The Fat Duck's Julia Sewell has won this year's Ruinart Challenge UK. Australian Sewell was a runner-up in the 2016 competition and a finalist in the Ruinart Challenge Australia in both 2015 and 2014. The competition, which took place on Tuesday 30 May, saw 20 sommeliers from restaurants across the UK battle it out in a blind tasting to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Champagne.
'I’m so excited to have won this year!' said Sewell, who is junior assistant head sommelier. 'I’m looking forward to the absorption of much knowledge during my winners’ 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.'
The sommeliers had to correctly identify a line-up of four rosés: Champagne Bollinger Rosé Brut NV, Gusbourne Sparkling Rosé 2013, Château La Mascaronne Côtes de Provence Rosé 2015 and Château Giacours Bordeaux Rosé 2016. The judging panel was made up of Ronan Sayburn MS, Gerard Basset MW OBE and Ruinart’s chef de cave Frédéric Panaïotis.
'The blind tasting comprised four hard-to-guess rosé wines, and the jury was impressed with the level of entries from the finalists,' said Panaïotis. 'That said, Julia’s intelligently reasoned – and in some cases very accurate – assessment of the wines saw her emerge as a clear winner of the first prize trip to Ruinart in Champagne
Previously known as Ateliers Ruinart, the Challenge is an international training programme that supports sommelier education. The Challenge day included a technical masterclass about rosé champagne, led by Panaïotis.
'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,' continued Panaïotis. '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.'
Sewell will join 13 other winning sommeliers from the US, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Scandinavia, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and Italy on the winners' trip in July. Both she and the UK runners-up – Blagoy Kuzmanski of London's 67 Pall Mall and Jitka Auermüllerová of The Art School Restaurant in Liverpool – also received a magnum of Ruinart Rosé NV.