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Harpers' Top 25 Sommeliers 2023 announced

Published:  05 July, 2023

Harpers is delighted to announce its annual list of the best sommeliers in the UK for 2023.

Despite seemingly endless challenges facing restaurants and bars, the calibre of sommeliers working across the UK has never been higher, with experienced gurus and hot young guns all driving the quality of wines and wine service ever higher. As if to prove this point, our ‘shortlist’ for our judges’ consideration ran to almost 100 somms this year and the quality of those individuals – not to mention the reputations of the medley of restaurants represented – was outstanding, making judging a tough task.

However, over two long but enjoyable days our judges sifted and lifted the most salient information from the hopefuls’ entry packs, allowing us to begin the process of building our Top 25 listing, set against our in-depth judging criteria. 

Much care has been taken to order the list and apply rigour to the selection, but it is also fair to say that all those who made the cut are exemplary members of their chosen profession. And their wine lists all made for thirsty work to read, with a quite phenomenal showing of depth, breadth, knowledge, skill and innovation in the mix – and with that task only being a part of the more holistic judging decisions to be considered. 

A huge congratulations, then, from both the judges and the Harpers team, to our Top 25 Sommeliers 2023. 


Harpers canvassed the trade for nominations, creating a long list of potential candidates who were then invited to submit information against a series of criteria, including: experience and training; buying and crafting the list; pricing and margins; customer service; initiatives and innovations; supplier relationships; staff leadership and training; and food pairing.

Judging Panel

Eric Aracil, director, Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Roussillon

Céline Bouteiller, director, Otaria Communications & Media

Stefan Neumann MS, wine consultant, Fells

Andrew Catchpole, judging chair, and editor, Harpers Wine & Spirit

Top 25 Sommeliers 2023

01 Isa Bal MS

Co-owner and sommelier, Trivet

A unanimous decision found Isa Bal MS bagging pole position, with his list at Trivet described as both highly innovative and a work of beauty. Structured to follow the geographical timeline of vitus vinifera’s cultivation, this puts the likes of Georgia, Armenia and Greece to the fore, with modest mark-ups also encouraging guests to fully explore a cornucopia of exciting and off-piste wines. And this ever-evolving feast is more than matched by uber-professional service and the fantastic food of co-owner Jonny Lake. All in all, the real deal, making for a wine-lovers’ paradise in a wonderfully relaxed and unpretentious setting that does its utmost to be accessible and welcoming to all. 

02 Agnieszka Swiecka

Head of wine, Mount St Restaurant and The Audley 

Polish-born Agnieszka Swiecka is a somm whose star is very much in the ascendant, moving up two places on last year and homing in on the top spot. After starting out at one-Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social, she took her first head somm role at Five Fields and is now operating in the genteel surroundings of Mayfair where she is head of wine for restaurant-with-rooms Mount St and ‘art and food’ pub The Audley. A fan of Swiss wines – “they don’t feature enough on UK wine lists” – this year she passed her ASI Gold Diploma and is preparing for her first MS exam in the autumn. Every wine here has to pass the test of fitting the restaurant concept while taking the guest on an enjoyable journey – a self-set challenge that Swiecka does so very well. 

03 Gareth Ferreira MS

Head sommelier and beverage director, Core by Clare Smyth

With a CV that reads like a who’s who of some of the most prestigious sommelier posts going, Gareth Ferreira MS’ 18 years of country-hopping experience has clearly been distilled into Core’s 3,200-strong cellar. This personal work of love treads a near-perfect line between classic wines and regions, while folding in older vintages and rarer finds, delivering interest and excitement on every page. Add in personally crafted maps and inspiring quotes on the list, a dynamic, sometimes daily evolution of that wine offer, plus an impeccably professional approach, and it all ensures that the guests have the best wine and food experience possible. 

04 Roxane Dupuy

Head sommelier, The Twenty Two 

Roxane Dupy’s somm journey began just over 10 years ago with sommelier classes at France’s ‘wine university’ in Suze-la-Rousse. After an apprenticeship at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant and a spell at the Beau Rivage Palace in Switzerland she moved to the UK, spending time under Fred Brugues at the Lecture Room and Library, during which time they hit three-Michelin-star status. Her wine list at Twenty Two is, she admits, “very personal – most of the wines are in my cellar!”. But her criteria are simple: juice, value for money, maturity and curiosity. She puts a big emphasis on sourcing older vintages so guests have the freedom of “tasting a wine when it’s ready”.

