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Champagne Masters 2014: The medalists

This year’s competition showed that efforts to create the upmost in luxurious sparkling wine stretched beyond the top-end offerings and into categories that previously didn’t fare well.

Champagne-Masters-Judges
Judges, left to right: Simon Field MW, buyer, Berry Bros. & Rudd; Jamie Hutchinson, owner, The Sampler; Sue Daniels, wine buyer, Marks & Spencer; Rebecca Palmer, associate director & buyer, Corney & Barrow; Michael Edwards, journalist, author, Champagne expert; Anthony Foster MW, director/buyer, Bonhote Foster; Marcel Orford-Williams, buyer, The Wine Society; Patrick Schmitt, editor-in-chief, the drinks business

Bearing in mind the high price of Champagne, particularly grandes marques, one should expect a large collection of medal-winners in any competition devoted to this sparkling wine region. But having awarded silvers to almost half the entries in this year’s Champagne Masters cheapest category – Brut NV under £30 – we realised that the sector’s base level was now home to very high quality fizz, and undoubtedly fewer disappointing examples compared to 2011, when we first held the competition. Furthermore, former weak points in the tasting – the extra brut and rosé categories – both contained first-rate wines in 2014, proving that Champagne with very low levels of sugar can be attractive, while pink Champagne is a serious fizz too. In essence, the results attest to the fact that viticultural and winemaking improvements across the region are really becoming evident now in the wines, whatever the style.

FAMOUS FACES

Anthony-Foster-MW

Initially, the non-vintage category at all prices yielded some impressive results, and in particular, proved the quality available among Champagne’s most famous names. Commenting after the tasting’s results were revealed, chair of the judges and Berry Bros buyer Simon Field MW said, “The grandes marques are really on form at the moment,” before adding, “Showing well across the piece were, not to my great surprise, Charles Heidsieck and Deutz.” He then mentioned his particular respect for Louis Roederer, which, like Heidsieck, achieved the top award of the tasting: a Master for its Brut NV. “Hats off to Roederer’s Brut, demonstrating [chef de caves] Monsieur Lecaillon is primus inter pares when we are discussing Champagne masters!”

Findings from the tasting

• Champagne’s grandes marques performed well in this year’s competition, particularly Charles Heidsieck, Louis Roederer and Deutz.
• Brut NV Champagnes proved high quality and good value, while rosé and extra brut styles did better than in previous competitions, suggesting a quality improvement among wines in these fashionable categories.
• Blanc de Blancs Champagnes gained good scores, particularly more expensive examples.
• Charles Heidsieck was the outstanding house in this year’s competition, a testament to the skill of its late chef de caves, Thierry Roset, who died suddenly aged 55 in October this year.
• Some lesser-known houses also performed well, such as Chassenay d’Arce and Ployez Jacquemart.
• The overall quality standard was extremely high.

Nevertheless, it was Charles Heidsieck that performed the best overall in this year’s competition. Not only did this house achieve a Master for its Brut Réserve, but also its Brut Millésime 2000, while it gained a gold for its Blanc des Millenaires 1995 and a silver for its Rosé Reserve. Indeed, while we are paying tribute to winemakers, such a successful outcome for Charles Heidsieck Champagnes is testament to the skill of the late Thierry Roset, chef de caves at the house, who sadly died suddenly in early October aged 55.

Also impressive were the scores of Charles Heidsieck sister house Piper- Heidsieck, which achieved the only gold in the NV category for Champagnes priced £30-40 for its Brut Essential, while it gained a silver for its Brut NV in the under £30 category. Another notable success was Jacquart, which gained a silver for its Brut Mosaïque – a Champagne that has undergone a quality improvement since former Veuve Clicquot winemaker Floriane Eznack joined the brand in January 2011. It also earned silvers for its new prestige cuvée Alpha, with the 2005 vintage, as well as its blanc de blancs 2006 and its extra brut NV.

Meanwhile, the little-known brand of Chassenay d’Arce picked up silvers for its Cuvée Première Brut NV, Pinot Blanc Extra Brut, and a gold for its blanc de blancs 2005 as well as its prestige cuvée, named Confidences.

Meanwhile, Field mentioned further houses which impressed him in the tasting, which was conducted, like last year, at The Dorchester hotel. “I was pleased that some of the less lauded houses such as Lanson and Piper were able to rise to the challenge too.” He added, “This indicates to me a confidence across the region and an overall qualitative consistency.”

