At his sixth attempt, England's Gérard Basset has become the first UK winner of the World's Best Sommelier Competition.
The 52-year-old French-born Mr Basset, a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier, beat 53 competitors from 41 countries in the gruelling contest in Santiago, Chile. After two days of written and practical exams, including blind tastings and service role plays, each finalist had to complete a series of timed tasks such as describing in detail four wines, and identifying eight spirits in three minutes.
"It's the most difficult thing I've ever done," said Mr Basset, who had come second in three previous competitions. "I feel as if I am on another planet. I was determined to do well this year. Competing was exciting, nerve-racking and thrilling. I just thought: 'I'm going to enjoy it and make the judges happy, even if I don't win.'"
Since co-founding the Hotel du Vin hotel chain, Mr Basset has, with his wife Nina, run his own boutique hotel, Terravina, in Hampshire's New Forest. He will hold the title until 2013 when the next competition will be held in Tokyo. The contest is organised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale. Paolo Basso of Switzerland finished second and David Biraud of France came third.