05 Julien Sarrasin

Head sommelier, Hide

French-born Julien Sarrasin curates an impeccable list at the Michelin-starred Hide, where, with the additional pool of Hedonism Wines’ incredible cellar to draw on, he offers “an immensely deep, rich and well-furnished wine list”, mining delights and interesting finds from 38 countries. Value is at the heart of this offer too, with each wine chosen to deliver as good an organoleptic experience as possible, with guest pleasure to the forefront of everything that Sarrasin has set out to achieve. With 6,500-odd bins of wine to draw on, the list nonetheless remains as dynamic and ever-evolving as could be. 

06 Fred Brugues

Wine director, Sketch Restaurant 

Fred Brugues’ wine list is not short of big names, but arguably none greater than that of his first job – Château Haut-Brion – where he finally secured work as an intern after repeatedly knocking on the door and being turned away. He had a couple of spells with Marco Pierre White, before the “greatest journey of my career so far” – opening Sketch Restaurant. He’s based the latter’s list on wines that are not commonly available elsewhere, whether that’s Old or New World, quirky or classics. His twin passions are England – “so much more than sparkling wines” – and France, where he poetically observes that “the growers of tomorrow are so different to the ones of yesterday”.

07 Nicolò Cereghini

Head sommelier, Hélène Darroze at the Connaught 

From an early start in the family hospitality business near Como to his current high-profile post at the three-Michelin-starred Hélène Darroze, Nicolò Cereghini says of his vinous journey that he “understood that wine would have to become part of my life” from an early age. After various stints in fine-dining restaurants in his native Italy, it was Cereghini’s move to London in 2018, when he landed a place on The Connaught’s sommelier team, that allowed him to fully explore the breadth and depth of the international wine scene that so clearly informs this now 3,500-stong list of greats and goodies today. 

08 Jonathan Kleeman

Executive group sommelier and wine and beverage director, Story


Jonathan Kleeman was bitten by the hospitality bug from a young age – the result, no doubt, of having a father who worked as a pub chef. From his early days as a schoolboy pot-washer he’s moved relentlessly up through the ranks – assistant restaurant manager, deputy head somm and head somm at starry venues like the Ritz and Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House. He’s been a voluble presence in the UK hospitality scene for more than a decade. Head somm at Story restaurant for over three years, he values small producers and unique wines, but also “working with people who are pleasant and enjoyable to collaborate with… working with people who share our values is crucial”.

09 Merlin Ramos

Head sommelier and wine buyer, Humo


From the somm selection to themed groupings taking in the likes of ‘regional whites & ducks out of water’, ‘island & coastal’ and ‘high attitude 1,000-1,499m’, Merlin Ramos has created a list that is at once playful, engaging and a joy to read. Of mixed French and Spanish heritage, his background in wine began with travelling in regions such as Alsace, Rioja, Jurançon and Gascony, but was sealed in London, variously at Borough Wines, Club Gascon and then Pollen Street Social, where last year’s Top 25 Sommelier list-topper Laure Patry mentored and encouraged Ramos to become the outstanding sommelier  he is today. 

10 Cong Cong Bo

Co-owner, Amphora Cambridge 


Is there anything that Cong Cong Bo can’t do? Her CV covers an MA in medical sciences from the University of Cambridge, where she also produced sparky animations for educational videos, and creating the very of-the-moment retail/hospitality venue, Amphora, with 200 wines on sale, 80 of them by the glass. Her wine list is equally eclectic, with enthusiasms including cool-climate South Africa, Portugal, Colheita Ports and underrepresented or up-and-coming regions such as Georgia. The only prerequisite? To get a listing at Amphora a wines’ character cannot be masked by ‘funk’! Constantly evolving tasting flights keep Bo busy – and the customers on their toes.

11 Joshua Mullock

Group head sommelier, The Askham Collection, Askham Hall


Leaving a degree in international business and Spanish at Edinburgh university to take a job as assistant head sommelier at Number One at the Balmoral certainly paid off for Joshua Mullock. There, under the tutelage of Glen Montgomery (now co-owner at Eórna), he rapidly rose to take on the head somm position at The Raby Hunt, helping it win two Michelin stars, before consolidating all he’d learnt in his current position at Askham Hall, overseeing four lists including the flagship restaurant, Allium. Superb lists, perfectly tailored to each establishment, with wines that “offer a sense of place, emotion and character”. 

