By James Atkinson

Leanne Altman of Supernormal in Melbourne has been named the winner of the first ever Australian Ruinart Sommeliers Challenge, now set to become an annual event.

The inaugural Sommeliers Challenge was held in Sydney on Monday with 20 finalists partaking in a technical training by Ruinart chef de cave Frederic Panaïotis (pictured) and a blind tasting of four wines to decide the winner.

The judging panel was made up of Peter Bourne, Amanda Yallop, head sommelier at Quay Restaurant and Panaïotis. 

Based upon their answers to the blind tasting, the panel chose Altman as winner and three runners up; Paul Beaton of Aria Restaurant, Sydney, Sarah Ward of Rockpool Bar & Grill, Melbourne, and Daniel Sharp of Sixpenny.

This year’s Challenge was an exploration of Chardonnay, the varietal exclusively used in Ruinart's flagship Blanc de Blancs, but Panaïotis told TheShout future iterations will focus on different elements of the Ruinart story.

He believes the event will prove crucial lifting the profile of Ruinart, which is a ‘hand sell’ proposition in Australia.

L-R: Winner Leanne Altman and Sarah Ward of Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne

“But I think Ruinart will always be low in awareness because we will never be in the big chains – we prefer to be in a few selected places,” he said.

“People are not going to say, ‘I’ll have a glass of Ruinart’, so we need the sommeliers to help.”

He is confident that Ruinart will win fans easily if recommended by the sommelier or poured by the glass, “because I think that once people try it, there are very few rejections”.

Vintage 2013 worthy of Dom Ruinart

Panaïotis revealed that in spite of what was a difficult growing season, there will be a 2013 edition of Dom Ruinart, the house’s flagship vintage Blanc de Blancs that is released ten years after vintage.

“Chardonnay ended up being harvested at average 10.4-10.5 alcohol, which is my ideal level. Nobody would have expected that, because of the late harvest we thought ripening would be a problem,” he told TheShout.

There will be no Dom Ruinart from 2012, which Panaïotis said was a better year for Pinot Noir than Chardonnay.

“The vibrancy was missing from Chardonnay in 2012, it was very deceiving,” he said.

“The healthiness, the ripeness, the acidity was perfect, but the wines lacked something.”

“I will be curious to taste the 2012 Chardonnay of the people who made some Blanc de Blancs, and see what they came up with.”

Panaïotis’s visit also coincides with the 250th anniversary of Rose Champagne, which records reveal was first shipped by Ruinart as early as 1764.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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