Two women won titles in Auckland this week in a field that has traditionally been a male domain – the Sommelier of the Year and Junior Sommelier of the Year competition, held in Auckland on Sunday 20 August.

The Sommelier of the Year Awards 2017… left to right: Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas, Karen Fistonich of Villa Maria, Sommelier of the Year Stephanie Guth, committee member Michael Darby and NZSFW founder and director, Celia Hay.

The annual competition was held at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine by school founder Celia Hay, in collaboration with Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas. It’s open to entrants from throughout the country and has seen New Zealand winners travel to visit Champagne Louis Roederer in France and junior winners  visit Central Otago, hosted by Andy and Misha Wilkinson, owners of Misha’s Vineyard.

Stephanie Guth, who won Sommelier of the Year 2017 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. The competition put entrants through their paces in other ways too. They had to open champagne for the judges and an audience, pouring champagne into eight glasses while answering questions about different beverages.

“Blind tasting is always a very humbling experience,” says Guth, who works as the sommelier and runs the beverage programme at The French Café in Auckland. Guth was born and bred in Canada. She trained first as a chef and five years ago made the transition to the front of house. She is part of the global growth in women pursing this career path. As is Amelia French, winner of the Junior Sommelier of the Year competition, held on the same night. French works at the George Hotel in Christchurch.