The results from the Champagne Masters 2012 have been released, proving once more the quality available in the vintage category, as well as the impressive level of complexity on offer among brut NVs.
Like last year, the Champagne Masters was conducted in the smart surroundings of London’s Fitzroy Square, courtesy of the Institute of Masters of Wine.
As in previous competitions, Champagnes entered for the tasting are divided into categories according to price and style before being judged accordingly. So, more top awards among a lower-priced category may be seen because the Champagnes entered were considered extremely good for the price.
It should also be stressed that the highest accolade awarded is “Master”, which is given to a wine considered better than “Gold”, and therefore exceptional.
Analysing the results from 2012’s tasting, it is perhaps a surprise to see such a hoard of awards within the non-vintage categories. It’s also encouraging – this is Champagne’s most important area in terms of volume, while brut NV is the signature style of any self-respecting Champagne house. Hence, the number of silvers and golds, as well as masters in the non-vintage category this year reflects the focus from houses on this area.
Tasting at the Institute of Masters of Wine’s UK office
Looking at brut NV below £25, the only gold was earned by the little-known house Paul Laurent, for its Cuvée du Fondateur. It should be pointed out that this, the cheapest of the categories, actually amassed more silvers than the pricey prestige cuvées judged this year.
The £25 to £35 brut NV category saw some of the best performances in the competition. Two masters were awarded, one to Jacquart’s Brut Mosaïque, and the highly regarded Henriot Brut Souverain with its Chardonnay dominant blend.
Like last year’s tasting, the Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut impressed the judges, and gained a gold, along with Perrier-Jouët.
An even stronger performance came when prices for NV pushed over the £35 mark, with Charles Heidsieck, Taittinger, Lanson White Label and its Extra Age all gaining golds. Meanwhile while two masters were awarded, one for the Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Extra Brut, and the other for Phillipponat Royal Reserve.
Turning to the vintage category, Phillipponat was again among the top performers, with its Cuvée 1522 – a Champagne from the exceptional 2002 vintage. Mumm was another gold medal winner for its 2004, along with Henriot (2003), Taittinger (2005), Piper-Heidsieck (2004) and Charles Heidsieck (2000).
Among prestige cuvées, the medal tally dropped, as the judges felt that the quality of the Champagnes failed to justify the high price points. Gold exceptions were Charles Heidsieck’s Blanc des Millénaires 1995, Jacquart’s Brut de Nominée and Pannier’s Egerie Extra Brut 2002.
In the new blanc de blancs category – Gosset stood out for its Grand Blanc de Blanc – the only fizz to earn gold in the 100% Chardonnay sector.
And like last year, rosé was the least impressive category when it came to top medals. Just two labels were awarded silvers in the sub-£35 price band, one for Sainsbury’s Brut rosé and the other for Canard-Duchêne’s Charles VII Grand Cuvée de la Rosé. In rosés over £35, a golds was awarded to Charles-Heidsieck’s Rosé Réserve and another for Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut Rosé.
Overall, the competition highlighted the quality and value available in the vintage Champagne category. It also drew attention to the superior winemaking capabilities of certain Houses, such as Phillipponat, Besserat de Bellefon and Charles Heidsieck. Finally, it’s worth noting that the grower Champagnes entered didn’t perform as well one might think, considering the excitement around this category at present. However, without the opportunity to blend from a broad area, perhaps the grower Champagnes lacked the same level of complexity as some of the houses and cooperatives which source grapes from across the region. After all, much of Champagne’s quality and character comes from blending.
Continue on to the following pages to see the results of the Champagne Masters 2012, while more information on the competition can be viewed below.
Judges were selected for their general wine tasting experience, high regard in the trade, as well as expertise in the Champagne sector. We chose a range of personalities to reflect different sectors, be it the on-trade and off-trade, mainstream retail and specialist independent, as well as fine wine. We also invited Michael Edwards to join the panel, a respected and award-winning Champagne writer and contributor to the drinks business.
• Nicola Arcedeckne-Butler MW, buying director, Private Cellar (chair)
• Patrick Schmitt, editor, the drinks business
• Anthony Foster MW, director/buyer, Bonhote Foster
• Michael Edwards, journalist/author/
• Christine Parkinson, group wine buyer, Hakkasan
• Marcel Orford Williams, wine/ Champagne buyer, The Wine Society
• Jamie Hutchinson, owner,
• Emma Dawson, wine buyer, Marks & Spencer
About the competition
The Champagne Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business and an extension of its successful Masters series for spirits. The competition is exclusively for Champagne and almost 100 entries were judged by a selection of highly experienced tasters using Riedel Chianti/Riesling glasses supplied by Sensible Wine Services. The top Champagnes were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those Champagnes that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Champagne Master. The Champagnes were tasted over the course of one day at the Institute of Masters of Wine.
Continue on to the following pages to see the results of the Champagne Masters 2012