The World's 50 Best Restaurants Unveiled A Brand New Award This Year

One of the world's most celebrated sommeliers just received a first-of-its-kind accolade from the globe's most prominent (if somewhat controversial) culinary awards organization.

This year, the World's 50 Best Restaurants list — which has ranked the best restaurants in the world since 2002 — expanded its categories to highlight a previously overlooked major category of fine dining: wine. The recently unveiled 2022 awards included a World's Best Sommelier Award sponsored by Beronia wines, intended to honor the most esteemed wine expert on the planet.

The list's inaugural Best Sommelier title was awarded to Josep Roca, sommelier and co-owner of the acclaimed El Celler de Can Roca restaurant in Girona, Spain. The restaurant, which Roca founded with his brothers, chefs Joan Roca and Jordi Roca (who was named The World's Best Pastry Chef by the 50 Best organization in 2014), in 1986, previously held the #1 spot on the World's 50 Best list in 2013 and 2015 and has received three Michelin stars (via Michelin Guide).

Now, in addition to the culinary accolades the traditional Catalan restaurant has received, El Celler now holds the distinct honor of being the first dining establishment to receive the sommelier-specific award for Roca's work curating an extensive wine cellar featuring 60,000 bottles.

The inaugural award went to Spain's Josep Roca

Roca, who describes himself as a "wine waiter," is no stranger to accolades (via El Cellar de Can Roca). The sommelier has previously received the National Gastronomy Prize for Best Sommelier and the International Academy of Gastronomy Prize for Best Sommelier as well as the National Gastronomy Prize for Best Maître d' in the Dining Room in recognition of his work as the "master of ceremonies" of the family-owned restaurant.

Roca "runs the establishment's triangular dining room ... maintaining a level of hospitality rarely surpassed even in the upper echelons of gastronomy. But it's as a sommelier that Josep truly stands apart," World's 50 Best wrote in the Best Sommelier award announcement. The organization notes that the menu at the Girona-based restaurant is unique as "in many cases dishes are inspired by wines, as opposed to the drinks simply being paired with the dishes."

According to the organization, Roca, who has over 40 years of wine industry experience, is known across the culinary world for his passion for a wide range of wines, and his eagerness to share his knowledge and recommendations with anyone who passes through the restaurant's doors.

Now, with his latest accolade, the sommelier, equipped with a wine cellar that "contains treasures beyond most wine-lovers' oenological fantasies," has paved the way for other passionate sommeliers to snag the esteemed award in the future, honoring wine programs that push the culinary boundaries beyond a typical bottle list.