By Andy Young

The Champagne Bureau Australia has announced the two winners of the 42nd biennial Vin de Champagne Awards, which honour Australia’s valued relationship with the Champagne region.

Vin de Champagne Awards Winners Cameron O'Keefe and Nicky Goodyear

Following a grand final judging, which included an interview and blind tasting, the winners in each category, Professional and Amateur, were named at a black tie dinner at Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel.

The Professional winner was named as Cameron O’Keefe, a sommelier at Centra in Victoria, while NSW florist Nicky Goodyear took out the Amateur award.

Thibaut Le Mailloux, Communications Director with Comité Champagne, told TheShout just how important these awards are and what lies ahead for the two winners.

“The Awards are more than important, they are an institution for the Champagne growers and Houses, because they have been there for more than 40 years. So it is probably the longest-running activity of the Champagne region in Australia, besides the protection of the Champagne name,” Le Mailloux said.

“It is key for Champagne producers to educate consumers and trade about Champagne especially in a market that produces sparkling wines. Consumers are educated as to what sparkling wine is, so we need them to know the difference between Champagne and the other sparkling wines.

“This is an Award, it is not an exam, that shows the strategy of the Champagne growers and Houses for education. It is a very difficult competition, this year’s winners have been entering over the last few years, I think it was the fifth time for one of the winners. And the Vin de Champagne Award is meant to build a network of Champagne ambassadors that will work on behalf of Comité Champagne and it is a network who are being coordinated by the Champagne Bureau of Australia to provide the different states in Australia with educational programs for the trade and the consumers.”

O’Keefe and Goodyear will now take a visit to the Champagne region for a two-week educational tour where they will further increase their impressive knowledge of Champagne. Le Mailloux emphasised to TheShout, just how important this kind of visit this is for the winners.

He added: “It is extremely important for them because you can’t grab the truth of Champagne if you haven’t been to the region. Because in the region, first they will meet face-to-face, the growers and Houses, they will be able to ask very technical questions and they will get answers because they will be considered to be part of the Champenois family, having been officially recognised by Comité Champagne.

“So they will get even more in-depth knowledge of Champagne wines, but also they will realise the balance between growers and Houses and the diversity of Champagne. And they will also get a grasp of the very important interaction between Champagne as a wine and Champagne as a wine region and its history. So there will be some cultural legs to this journey in Champagne, because history is part of Champagne as a wine.”

Australia remains an important market for Champagne with recent figures showing Australia is the sixth largest importer of Champagne in the world, with 2015 seeing 24.3 per cent growth on 2014.

The Shout Team

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

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