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Fat Duck sommelier scoops top wine award

Published:  08 September, 2008

Isa Bal, head sommelier of Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray has scooped the Academy of Food & Wine's Dom Perignon Award for Excellence.

Isa Bal, head sommelier of Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray has scooped the Academy of Food & Wine's Dom Perignon Award for Excellence.

The award, sponsored by Moët Hennessy, is given each year to an "outstanding personality" in the UK's hotel and catering industry.

The award is the third accolade for Bal this year. In May he became the Best Sommelier in Europe, while the previous month he was announced as the runner-up in the Academy's own UK Sommelier of the Year competition.

"Over the past year Isa has shown complete dedication to the role of sommellerie. His commitment is an example we hope others will follow in the future," commented the Academy's president, restaurateur Roy Ackerman CBE, FIH, FAFW, who presented the award.

"It's vital to recognise those that are working hard to improve front-of-house service as it's an often over-looked, but absolutely vital, area of the hospitality business. So often in the industry it's chefs that gain the recognition, but we must remember that front-of-house staff are responsible for looking after our customers in the most direct way," said Ackerman.

The awards ceremony was held today in London's Vintners' Hall. The other award winners were:

Company of the Year Award 2008
Winner: Jumeirah Hotel Group, Dubai

College of the Year Award 2008
Winner: Bournemouth & Poole College, Poole, Dorset

The Savoy Educational Trust Sommelier Scholarship 2008
Winner: Jade Koch, sommelier, Rex Whistler Restaurant at Tate Britain, London SW1

The Philip Thornton Award
Winner: Lucy Rhyddid, a candidate from Coleg Powys, nominated by City & Guilds

The Wines of Germany Travel Award
Winner: Anja Gottwald, sommelier, Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, Dornoch

The New Zealand Wine Travel Bursary
Winner: Jackson Watson, sommelier, Chez Bruce, London SW17

Matthew Clark California Travel Award
Winner: Agustin Trapero, Macdonald Randolph Hotel, Oxford

Honorary Fellowships for 2008
Recipients: Michael Gray, general manager, Hyatt Regency - the Churchill Hotel, London W1; Duncan Palmer, managing director, The Langham, London W1; Michael Druitt, non-executive chairman, Michael Druitt Vintners; Daniel Pecorelli, managing director, Exclusive Hotels; Ken Wilkins, brand ambassador, Champagne G.H. Mumm.