Home News > October 2023 > Isa Bal steps up to chair Sommelier Wine Awards
Isa Bal steps up to chair Sommelier Wine Awards

Harpers and Imbibe Live are delighted to announce that Isa Bal MS is to head up the revived Sommelier Wine Awards competition (SWA).

Bal, who opened London’s Trivet restaurant with chef Jonny Lake in 2019, recently topped Harpers' 25 Top Sommeliers list and has had an illustrious career to date, being best known for presiding over the drinks list at The Fat Duck for many years.

At Trivet, which soon gained its first Michelin star for its relaxed but quality-focused style of dining, Bal has created a unique wine list, geographically ordered by the chronological advance of viticulture around the world.

As chair of the SWA, Bal will be tasked with overseeing the judging, adjudicating and heading up the competition, bringing his years of experience at the top end of the restaurant world to bear.

On the benefits of SWA, which is the only competition focused purely on on-trade-focused wines and judged by sommeliers, Bal identified several plusses for all involved.

“It’s exclusively judged by sommeliers, it’s a good experience for them, because they see a lot of wines in the on-trade and can have a larger perspective of what they are tasting. They can select wines that will be good for restaurants and, at the same time, the wines have greater visibility to make inroads with restaurants,” he said.

“I think it is making a very important connection, but also for the suppliers, it gives them an indication of what sommeliers might like in terms of styles of wines tasted and awarded. So, if I was a suppler, I would also pay attention to this.”

Before the interruption of the pandemic, SWA had built up an unrivalled reputation as the wine reference point for sommeliers and on-trade buyers seeking individual, quality wines for their lists.

What makes SWA unique and of such value is that this competition is judged by respected UK sommeliers – precisely the people who understand what is required of a given wine to add value and interest to the wine list.

Furthermore, as the UK’s only solely on-trade wine competition, SWA focuses entirely on wines aimed at the on-trade. Wines with general distribution on the high street are not permitted to enter, except for sparkling and fortified wines, or merchants' online-exclusive wines.

The SWA is now open for entries, with judging to take place on 11-13 March 2024. Gold, Silver and Bronze medals will be announced in April 2024 and Trophy winners in July 2024, to coincide with the Imbibe Live show and the publication of the Gold book which will include all the medal winners.