New Zealand’s Sommelier of the Year

Stephanie Guth (Photo: New Zealand School of Food & Wine)

When I learned that Stephanie Guth, sommelier at The French Café, had won the top award at this year’s competition run by the New Zealand School of Food & Wine (NZSFW) in Auckland I was not a bit surprised and more than a bit delighted.

I recently met Stephanie who helped me organise the wines for a corporate event at The French Café. I was profoundly impressed by her wine knowledge and her calm “nothing’s a problem” manner. She is, quite simply, a true professional.

Stephanie, who was raised in Canada, trained first as a chef before switching to front-of-house five years ago. She worked as a sommelier in Canada and the UK before joining the French Café seven months ago.

NZSFW founder, Celia Hay, explained,

“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 Japanese sake as well as tea and coffee. A sommelier must also have excellent communication skills.”

Stephanie said she was humbled to win the top prize but also by the process itself, which included tasting six wines, all with their identities concealed, opening Champagne for the judges and an audience, pouring the Champagne into eight glasses while answering questions about different beverages.

Stephanie is currently studying for the WSET Diploma and admits to having “lofty ambitions” that may include the Master Sommelier qualification.

She is the first woman to win the NZSFW Sommelier of the Year competition while Amelia French from the George Hotel in Christchurch was the first woman to win the Junior Sommelier of the Year competition.

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