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August 9, 2009

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Penfold's raises new crop of Chinese sommeliers

THE 160-year-old Australian winery Penfold's continued its support of the development of China's food and wine industry this week with its 2nd annual China Sommelier Competition.

The only event of its kind in China, its purpose is to promote excellence in the craft of advising restaurant diners on wines that will best match the food they have ordered and also the subsequent service of the drinks.

The competition, organized by the label's major China distributor ASC Wines, attracted more than 40 candidates from Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen and contestants had to do written tests assessing their knowledge of wine and Penfold's products.

The entrants were whittled down to three finalists -- Peter Teng from Beijing, Rachel Wang from Hangzhou and Liao Yinhua from Shanghai -- who "poured off" in the grand final dinner at the Jin Jiang Tower Hotel.

Each finalist was assigned to a table of up to 15 guest diners who cast votes on their wine and food knowledge and service as they dispensed six different Penfold's products to match a Chinese banquet of 10 courses.

The hotel's Exquisite Bocuse restaurant served traditional cuisine, including Yangzhou Boiled Dried Bean Curd with Special Soup, Boiled Mandarin Fish with Bean Curd, Pan Fried Beef Steak in French Sauce and Baked Chicken with Spices for which the finalists had chosen the Penfold's wines.

The drinks included the Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2007, Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2005, Bin 138 GSM 2006 and Thomas Hyland Chardonnay 2007.

Senior judges including Remon Van de Kerkhof, sommelier at Penfold's Magill Estate restaurant in Australia, and ASC's Andy Tan, a sommelier with 17 years of experience in Singapore and China, cast a professional eye over the candidates who toward the end of the night had to guess in a blind tasting four of the wines they had served at dinner.

The clear winner was Peter Teng, Resident Sommelier from the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing, who won a training course sponsored by Penfold's and a trip to a Sanya resort.


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