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Winner of UK Ruinart Sommelier Challenge revealed

Published:  26 February, 2020

Paul Fauvel, head sommelier at The Lanesborough, has won the UK Ruinart Sommelier Challenge 2020.

The blind-tasting competition, which took place yesterday, is now in its fifth year in the UK, having been first launched in the US 10 years ago.

It was judged by Frédéric Panaïotis, Ruinart’s chef de cave, Ronan Sayburn MS, and last year’s winner Jitka Auermüllerová, now head sommelier at the Hyatt Great Scotland Yard.

Alongside the blind tasting, finalists took part in a masterclass, led by Panaïotis, on how to assess grape maturity in Champagne – and at Ruinart in particular – to identify the optimal harvest date.

Fauvel said: “I really enjoyed the UK finals day.  It was a good opportunity to challenge my tasting skills, learn more, and also to meet the other sommelier finalists.  

“The masterclass was super interesting: I couldn’t believe how much goes into determining the right date to harvest!”  

Panaïotis said: “The blind tasting was, as always... challenging: four Champagnes, from four different vintages, varieties and styles.  

“Our congratulations to Paul Fauvel as he submitted a set of very considered tasting notes, with accurate descriptions and good guesses.”

Twenty versions of the competition are being held across 13 countries this year, with Japan the latest addition to the list.

Fauvel will join the winning sommeliers from the other competitions on an all-expenses paid, four-day educational trip to Champagne in June, hosted by Panaïotis and his team of winemakers.

Panaïotis added: “When we first launched the Ruinart Sommelier Challenge, our ambition was to bring to sommeliers the kind of technical knowledge which can’t be easily found in books, on the internet or at classic wine tastings.

“This challenge was meant to select the greatest talents, but also to help educating, developing and promoting the wine community.”

Some 1,700 sommeliers worldwide have taken part in the competition since its inception.

There were 26 finalists in the UK challenge, selected from a field of 80 entrants. Two runners-up – Dion Wai from Dinner at Heston Blumenthal and Dorianne Neimard from New Street Wine – each receive a Magnum of Ruinart Rosé NV.