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Abu Dhabi contestant is Sake Sommelier of the Year

Rajan Rengasamy from Spinneys wins against international entrants
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Rajan performing the ancient ritual of breaking open a ceremonial cask of sake.
Rajan performing the ancient ritual of breaking open a ceremonial cask of sake.

Abu Dhabi-based sake sommelier Rajan Rengasamy of wine supplier Spinneys was crowned the Sake Sommelier of the Year at the first event of its kind held outside Japan.

Organised by the Academy of Food & Wine Service, the London-based Sake Sommelier Association and sponsored by sake producer Gekkeikan, the competition attracted over 50 entries with its semi-final and final being held at London's Westbury Hotel.

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The five semi-finalists were: Jonathan Beagle (Yashin Sushi and Bar, London W8), Barry McCaughley (Chotto Matte, London W1), Jean-Louis Naveilhan (Sumosan, London W1), Rajan Rengasamy (Spinneys, UAE), Sam Tse (Hong Kong Wine Academy, Hong Kong).

Barry McCaughley of London’s Chotto Matte and Sam Tse of the Hong Kong Wine Academy were competition runners-up.

London-based Sake Sommelier Association Xavier Chapelou said: “Although the standard of competitors was exceedingly high, Rajan’s knowledge and skill made him stand out as a top class sake sommelier. He was cool under pressure and was able to clearly demonstrate his service skills and sake knowledge.

“We are delighted with the response we have had in the first year of this competition – it’s a great start, and a fantastic boost to the skills of sake sommeliers all over the world.”

Rengasamy receives a fully-funded trip to Kyoto and Hyogo in Japan to take the five-day Sake Sommelier Association Advanced Sake Sommelier course.

The UAE-based sommelier said: "Winning the competition is a huge sense of relief, but I am also very proud. Even though I was the winner, I still feel that I can learn so much more about sake.”

The launch of the competition was prompted by the huge growth in the number of varieties of sake available outside Japan and the fact the skills of the sake sommelier are becoming more prominent. The Sake Sommelier of the Year is designed to raise awareness of sake and sake sommeliers within the industry and amongst the general public and to promote sake education across the world.

Some 50 sake sommeliers entered the competition, whittled down to five semi-finalists based on a written questionnaire and essay questions. Of the five, three were then chosen to go through to the grand final in front of a live audience, with tasks including a food pairing test, a service task and a blind tasting, all using traditional Japanese crockery.

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