Paul Fauvel emerged victorious after pitting his blind tasting skills against other top sommeliers from across the country in the UK edition of the Ruinart Sommelier Challenge, now in its 10th year.
Contestants were assessed by an expert panel judges, comprised of Ruinart’s chef de cave, Frédéric Panaïotis, the 2019 winner Jitka Auermüllerová and Ronan Sayburn MS, a DWWA Regional Chair and who is CEO of the Court of Master Sommeliers in Europe.
‘I really enjoyed the UK finals day,’ said Fauvel. ‘It was a good opportunity to challenge my tasting skills, learn more, and also to meet the other Sommelier finalists.’
What the competition involved
The finals judging, which took place at Spring Restaurant at London’s Somerset House, consisted of a blind tasting of four wines.
The sommelier candidates had 40 minutes to provide a detailed assessment of each wine, following either the Court of Master Sommeliers format or that of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).
This included evaluating the appearance, nose, palate, and ageing potential of the wines, as well as providing a conclusion and correct identification of the wine. Finally, the contestants had to suggest the correct serving temperature and food pairing.
The blind tasting proved challenging, because the wines presented were four different vintage Champagnes in very different styles. The line-up was revealed as:
• Agrapart, Minéral, Blanc de Blancs 2012
• Cédric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne, Côte de Val Vilaine, Blanc de Noirs 2016
• Dom Pérignon 2008
• Bérêche Le Cran Ludes 1er Cru 2011
The blind tasting was followed by an in-depth masterclass on the ripening of grapes, led by Ruinart’s Panaïotis.
He spoke about how to define optimum maturity, as well as the influence of vintage variation and climate change on ripening and harvest dates in Champagne.
Panaïotis’ masterclass was followed by an informal lunch of small plates from celebrated Australian chef Skye Gyngell.
Fauvel’s victory means that he will take part in a four-day educational trip to Champagne this June, which will include tastings, vineyard visits and masterclasses.
He will join with 12 other winners from around the world, including the US, France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, the Nordics, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.