Vin de Champagne Awards 2018 winners

Huon with fellow judges Bernadette O’Shea (second from left) and Peter Bourne (second from right) with award winners Leanne Altmann (right) and Nicole Smith (in blue) and Hannelore Rima of the Comité Champagne (centre) at the awards presentation dinner. (Photo: Belinda Rolland)

Sommelier Leanne Altmann, the wine director for the Andrew McConnell group of restaurants in Melbourne, is the winner of the 2018 Vin de Champagne Award, professional section.

The Vin de Champagne Awards are among the most coveted prizes in wine in Australia, and recognise the long-standing relationship between France’s Champagne region and Australia.

Nicole Smith, practice manager at Sunshine Eye Clinic on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is the winner of the amateur section. Both women will fly to France for a two-week study tour of the Champagne region.

This year, the 43rd biennial Vin de Champagne Awards, was truly the women’s year: seven of the 10 finalists were women.

The finalists in each section were selected via a comprehensive written exam. They were brought to Sydney for a face-to-face exam with three judges, and a tasting exam. The tasting involves three unidentified glasses of Champagne, which the finalists must describe and discuss.

These were Gosset Grande Rosé NV (a 50/50 chardonnay pinot noir rosé, including 8% red wine), Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2006 (majority pinot noir), and Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée Extra Brut NV (low dosage, with a proportion of barrel fermentation).

Finalists were welcome to try to identify the wines, but the judges were more interested in their reasoning than correctness.

The Vin de Champagne Awards are among the most coveted prizes in wine in Australia, and recognise the long-standing relationship between France’s Champagne region and Australia. They are organised on behalf of the Comité Champagne in Epernay, which represents the houses, growers and co-operatives of Champagne. Their aim is to promote the knowledge and appreciation of Champagne in Australia.

All finalists are to be congratulated. They are, in alphabetical order:

Amateur

  • Ian Gibson (NSW) Trader
  • Vanessa Gregory (NSW) PR, Access-DGC
  • Tim Heath (NSW) Marketing operations, Telstra
  • Sally Hillman (Vic.) Interior designer
  • Nicole Smith (Qld) Eye clinic manager

Professional

  • Leanne Altmann (Vic.) Beverage director, Andrew McConnell restaurants
  • Kara Maisano (Vic.) Sommelier, Masani Dining
  • Margot Muir (SA) Cellar manager, Edinburgh Cellars
  • Anthony Pieri (Vic.) Group sommelier, APEG
  • Sara Underdown (SA) Editor, Vine and Bubble Magazine

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