Young talent from around New Zealand took top prizes in blind tastings, theory and practical assessments at this year’s New Zealand Sommelier of the Year Awards. The overall winner was 26-year-old Dion Wai who works full time at Baduzzi in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter. He has won return flights to Paris and a hosted trip at Champagne Louis Roederer inn the Champagne region.
“We opened up this year’s awards to any age, having previously only allowed candidates over 30,” said Celia Hay, chair of the New Zealand Sommeliers and Wine Professionals. “The reason for the change is to acknowledge the growth of young talent in the New Zealand hospitality scene right now.”
The calibre of people entering under 30 was extremely high.
Wai works at Michael Dearth’s restaurant Baduzzi, and is currently finishing his degree in hospitality management at AUT and is also in the Court of Master Sommeliers certification programme.
Richard King was the winner of Junior Sommelier of the Year. King has experience as a barista, bartender, sommelier, food and beverage team leader and is currently the head sommelier at the Hilton Queenstown Resort and Spa. King holds the National Diploma in Hospitality Management from the Whitireia Community Polytechnic and is also in the Court of Master Sommeliers certification programme.