12 Valentin Mouillard

Head sommelier, L’Enclume


Valentin Mouillard spent most of his childhood hanging around his father’s restaurant on the Loire coast, where he loved meeting people and trying out new flavour combinations. After studying at hospitality school in Saint-Nazaire and working in France for a while, he headed over to the UK, where he has worked his way up through the ranks at Simon Rogan’s top Lake District eatery L’Enclume. Head sommelier for four years, Mouillard is open minded when it comes to wine styles (the Loire, Jura, Austria and South Africa are favourites). From his 17 suppliers, he gravitates towards small-scale producers and growers who operate sustainably.

13 Matthew Davison

Head sommelier, Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms


Following a history degree, Matthew Davison “fell into hospitality, not knowing it would shape my entire career path”, but landed on his very capable feet, with WSET qualifications helping him bag his first sommelier role at Restaurant Sat Bains. Inspired to continue to develop his passion for wine, he then took up a position as head of operations and sommelier at Fischer’s Baslow Hall, before moving again to his current role at Moor Hall three and a half years later. Extensive research forms a large part of the method by which Davison sources new wines, allowing him “to stumble across some wonderful progressive winemakers… that are carving the future of the industry”, many of whom now grace this ever-evolving list.

14 Miguel Crunia

Head sommelier, Whiskers Wine Bar & Bistro


Some children get sat in front of CBeebies. Miguel Crunia spent his childhood running around the empty pipes and tonneaux in his grandfather’s wine merchant business in La Coruna. A career in wine might have seemed written in the stars, but it was not until 2012 that it started, at Number One at the Balmoral in Edinburgh, a city where he has stayed ever since, working at multiple top venues. Having created the ‘cheeky’ wine list at Whiskers Wine Bar, he’s a big fan of minimum intervention (with the caveat that it “must be clean”) and emerging regions. “Wouldn’t it make sense in Scotland to serve Atlantic wines to Atlantic people?” His Galician grandad would surely approve.

15 Alexandra Price

Head of wine, Crispin & Bar Crispin 


Having a first taste for a career in wine with a role in Annabel’s wine cellar clearly set the bar high judging by Alexandra Price’s future trajectory, with “exposure to iconic wines at a young age”, plus the mentoring dispensed by Richard Rotti, setting her on a path that led to today’s top job at Crispin. Overseeing the wine programme here involves bringing personal ethics to bear too, with organic, bio and natural to the fore, and wines arranged under headers such as ‘Continental’, ‘Maritime’ and ‘Mediterranean’, encouraging customers to explore new and up-and-coming varieties, styles and regions. 

16 Beatrice Bessi

Head sommelier, Chiltern Firehouse 


Beatrice Bessi’s career in hospitality began while at school in Parma, when she started working in bars to earn money. A human dynamo, she’s never stopped since, though she has shifted from bar to somm work. She moved to London (67 Pall Mall) in 2016 and somehow juggled being a sole parent with the demands of hospitality, taking on the head somm role at Chiltern Firehouse three years later. She has created what she calls “a pretty classic” wine list – albeit one with 50 suppliers that changes on a fortnightly basis. Her go-to somm traits? “Empathy, hard work, and being humble and a team player.”

17 Sarah Wright

Head sommelier, The Mulwray, Evelyn’s Table, and The Blue Posts


Sarah Wright’s packed CV tells the tale of her passion for wine, having worked as a wine educator, a wine writer, distributor and as a wine director in California and Massachusetts before moving to London to somm at The 10 Cases and then Lucky Cat. Joining the Mulwray in 2021, she has also somehow found the time to work on three vintages with London urban wineries Blackbook and London Cru, with wines reflecting her enthusiasm for low-intervention styles. And her current list? From the ‘Firm Favourites’ to ‘The Path Less Trodden’, it’s as creative and engaging as it gets. 

18 Vanessa Stolz

Head sommelier Restaurant Pine 


Vanessa Stolz’s father worked in the wine industry in Alsace, and after falling in love with the category via Loire Sancerre  she started out as a sommelier in 2016. With WSET Level 3 and a CMS certified behind her, she is working towards the Advanced. At Pine, she is looking for wines that are “exceptional and intriguing, but relatable to our palates”. It’s a list that eschews easy sells like NZ Sauvignon or Argentinian Malbec in favour of wines that are adventurous and diverse – and the customers love it. “I’ll always be happy that I’ve tried a different approach to constituting a wine list,” she says. 

