Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Leanne Altmann is killing it. In August last year Altmann topped the Riedel Advanced Sommelier examinations and was awarded Dux (the first female in Australia to receive the title), and then a month later she won the Vin de Champagne Award in the professional category.

They’re rigorous, mentally exhausting processes, and yet Altmann was the standout at both, in the same year, while also working as the beverage director for one of the most successful restaurant groups in Victoria, Andrew McConnell Restaurants. In February this year she was also on one of the panels at Mornington Peninsula’s Pinot Celebration Australia. How does she find the time?

“I establish a schedule of topics, of styles, of regions, countries that I’m going to be focusing on and I will try to align those to anything that might be happening in Melbourne,” says Altmann. “I try and focus my study… so I get lots of different approaches and aspects to understanding a region or a place.”

At the age of 21 Altmann won the Daniel Pontifex Scholarship and was given the opportunity to travel to Europe. “That completely opened my eyes. You could say that was the formative experience to move into wine. I just absolutely got the wine bug. Like so many, I left university and decided that working in restaurants and pubs and bars was much more exciting than macroeconomics.”

One of the things that constantly draws Altmann to wine, and one of the reasons for trying to improve her knowledge through qualifications like Vin de Champagne and the Advanced Sommelier, is her desire to learn. “You need to learn the different nuances of a region, of a producer every year. The moment you stop learning and staying current you can fall behind so quickly.”

As a result of her Vin de Champagne win, this year Altmann will travel to the Champagne region on an extensive trip to multiple producers during vintage time.

Image by Nikki To