Mark Patana

Mark Patana wins Ruinart Sommelier Challenge

Medlar’s Mark Patana has capped a whirlwind 12 months by taking top spot in the Ruinart Challenge.

It’s the 27-year-old’s second win in a year after claiming victory in the Chaine des Rotisseurs last June, and books him a week-long trip to Champagne in the autumn as a VIP guest of Champagne Ruinart.

The competition involved contestants sitting a 40-minute exam during which time they had to blind-taste four wines. This year all four were Chardonnays: Vincent Dauvissat Premier Cru Chablis Les Vaillons 2019, Domaine de la Vougerie Beaune 2018, Domaine Faiveley Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2019 and Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2018. Tight, cool-climate and reductive, the latter was the hardest wine for most of the sommeliers to pick.

The tasters wrestle with the four Chardonnays before them. Very few identified the fourth wine.

The entrants had to fill in a tasting sheet for each wine, based on Court of Master Sommelier tasting criteria. As well as aroma and palate descriptors, the 25 contestants had to provide a vintage, assess where each wine was from and describe serving criteria and food-matching suggestions.

‘Doing it in 40 minutes is tight,’ said Mark, ‘and writing it down is a format I’m not used to – I usually talk about the wines. But you’re going to taste some amazing wines.

‘So I tried to relax and say ‘right, let’s have some fun!”

Several of the judges correctly identified most of the wines – including the runners-up, Faidon Dernikos from 67 Pall Mall and Coravin’s Frederic Mounnery, both of whom will receive a magnum of Ruinart.

However, as well as sound tasting skills, it was Mark’s comprehensive and imaginative serving suggestions that made him stand out.

‘We had people who got a lot of the wines right,’ said judge Ronan Sayburn MS of 67 Pall Mall. ‘But he got the added details – the serving and the food matching – which is a sommelier’s job.’

The three winners, Faidon (right), Mark (centre) and Frederic (left) with judges Ronan Sayburn MS (second right), Roxane Dupuy (second left), and Ruinart chef de cave Fred Panaiotis (back middle)

Originally from Milan, Mark is excited about going to Champagne for the first time in his life.

‘I’m most looking forward to going to the crayeres and seeing them with my own eyes,’ he said. ‘Feeling the natural environment and seeing how the wines attain such complexity and maturity. It’ll be very special.’

‘It’s the best trip you can have,’ said Roxane Dupuy, winner of the Swiss heat in 2018 and now of The Twenty Two. ‘You go to places that are not open to the public, with amazing tastings. I met some of my best friends through the Ruinart Challenge.’

Other contestants: Alex Ranzetta, the Royal Exchange
Augusto Gherardi, La Dame de la Pic
Nicholas Sharp, Roots