G’Vine Connoisseurs Program Final

The finals of the 2011 G’Vine Connoisseurs Program (GCP) took place in Cognac with a couple of our favourite bartenders representing the UK and trying to take out the fantastic grand prize.

Is it wrong that I want to suck gaz's finger?

The GCP may only be in its second year but it has already firmly established itself as one of the world’s best gin competition as well as one of the toughest contests to win.

There are three main reasons for this – first up are the 15 great gin bartenders from around the world, secondly is the week long finals testing every aspect of your skills and finally the judging panel which this year included gaz regan and Philip Duff.

The UK was represented by Terry Cashman from The Hoxton Pony, London and Jill Saunders from the Beaufort Bar at the Savoy Hotel, London after they took out the UK heats.

They went up against 13 other bartenders in a weeks worth of gruelling challenges including speed drink making, blending their own gin, aroma exams from a trainer of perfumers and running their own cocktail bar during the G’Vine Summer Ball.

Cognac, as well as being a lovely place for your hols, is the birthplace of G’Vine and it’s unique botanical, the vineflower. The finalists were also treated to the knowledge passed on from gaz who was their coach and passed on, among many other things, his now famous Regan Finger Stirred Negroni (see pic) “I just love getting my fingers into those Negronis, you know. Especially when I’m surrounded by the very best gin bartenders in the world” said gaz.

Gegam had to win with that shirt...

The eventual winner was Gegam Kazarian of Xandom Bar in Alicante, Spain who took out the prize of $3,000, an intercontinental trip for two to visit bars, a platinum vineflower pin and a year’s supply of gin for his bar.

“This is a real honour to be crowned Gin Connoisseur 2011 by G’Vine, among such an impressive and professional group of bartenders and under the guidance of Philip Duff and Gary Regan”, testified Gegam.

We got damned close though with Jill taking out second place, in true style she was gracious in defeat

“The world finals in Cognac were hard work but also so much fun. It’s a tough competition but I really recommend anyone to enter it as even if you don’t win, you’ll massively improve your gin knowledge, get to meet amazing people and maybe even be lucky enough to have Gaz Regan prepare you one of his special finger stirred Negronis.

I managed 2nd place which I was more than happy with as the winner Gegam did a great job and deserved to take it home!! Massive big up to him, Philip Duff and our amazing hosts from G’Vine and Eurowinegate!!”

Audrey Fort, Marketing and Business Director of EWG Spirits & Wine, had this to say: “For the first edition of the GCP last year, our 2010 Connoisseur Stephan Hinz had set up a very high level. The finals week offers diverse challenges – technical, intellectual and creative – revealing each and every finalist’s competencies and strengths at different moments.

Because we had the chance to welcome 15 very different personalities and profiles this year, we really had to wait until the very last minute to discover the name of our new Connoisseur 2011. We’re honoured to reward an very talented bartender and atypical such as Gegam, who fully embodies the vision of G’Vine : so traditionally unconventional”.