Champagne Ruinart has dropped its sponsorship of the Sommelier of the Year competition.

Ruinart has been involved in the competition for 16 years. In that time it has been won by many of the biggest names in the British sommelier trade, including Gérard Basset MW (1989 and 1992), Henri Chapon (1995), Ronan Sayburn (1998), Matthieu Longuère (2000) and Matt Wilkin (2005).

‘The decision to discontinue the partnership was a decision taken in France on an international level, and not specifically aimed at the UK market,’ said Patrick Shelley, Ruinart UK’s managing director.

He added that the profession of sommelier had ‘bloomed’ to the extent that it didn’t need promotion.

‘[In the early days] the desire was to put the profession on the map, but it has bloomed into an icon of the wine and spirit business and is now very powerful in its own right.’

The split has been amicable, and the Champagne house expects to continue working with the Academy of Food and Wine Services, which organises the annual competition.

‘We are currently looking at doing more targeted events,’ said Shelley.

But Sophie Brown, general manager of the Academy, said the timing was ‘not great’.

‘We were told in June last year that Champagne Ruinart was changing its strategy,’ she said. ‘This year we’ll be absorbing the cost.’

She said the Academy was looking for a sponsor but had yet find a suitable offer. ‘It doesn’t have to be a Champagne house – in fact we’re open about the kind of company we end up with.’

Shelley stressed that Ruinart’s association with the Academy would continue.

We’re going to be working with the Academy’s Guild of Wine Services, and are currently looking at doing more targeted events,’ he said. ‘For instance, we’re going to be bringing over our chef de cave for masterclasses and we’re also interested in exploring the pairing of Champagne and food.’

Written by Natasha Hughes