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An interview with Nicolas Clerc MS new president of the UK Academy of Food and Wine Service

Master Sommelier Nicolas Clerc has over 17 years of experience in the restaurant and wine trade, having started his career in 2000 in his native France, at the Michelin-starred Restaurant La Barbacane, in Carcassonne. After moving to England, Clerc was named UK Sommelier of the Year 2007, and won Best Sommelier and Best Wine List at the Tatler Awards in 2010. After passing his Master Sommelier exam in 2010, Nicolas was also awarded Champagne List of the Year at the 2011 Louis Roederer Wine List of the Year Awards. From 2009 to 2014, Clerc held the position of Beverage Manager for restaurant group D&D London. In 2014, Clerc became an Prestige Account Manager for the specialist wine and spirits importer and distributor, Berry Bros & Rudd. Clerc cites his infinite curiosity and passion as having driven his success. He has spent the past year setting up his own consultancy company.

Last July, he was chosen as the new president of the Academy of Food and Wine Service, the main sommelier association in the United Kingdom. Here’s a look at his perspectives and projects for the sommelier profession and the association.

Q1: Is this your first mandate as president of the Academy? What are your vision and projects for the future?

Yes it is. I am taking over the presidency of the Academy of Food and Wine Service from Nick Scade, who held that position for decades.

The first step will be to create an arm dedicated to sommellerie, with a different name, as many of our sommelier members are feeling a dilution of the profession within the Academy of Food and Wine Service. I have selected a board, and we are ready to start the hard work on that front. Over the next 3 years, our priority will be to gather as many new members as possible.

In the UK, wine is hugely successful, and the sommelier job has evolved within many trends. We want to invite not only the very classically trained people to join us, but also the consultants, the trendy and new wave type of sommeliers of East London, the independents, etc… One of our many targets will be to develop the ASI Diploma within the UK in 2019, and a longer-term goal will be to organize an international competition in the country, within the next 10 years.

Q2:  How do you see the development/promotion of the sommelier profession in the UK and the world? 

There are several developments than we can benefit from. The first one is the knowledge and professionalism of our sommellerie. The UK is a very good place to grow professionally, as a sommelier. We gather talent from everywhere in the world, our restaurant scene is one of the most successful, as is the sommelier profession, and our wine trade has access to wines and beverages from all over the world. The UK currently has some of the best sommeliers in the world working in the country, which is an attraction for a lot of young sommeliers to come here and work on their professional development. Unfortunately the political situation is a bit difficult, for the moment, and over the last 2 years, the retention of staff and recruitment has been a challenge. So we will explore possibilities for helping restaurant to recruit sommeliers, through communication with other national associations, schools etc. There is no proper sommelier school in UK, so mentoring is the way of learning for a many of us. The UK is the birthplace of WSET and the Court of Master Sommeliers, and those institution are very strong and recognized worldwide. By working closely with them and directing our members to them, and with the addition of the ASI diploma, we want to establish the UK as one of the best countries for sommelier training.

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