Paolo Basso, from Switzerland, was hoisted into the air as judges in Tokyo awarded him first place in a ceremony in front of several thousand spectators that was carried live on Japanese national television.
"Thank you very much to everybody, it is a very important moment for me," he said after receiving the gold medal and hugs from rival sommeliers.
"I would like to thank first of all my family, because they allowed me the time for the hard training that I am still doing for several years," he said in English.
Basso, who works at Conca Balla in Vacallo, on the Swiss-Italian border, beat off competition from fellow finalists Belgian Aristide Spies and Canadian Véronique Rivest.
The 47-year-old takes the title previously held by Gerard Basset, who won the 2010 competition in Chile competing for Britain.
Entrants from 54 countries had been tested over three days of events designed to measure their skills marrying wines to foods and serving demanding customers. All of them had to work in a foreign language.
Contestants from Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and Sweden were among those participating in the event, which has been held 14 times since it started in 1969.
"A good sommelier not only has to have good knowledge of wine, but he also needs to be able to put customers at ease and know what to do to let them enjoy the food," explained Serge Dubs, chairman of the jury and a former champion, ahead of the competition.
"A sommelier has to be a very good communicator, he has to know what his clients want and how to make them remember their experience at the restaurant," former champion Basset told AFP on Tuesday.
"The sommelier should also be a good cellar manager and act as an ambassador for producers, constituting a kind of link between the growers and consumers," he said.