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Champagne marks 10 years of ambassadors

The great and good of the Champagne community descended on Reims last week to celebrate 10 years of the Champagne Ambassador’s Awards.

Just some of the Champagne Ambassadors of the last nine years at the event on Thursday.

The tenth anniversary of the Comité Champagne’s pan-European Champagne Ambassador Competition, the only competition to recognise and reward wine educators in the UK, was marked with a Gala dinner in Reims on Thursday, 16 October, with ambassadors from the past nine years invited to intend.

The Gala was held in place of the competition at the Palais du Tau in Reims as part of a three-day trip to the region, and followed a masterclass and celebratory lunch held in London on 19 June, with the intention of strengthening the network of ambassadors and reaching out to future ambassadors.

Britain, the largest Champagne market outside France, has a history of success at the awards with five UK finalists going on to win titles at the European event in Champagne including two first prizes (2006 and 2009) and three second place prizes (2005, 2011 and 2013).

Francoise Peretti, director of the Champagne Bureau UK, said: “For me what this competition is about is the opportunity for wine educators to share their knowledge about Champagne. In the UK I don’t look at who is the best Champagne expert. I’m interested in educators who might not know everything about Champagne but who are good communicators and can engage. You can always add knowledge. It’s my role to give them information.”

Reims cathedral

Speaking on the value of such a competition she added: “It is in our interests and in the interests of Champagne to have a network of ambassadors who understand Champagne fully and who can speak in our benefit. Education is the driving force behind changing and evolution. For me it’s a real privilege and very exciting to be able to provide information and give them the opportunity to have an experience in Champagne.”

Explaining why she believed the UK had achieved such success in past years, while not being a large wine producing country, Peretti said: “People get organised in the UK. There is a thirst for knowledge and I see it also in wine education. It’s the freedom to do it on your own and you get organised and you do it because you are enthusiastic.”

The competition was first founded in 2005 taking place in nine European countries including the UK, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland.

However at the event on Thursday Thibaut Le-Mailloux, communications director of the CIVC, hinted at plans to further expand the competition.

He said: “Instead of having a competition this year we decided to celebrate the ambassadors of the past nine years. It’s a celebration of the people who have made it to this title. There are 73 ambassadors in Europe which is a very small number. The goal of the awards is to motivate the best wine educators to join the competition and try to make it to the title of Champagne Ambassador. It’s about wine educators showing that they can make Champagne understandable to their students from a broad perspective.”

He added: “We are proud of this programme and the Champenois are very proud of it because it’s about the appellation in general, but also because they like this idea of being selective and picky and only giving the award to extremely motivated, knowledgable and talented people.

Our vision is to expand across the world. We have this ambition but it takes time, resources and organisation, but we are working on that and we do have that ambition.”

Past UK winners

  • Anthony Stockbridge: UK Champagne Ambassador 2005
  • Carol Whitehead: UK Champagne Ambassador 2006
  • Tom Forrest: UK Champagne Ambassador 2007
  • Sophie Rudge: UK Champagne Ambassador 2008
  • Richard Bampfield MW: UK Champagne Ambassador 2009
  • Laura Clay: UK Champagne Ambassador 2010
  • Edwin Dublin: UK Champagne Ambassador 2011
  • Nancy Gilchrist MW: UK Champagne Ambassador 2012
  • Tim Hall: UK Champagne Ambassador 2013

For more information on the competition click here.

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