for Dhall and Nash Wines and previously worked at Glengarry Wines. She holds the Wine and Spirit Level 3 and studied cookery and the Professional Wine Certificate at the New Zealand School of Food and Wine. She wins a day with EuroVintage's Ben Longhurst to build and refine her sales and relationship building skills.

“The New Zealand Sommeliers and Wine Professionals represents people work with beverages not just in restaurants but also in sales and marketing roles, as educators across New Zealand. This community is about creating a non-for-profit association to network, learn more, learn from each other and grow as a national body. Our partner members include wineries, wine distributors, educators and wine organisations around New Zealand.” – says Celia Hay  


New Zealand Sommelier of the Year Assessments included

  • Exam- short answer and some multichoice questions
  • Blind tasting of 2 international wines from classic regions 
  • Tasting and Verbal descriptions of 4 classic spirits and fortified wines (2 minutes)
  • Present, open and decant one white wine (4 min)
  • Food and Wine Pairing Tasks                                                                                                                                     

Blind tasting with Food Pairing (4 min)

In front of you are two wines and Auckland famed Buffalo Mozzarella drizzled with fresh lemon juice and Man O War Olive Oil from Waiheke Island.  Please taste the wines and the prepared dish and recommend the best match. Please explain why?

New Zealand Wine Alternative (3 min)

We are about to organise a dinner, a comparative tasting of New Zealand and France. Here is our menu which features an innovative 5 course menu from Chef Nic Watt. Please recommend one New Zealand wine and one French alternative for each course. 

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