Finally he said that he was pleased to see Cattier, Palmer and Henriot “all showing their worth”, describing them as “three houses I admire”. In particular, he commented that he was “encouraged” to see large co-op Palmer making “such good wines”.
Rebecca-Palmer

HIGH FLYERS

Judges-in-room

At the peak of Champagne’s price pyramid, prestige cuvées over £100 performed extremely well, although it was only Deutz’s Cuvée William Deutz 2002 that achieved the ultimate by gaining a Master. Such a result was both a sign of the quality winemaking from this house, but also the conditions of the vintage, with 2002 considered one of the standout harvests of the last decade.
Among the more niche categories of Champagne, as noted above, drier Champagne styles did well this year, suggesting that winemakers are becoming better at producing fizz with little added sugar – doubtless choosing riper, richer base wines to reduce the potential for tartness. Serge Mathieu, Drappier, Chassenay d’Arce, Jacquart and newcomer to the competition, Ployez Jacquemart were all awarded silver medals for the extra bruts.

Then there was the blanc de blancs category which this year in particular drew attention to the quality of pure Chardonnay Champagnes. While Palmer was the only wine to be awarded a gold for Blanc de Blancs under £40, over that price point and no less than four golds were given – 50% of the wines judged at this more expensive level. As one judge said, “This does prove that you do have to spend quite a bit on blanc de blancs, but when you do, you are rewarded.”

We also had a good showing from blanc de noirs in 2014. Both Cattier and Comte Audoin de Dampierre impressed the judges with this style, and each of these houses gained golds. As judge Michael Edwards said of the wines, “These are wonderful winter Champagnes”, while fellow judge Anthony Foster MW said, “These are food Champagnes.”

Judges-in-room-2As in previous competitions, the vintage category attracted high levels of praise from the judges and plenty of high scores, while unlike last year, rosé achieved a clutch of golds. Particularly delicious examples of the latter came from Henriot, Deutz and Lanson.

Overall, the blind tasting drew attention to those houses producing cuvées of exceptional quality, while showing the high standard of wines being made in Champagne today. It also proved that the fashionable pink and very dry styles of Champagne have undergone a marked quality improvement. For value and quality, however, the results suggest that the region’s biggest category, Brut NV, is hard to beat.

Company Wine Medal Style
Non Vintage under £30
Champagne Ployez Jacquemart Extra Brut Passion Silver Extra Brut
Champagne Paul Goerg Tradition Silver Brut
Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaïque Silver Brut
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Brut Silver Brut
Champagne Chassenay D’Arce Cuvée Première Brut Silver Brut
Vranken Pommery Pommery Brut Royal Silver Brut
Champagne Drappier Carte d’Or Bronze Brut
Champagne Palmer & Co Brut Réserve Bronze Brut
Le Brun de Neuville Cuvée Authentique Bronze Brut
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve NV Bronze Brut
Comte Audoin de Dampierre Grande Cuvée Bronze Brut
Champagne Boizel Brut Réserve Bronze Brut
Champagne Delamotte Brut NV Bronze Brut
Champagne De Castelnau Brut NV Bronze Brut
Non Vintage £30-£40
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Brut Essentiel Gold Brut
Champagne Mumm Brut Souverain Silver Brut
Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain Silver Brut
Champagne Jacquart Extra Brut Silver Extra Brut
Champagne Pannier Brut Selection Silver Brut
Champagne Philipponnat Royale Réserve non dosé Bronze Brut Nature
Lanson International UK Champagne Massé Brut Bronze Brut
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Bronze Brut
Lanson International UK Lanson Black Label NV Bronze Brut
Non Vintage over £40
Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Master Brut
Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Premier Master Brut
Champagne Deutz Brut Rosé Gold Brut
Champagne Gosset Grande Réserve Bronze Brut
Lanson International UK Lanson Extra Age Brut Bronze Brut
Lanson International UK Lanson White Label Dry-Sec Bronze Sec
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Sublime Bronze Demi-sec
Vintage £30-£40
Champagne Cattier Vinothèque 2007 Silver Brut
Champagne Ployez Jacquemart Extra Brut Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2005 Bronze Extra Brut
Champagne Serge Matthieu Millesime 2008 Bronze Brut
Vintage over £40
Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime 2000 Master Brut
Champagne De Castelnau Vintage 2002 Silver Brut
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Vintage 2006 Silver Brut
Champagne Henriot Brut Millésime 2005 Silver Brut
Champagne Gosset Grand Millésime 2004 Silver Brut
Vranken Pommery Pommery Grand Cru 2004 Silver Brut
Champagne Mumm Vintage 2006 Bronze Brut
Champagne Deutz Brut 2007 Bronze Brut
Champagne Philipponnat Cuvée 1522 millésime 2005 Bronze Brut
Champagne Charles Heidsieck Rosé millésime 1999 Bronze Brut
Prestige Cuvée £30-£40
Le Brun de Neuville Lady de N Clovis Silver Brut
Prestige Cuvée £40-£100
Chassenay D’Arce Confidences Brut Gold Brut
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d’Or Brut 2004 Gold Brut
Champagne Soutiran Collection privée Silver Brut
Champagne Boizel Joyau de France Silver Brut
Champagne Cattier Clos du Moulin Brut Silver Brut
Champagne Jacquart Cuvée Alpha 2005 Silver Brut
Vranken Pommery Pommery Cuvée Louise 2002 Silver Brut

