Highlights from the 2014 Vin de Champagne Awards
Monday night I went to the 40th anniversary presentation dinner for the Vin de Champagne Awards - a biannual competition held by the CIVC that offers one local wine professional and one amateur a two week, all expenses paid Champagne 'trip of a lifetime'.
This years deserved winners were Tom Warrell (amateur) and Annette Lacey (professional), with Annette particularly stoked given that she also found out a week or so back that she passed the MW tasting exams.
Naturally, given such a context, the Champagne was flowing at speed on the night and, despite still being under doctor's orders to avoid alcohol (doctors - what do they know?), I couldn't help but drain a few glasses of restorative fizz.
As you can imagine writing decent tasting notes at a black tie dinner is not only hard but a bit naff, yet I still managed to get a decent look at these few wines over dinner.
The caveat, as ever with Champagne tasting notes, is all about variability. No disgorgement dates means the NVs are a lottery, and even the vintage wines were a guessing game, with some wines obviously spending some time under cork. Further, I thought certain bottles looked much fresher than others, which only confuses things more.
Regardless, this collection included more than enough glory to make for damn good drinking, plus the food was absolutely top shelf, with ex Becasse chef Justin North delivering an array of Champagne-friendly delights. One of the best wine dinners I've been to in ages.
Bollinger Rose NV
I've been critical of the balance in this newish wine from Bollinger previously, yet this particular bottle absolutely smashed it. There is an intriguing orange rind character to this, giving complexity and interest but it won me over simply on purity. Obviously a well treated bottle, there is that lift and dancing pretty sherbet and white flower lightness which I really look for in rose Champagne. Perfect balance and simply delicious aperitif style. Yes 18/20. 93/100
Billecart Salmon Rose NV
This, like so many pinks, is marred by obvious sweetness dulls what is a quite serious style. It has a sweet strawberry hit on the nose, but the palate looks to be playing catchup, finishing a fraction short. Still quality Champagne but outclassed here. 17.5/20, 91/100
Moet Rose 2004
More structure, more lees ageing and more weight but less vitality. This was darker in colour and tries hard, but the still wine gives this a slightly bitter note and I thought it lacked vitality, even though the complexity was there. Good, not great. 17/20, 90/100
Mumm Cramant Blanc de Blancs NV
Unbalanced. Candy floss dosage over a dry and vegetal, tart palate. Intensity is unquestioned but this looked phenolic and overly chewy. 16.5/20, 88/100
Ayala Blanc de Blancs 2007
Ayala just gets better and better, all at a very fair price. This looks utterly classic on the nose with white flower perfume and a light whipped butter edge. It's pure and pretty to taste if just a fraction fleeting. Still, an awful lot of style for the dollars. 17.8/20, 92/100
Jacquart Blanc de Blancs 2006
About as close to a grower Champagne as the night would give and this looked really quite vinous. There's extra weight and length to this with an almost Pinot like grunt, finishing with extract and big acid. I liked this, the length impressive and persistence bringing you back. 18/20, 93/100
Louis Roederer Cristal 2006
This is the best Cristal I've had in ages. A swarthy, musky Aramis nose over a brooding and powerful palate. Deep and quite chewy, this is still a bit young to be a superstar but it feels every bit the grand marque. 18.5/20, 94/100+
Charles Heidsieck Brut 2000
Some question marks here - it just looked a little flabby. A lemon drop nose, this forward with a flash of mandarin. There's some creaks and cracks on the palate which looks advanced. Complexity drives this forward but just not the freshness. 17.7/20, 92/100
Pol Roger Winston Churchill 2000
From magnum and bloody glorious. Fully mature and driven by autolysis this is much fuller and more powerful than the Charles, carrying that 200 vintage toasty richness. It's fresh to finish though and that palate was oh so fresh you could be convinced this is much younger.. Delicious and the complete, powerful package. Loved it. 18.7/20, 95/100
Lanson Gold Label 2004
Searing acid. No Malo? Biting acid - just too much. Length is good but severe. I couldn't drink much of this. 17/20, 90/100
Veuve Clicquot 2004
Another dry and ballsy effort and certainly pure. Could do with more richness but nice lines. Needs time. 17.7/20, 92/100