19 Charles Carron Brown

Restaurant manager, Aulis

Beginning his wine career at The Ritz where he also worked under the guidance of Tobias Brauweiler MS, Charles Carron Brown was hooked on the “theatre and making people feel very special”, while combining that with a classic hospitality experience and a mega-list that offered all an aspiring sommelier could hope for. Some years later, and with a career now spanning Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social, Roka, L’Enclume and Linthwaite House, he has brought originality and passion to the very dynamic list at Aulis. 

20 Glen Montgomery

Co-owner and sommelier, Eòrna restaurant


Glen Montgomery has a CV that takes in some of the best restaurants in Scotland – among them the Witchery, Number One at the Balmoral, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles and Heron, and has now just opened up a beautiful new chef/sommelier 12-seater seasonal dining experience in Stockbridge with chef and friend Brian Grigor. Without “deliciousness” a wine won’t get listed, but a winery’s ethics are important too, specifically sustainability. He’s a big fan of the classic styles – Burgundy, Italy, German/Austrian Riesling – but is working on presenting them in a different way on the list – by style rather than geographical approach. “It’ll be smoother,” he says. “Though the real work is done between sommelier and guest.”

21 Victor Barré

Head sommelier, Chez Bruce


Presiding over the wine list at this wine trade favourite oasis is a joy for Victor Barré, with a thirsty and passionate audience among Chez Bruce’s regular customers, who want to explore and try good wine. A London-born sommelier of French descent, he meets this expectation with a list that features “wine that is either delicious, good value or made by people with intent, passion and consideration – preferably a mix of all of those!” The geographical reach is broad, but Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Tuscany and South Africa are particular strengths here. 

22 Donald Edwards

Head sommelier, La Trompette 


Ten years ago, Donald Edwards saw his first hospitality venture, Peckham Bazaar, go from pop up to acclaimed bricks-and-mortar venue, and he’s continued to make an impression ever since. Despite studying at the UK’s wine college, Plumpton, and going through the WSET programme, he describes himself as “mostly self-taught” when it comes to wine, and is rarely short of an opinion. While thoroughly appreciative of holding the keys to La Trompette’s enviable collection of Burgundy, where he can mix younger, more alternative producers with “several decades of en primeur purchasing”, he’s also a big fan of Australia which, he feels, deserves more appreciation. 

23 Antonio Palmarini

Head sommelier, Beaverbrook Townhouse 


Wine, sake and tea sit cheek by jowl in the Japanese-rooted eateries at Beaverbrook Townhouse, with Antonio Palmarini’s passion for and training in all three very clearly evident across a list that is designed to pair so well with the food. Rule one, says Antonio, is “having diversity in style, quality and price – every style of wine needs to have price accessible to everyone”, while rule two is to “adjust to the market and give more options of the most requested style and price”. 

24 Shane McHugh

Group wine buyer, Goodman Restaurant Holdings


A trained chef, bar manager and restaurant manager, Shane McHugh fell in love with wine 10 years ago, and has gone on to work at top-class venues, with stints at Social Wine & Tapas, Gordon Ramsay, Savoy Grill and Pétrus. He worked on the first two Adam Handling Frog restaurants, before joining Goodman in 2019, where he’s been head of wine, managing the lists for five restaurants, including Zelman and Beast. California remains the focus, though he’s branched out into lesser-known AVAs, with a strong and seasonal by-the-glass offering. 

25 Anna Frost

Head sommelier, Ophelia/GRDY Group 


Starting under the tutelage of Ed Wilson of Brawn, working with an exemplary list of natural winemakers, Anna Frost went on to garner top-notch experience at L’Enclume and Rogan & Co in Cartmel, Cumbria, before joining Restaurant Hjem to further hone her already impressive drinks expertise. From there she spring-boarded on to the ambitious northern GRDY Group, anchoring herself at Ophelia, where the cellar is focused on France, with biodynamic growers to the fore. And, as a sideline, Frost offers her expertise to non-profit projects helping outlets that can’t afford a somm to create a high-quality wine list.