Company Wine Medal Style
Prestige Cuvée over £100
Champagne Deutz Cuvée William Deutz 2002 Master Brut
Champagne Deutz Amour de Deutz 2005 Gold Brut
Champagne Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires Millésime 1995 Gold Brut
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime 2002 Silver Brut
Champagne Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2005 Silver Brut
Alternative grapes / Blanc de Blancs over £40
Chassenay D’Arce Pinot Blanc Extra Brut Silver Extra Brut
Blanc de Blancs under £30
Le Brun de Neuville Cuvée Chardonnay Silver Brut
Blanc de Blancs £30-£40
Champagne Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs 2008 Gold Brut
Le Brun de Neuville Lady de N Chardonnay Silver Brut
Champagne Cattier Brut Blanc de Blancs Silver Brut
Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV Silver Brut
Champagne Jacquart Blanc de Blancs 2006 Silver Brut
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Grand Cru Chardonnay Millésime 2005 Silver Brut
Blanc de Blancs over £40
Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs Gold Brut
Lanson International UK Lanson Extra Age Blanc de Blancs Gold Brut
Champagne Deutz Blanc de Blancs 2008 Gold Brut
Chassenay D’Arce Blanc de Blancs 2005 Gold Brut
Champagne De Castelnau Blanc de Blancs Silver Brut
Champagne Mumm Blanc de Blancs Mumm de Cramant Silver Brut
Champagne Philipponnat Grand Blanc 2006 Silver Brut
Champagne Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2007 Bronze Brut
Blanc de Noirs under £30
Champagne Serge Matthieu Extra Brut Silver Extra Brut
Champagne Serge Matthieu Brut Tradition Silver Brut
Blanc de Noirs £30-£40
Comte Audoin de Dampierre Cuvée des Ambassadeurs Grand Vintage 2005 Gold Brut
Champagne Serge Matthieu Millesime 2008 Silver Brut
Champagne Dosnon Champagne Dosnon & Lepage Récolte Noire Bronze Brut
Blanc de Noirs over £40
Champagne Cattier Cattier Brut Blanc de Noirs Gold Brut
Champagne Philipponnat Philipponnat Blanc de Noirs 2008 Silver Brut
Rosé Under £30
Champagne Drappier Brut Nature Rosé Bronze Brut Nature
The Wine Society Champagne Jeanaux-Robin Rosé Brut NV Bronze Brut
Rosé £30-£40
Champagne Palmer & Co Brut Rosé Silver Brut
Lanson International UK Champagne Massé Rosé Bronze Brut
Champagne Jacquart Rosé Bronze Brut
Champagne Boizel Rosé Bronze Brut
Champagne Cattier Brut Rosé Bronze Brut
Lanson International UK Lanson Rose Label NV Bronze Brut
Rosé over £40
Champagne Henriot Brut Rosé Gold Brut
Champagne Deutz Rosé 2009 Gold Brut
Lanson International UK Lanson Extra Age Rosé Gold Brut
Champagne Philipponnat Royale Réserve Rosé NV Silver Brut
Champagne Charles Heidsieck Rosé Reserve Silver Brut
Vranken Pommery Pommery Apanage Rosé Silver Brut
Champagne Mumm Brut Rosé Bronze Brut
Champagne Delamotte Rosé NV Bronze Brut
Chassenay D’Arce Cuvée Rosé Brut Bronze Brut
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé Bronze Brut
Champagne Cattier Clos du Moulin Rosé Bronze Brut
Design & Packaging
Champagne Drappier Coffret Grande Sendrée Master
Chassenay D’Arce Pinot Blanc Extra Brut Gold
Champagne Cattier Clos du Moulin Brut en Coffret Gold
Champagne Cattier Brut Sensation Silver
Le Brun de Neuville Millésime 2006 Silver
Le Brun de Neuville Edition Limitée – Cuvée Chardonnay Collection Bronze
Coffret Prestige Grande Sendrée
Drappier’s Grande Sendrée was awarded the top title of Master for its magnificent and beautifully executed gift box

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