The biannual Vin de Champagne Awards rolled through Sydney again this week, with this year’s winners celebrated at a black tie event at the Four Seasons on Monday night.
I was lucky enough to jag a seat at one of the more entertaining tables this year and, yet again, it proved to be a great night. The lineup of Champagne alone was worth the attendance, the food also impressive (a special mention to the white cut chicken with mussels, shitake and mushroom broth, which was a bit too powerful for the Champagne but utterly delicious).
The prizes themselves were taken out by Centra Sommelier Cameron O’Keefe in the professional division and Nicky Goodyer in the amateur division, with O’Keefe particularly happy after multiple times being a finalist (even though he is in his early 30s. Hat tip for dedication), and Goodyer similarly stoked.
While I didn’t take notes on the full 15 different wines on offer, I had a great time crafting a little ’07 mini comparison and with decent pours I only had to worry about an overzealous waiter who kept trying to take my glasses away.
A few highlights:
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2007
I’m a big fan of the Delamotte wines and this was a winner. A delicate balance of yeasty richness and yet with an outstanding freshness too. The very essence of BdB. It kicks off with white flowers, then expansive layers of whipped cream and just a little white peach. Just floats through your mouth, with vibrancy and effortlessness. My runaway wine of the night (and comparatively affordable in this company). 18.7/20, 95/100.
Louis Roederer Cristal 2007
Delamotte might have the grace but Cristal had the punch. Immediately the Pinot makes itself felt with a thickness and yeasty weight that powered on through the mouth like a big forward palming off defenders. My only question here is whether it is a complete wine as the finish was just a little lumpy. Still, utterly satisfying grand marque fizz in a long and dense form. You can’t help but be satisfied with this. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 2007
Overshadowed by the wines around it. The more I looked at this the skinnier it looked, with an uncertainty and skinny edge that clearly aims towards delicacy but ultimately lacks the conviction of a grand marque fizz. That’s not to say it’s a bad wine, just that it is a step behind the rest of this flight. 17.7/20, 92/100
Charles Heidsieck Vintage 2005
Second time trying this recently and with similar results. An atypically dense Champagne vintage and a release that is much table wine as it is fizz. Already quite mature with lots of autolysis. Maybe too much yeast for the fruit? Certainly ripe with a thick finish. Broadly powerful and with an impressive concentration to ensure that this satisfies, it isn’t quite as delicate as some years but gee I’d happily drink bottles. 18.2/20, 93/100.
Pol Roger Winston Churchill 2004
Others had this as their wine of the night but I wasn’t quite as convinced. Complex and powerful, sure, but I thought this was notably forward, with just a little aldehyde creeping in amongst the heavy, almost baby sick autolysis. That palate is compelling though, all structure and depth, with layers of flavour to go around. A very close tussle for third between this and the Heidsieck above. 18.2/20, 92/100.
William Deutz 2006
A very different wine in amongst these heroes. There’s a definite leafy edge here, and backed by bitterness and slightly uncertain palate sweetness. The intention is clearly towards a more refined style and I get that. But is it too lean? Less convincing compared to the other wines around it, if still showing some class. 17.8/20, 92/100.