Competing against six other teams from round the UK, The Ritz fought off strong competition to win the seventh edition of Copa Jerez and will now go forward to represent the UK at the international finals, being held in Jerez, Spain in spring 2017.
Winning sommelier, Giovanni Ferlito, Head Sommelier at The Ritz London said: "As a Sommelier, I really love to spend time with the Chef to learn more about his philosophy behind each dish as well as to share my passion for wine with him. Copa Jerez was the perfect opportunity to strengthen our relationship even more and it was really a team effort. Ferlito continued: ".. and now, I am really looking forward to the final next year!".
Working alongside Ferlito, Michael Nizzero, Senior Sous Chef at The Ritz London, commented: "It was a great challenge to pair the food with the amazing sherry as I am as passionate about wine as I am about food. It has given me the opportunity to also learn so much about this beautiful wine. The level of all the competitors was high which made the competition a great challenge and I am very pleased and proud to be the part of the team representing UK at the international competition next year. It was definitely a great day all round for our fantastic industry".
Also awarded on the day were the teams from Nut Tree Inn, Oxfordshire, who came second, and 28-50 restaurant, London, who were awarded third place. As first time competition finalists, the chef and sommelier team from the Nut Tree Inn expressed delight at coming second to The Ritz and the judges agreed it was in recognition of their professionalism and expertise in sherry pairing - under strict competition guidelines - that ensured they were awarded second place.
The competition welcomed a highly experienced panel of judges, with a wealth of knowledge about competing on an international stage. The 2016 UK judges were: Gerard Basset, the UK's most respected and most decorated sommelier; Sarah Jane Evans MW, one of UK's foremost Sherry experts; Carlos Martinez, executive chef and previous UK winner of Copa Jerez who competed in Jerez at the International final in 2015; and Joe Wadsack, an award-winning food and wine broadcaster and presenter.
Speaking after the event, Angeline Bayly, competition organiser and Sherry Wines UK campaign director, commented: "This year's Copa Jerez final has elevated our UK heat to a new level. All seven competitors have produced excellent menus and the judges found highlights in every team's presentation. But, there could only be one winner and the judges found the exemplary skills, knowledge and service of the team from The Ritz unsurpassable."
Bayly continues: "And now, of course, our eyes turn to the International final in Jerez next year, with the belief that the UK has a serious contender for the overall title. We wish Giovanni and Michael the best of luck."
Full details of the Copa Jerez 2016 competition, including each team's menus and the rules can be found by clicking here.
The UK final was held in the Competition Theatre at The Restaurant Show in London on Monday 3 October.
UK final judges are: Gerard Basset OBE MW MS MBA, Sarah Jane Evans MW, Joe Wadsack and Carlos Martinez.
Join the conversation: @SherryWinesUK #CopaJerezUK
For more information about Copa Jerez UK please contact: Angeline Bayly, Campaign Director, Sherry Wines UK
Email: Angeline@bespokedrinksmedia.com Tel: 01403 240147/07780 708454