- By Ronan Sayburn
UK Ruinart Challenge 2017 – Winner Announced!
Julia Sewell, Junior Assistant Head Sommelier at The Fat Duck, has won the UK Ruinart Challenge 2017. She saw off competition from 19 other finalists to take top place in the blind tasting, which this year featured four rosé wines. The Art School Restaurant’s Jitka Auermüllerová and Blagoy Kuzmanski from 67 Pall Mall were both awarded runner-up Magnums of Ruinart Rosé NV, meaning two of the top three positions went to female Sommeliers.
Julia will join 13 other Sommeliers from the 8 worldwide Ruinart Challenge final days (held in the US, Nordics, Spain, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia) for an all-expenses paid, four-day educational trip to France in July, which will be hosted by Ruinart’s Chef de Cave Frédéric Panaïotis. “I’m so excited to have won,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the absorption of much knowledge during my trip to Champagne, and the opportunity to network with the winners from other countries – who will also be people who really care about what they do.”
This is not the first time that Julia has entered the Ruinart Challenge. “I’ve come to associate this Champagne House with education. I’ve competed previously in the Australian Ruinart Challenge, as well as in the UK last year when I first moved over,” she says. “The seminar given by Frédéric Panaïotis is what keeps drawing me back. The subject is different each time and so detailed and technical. Frédéric is very good at the scientific explanations and at not dumbing down the content.”
Just 20 candidates made it through to the UK final, which took place on Tuesday 30th May at Brown’s Hotel. As well as the blind tasting, there was an in-depth rosé seminar hosted by Frédéric Panaïotis alongside fellow jury members Gerard Basset OBE MS MW and Ronan Sayburn MS. Panaïotis comments, “This was the second year of the UK Ruinart Sommelier Challenge, and I felt it really drew a crowd of young and talented Sommeliers from across the breadth of the country. I found them an extremely receptive and engaged audience when sharing our knowledge and experience of rosé winemaking, alongside a tasting of some 2016 base wines. I hope they found it enlightening and useful.
“The blind tasting comprised 4 hard-to-guess rosé wines, and the jury was impressed with the level of entries from the finalists. That said, Julia’s intelligently reasoned and in some cases very accurate assessment of the wines saw her emerge as a clear winner.”
The Ruinart Challenge, previously known as Ateliers Ruinart, is an international training and mentoring programme committed to supporting Sommelier wine education. As such, the winners’ trip, hosted by Frédéric Panaïotis, will not be simply an exploration of Ruinart, but rather will cover an as-yet-unannounced winemaking theme throughout Champagne and other French winemaking regions.