Finalists announced for the 2018 Vin de Champagne Awards

Champagne Bureau Australia has announced the ten finalists for the 43rd biennial Vin de Champagne Awards — an awards program in Australia which aims to discover future Champagne ambassadors.

The Vin de Champagne Awards are organised on behalf of the Comité Champagne, representing the houses, growers and co-operatives of Champagne.

It’s main focus is to honour the importance of the long-standing relationship between Australia and the Champagne region in France.

Finalists were selected in the following categories:


Professional – for people in the food and wine industry, or food and wine communicators.

  • Leanne Altmann (Vic) Beverage Director, Andrew McConnell Restaurants
  • Kara Maisano (Vic) Sommelier, Masani Dining
  • Margot Muir (SA) Cellar Manager, Edinburgh Cellars
  • Anthony Pieri (Vic) Group Sommelier, APEG
  • Sara Underdown (SA) Editor, Vine and Bubble Magazine.

Amateur – for those who have a passion for Champagne.

  • Iain Gibson (NSW) Trader
  • Vanessa Gregory (NSW) PR, Access-DGC
  • Tim Heath (NSW) Marketing Operations, Telstra
  • Sally Hillman (Vic) Interior Designer
  • Nicole Smith (QLD) Practice Manager, Sunshine Eye Clinic.


Entrants answered six essay style questions about Champagne’s viticulture, terroir, history, and winemaking techniques and were expected to display a comprehensive understanding of the Champagne industry.

Finalists will attend a judging in Sydney on September 10, where a panel of experts including Huon Hooke, Peter Bourne and Bernadette O’Shea will test the entrants’ knowledge of the Champagne industry and their abilities in a blind tasting of Champagne wines.

Following the judging, two winners will be announced that evening at an invitation-only black tie dinner at Quay Restaurant, where a special menu will be created to match a selection of 16 Champagnes.

The grand prize for the two winners is a two-week educational tour through the Champagne region, and Comité Champagne will present them with their medal at Maison du Champagne in Epernay.

The awards program has established a network of over 40 Champagne specialists who act as ambassadors and educators to promote the Champagne Appellation Australia-wide by sharing their knowledge and appreciation of the wine.

John Noble, director of the Champagne Bureau Australia, said the awards program is a competition like no other.

“It is an opportunity for people who enjoy Champagne to take their interest in Champagne to the next level.

“The Champagne Bureau’s team of Vin de Champagne Award winners are a key part of our education program and provide a number of dynamic classes throughout Australia to consumers and wine professionals alike,” he said.

The roll call of past winners of this prestigious award includes Australia’s most knowledgeable and respected wine industry people, including winemakers, journalists, restaurateurs, sommeliers, commentators and Champagne educators.