2016 Vin de Champagne Awards Finalists Announced

champagne poppingIt’s no secret that here in Australia we love our Champagne. And we’re not talking about ‘sparkling wine’ in general – but the particular sparkling wine that comes from that particular region of France to the east of Paris. Actual Champagne.

Recently released figures place Australia as the sixth largest import market in the world. In 2015, Australia imported 8,110,106 bottles of Champagne, which represents a 24.3% increase on 2014. 

So it’s probably no surprise that Australia has it’s very own, highly prestigious Vin de Champagne Awards, one of the most coveted wine accolades and one that honours Australia’s enduring relationship with France’s Champagne region.

Today, the Champagne Bureau Australia has announced the 11 finalists in the 42nd biennial awards.


Organised on behalf of France’s Comité Champagne, the Vin de Champagne Awards celebrate the enjoyment of Champagne in Australia and aim to cultivate a network of Champagne specialists to act as ambassadors in Australia.

Finalists were selected in the following categories:

Professional – for people who gain an income from the food and wine industry

  • Peta Baverstock (SA) Cellar Door Manager, Loaves & Fishes
  • Samantha Faircloth (Qld) Area Manager, Negociants Australia
  • Anja Lewis (WA) Wine Training and Consulting, Canny Grapes
  • Kara Maisano (Vic) Sommelier, Masani Italian Dining & Terrace
  • Cameron O’Keefe (Vic) Sommelier, Centra
  • Saskia Valenti (WA) Jane Brook Estate Wines

Amateur for those who have a passion about Champagne

  • Nicky Goodyer (NSW) Florist, Aahh Flowers
  • Tim Heath (NSW) Marketing Operations, Telstra
  • Sara Underdown (SA) Corporate Writer
  • Nicole Smith (Qld) Practice Manager, Sunshine Eye Clinic
  • Michael Solomons (NSW) CEO, The Queens Club

Entrants answered essay questions about Champagne’s viticulture, terroir and history, and were expected to display comprehensive knowledge of the Champagne industry.

Finalists will be flown to Sydney on 26 September where a panel of experts will judge the entrants’ aptitudes in a blind tasting of Champagne wines and knowledge of the industry. Judges includes Huon Hooke, Peter Bourne and Bernadette O’Shea. Following the judging, the two winners will be announced that evening at a black tie dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel where chef Mark Best from Pei Modern will create a menu to match a selection of Champagnes.

The grand prize for the two winners is a two-week educational tour through the Champagne district where the Comité Champagne will present them with their medal. The lives of past winners have been infinitely transformed by their visit, and for many, the tour marks the upward trajectory of an exciting, productive and passionate relationship with Champagne.

“After forty-plus years, these awards continue to reveal an intriguingly diverse cross-section of Champagne palates, in both the amateur and the professional classes. We are witnessing a growing collective of Champagne lovers in Australia, evidenced in the calibre of candidates entering the awards and the ambassadorial work former winners are carrying out in every state,” says Elisabeth Drysdale, Director of the Champagne Bureau.

* The Vin de Champagne Awards are supported by the Alliance Française de Sydney, Riedel, Fisheads, Victor Churchill and the Four Seasons Hotel.