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The Champagne Club Awards’21 [collaboration by Twenty Studios]

Richard Juhlin

Richard Juhlin

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Or shall we call it ‘The Richards’ ?! Instead of ‘The Champagne Oscars’ ? On this the last day of a year we want to sum-up the year of 2021 from a Champagne perspective. In 20 categories we hand out awards for this years most memorable Champagnes & Champagne related topics!

[featured partner Twenty Studios] 

Estimated reading time: 21 minutes

Winemaker of the Year

Benoit Gouez @ Moët & Chandon 

Nothing in my background predestined me for this role of Chef de Cave at Moët & Chandon. I don’t come from a long line of winemakers. 

I am actually not from the Champagne region, as my family is from Brittany and I grew up in Normandy, two regions without any vineyards. I didn’t have any early interests in wine, I did scientific studies, and I was especially interested in biology so I entered the National College of Agronomy in Montpellier in 1990. It was only at that time that I started to become interested in wine.  

My career has been a result of a series of chance encounters and fortunate circumstances. I arrived to Champagne in 1998, and took my first assignment as assistant winemaker at Moët & Chandon. I have been immediately attracted by the combination of technical skill and sensitivity at our Maison, the values of pleasure and sharing wine, and the opportunities to travel (physically or even virtually).  

In 2005, I was promoted to Chef de Cave at 35 years old and since then I have been the guardian of the Moët & Chandon’s character and spirit, building and leading a diverse team of ten winemakers – men and women of different ages, backgrounds and countries – with one mission in mind: respect and enhance the noble product of our terroir to craft excellent champagnes, defined as our interpretation of the grapes.’

[read full article here]


Champagne House of the Year 

Charles Heidsieck

Although Charles Heidsieck is both the best and most famous of the three Heidsieck houses, it was the last on the scene of the three. It took 66 years after Florence-Louis Heidsieck laid the foundations for the Heidsieck clan before Charles-Camille Heidsieck founded the house in 1851. In 1857, Charles-Camille made his first American voyage. He quickly became “Champagne-Charlie” with the Yankees and became so famous that his name appeared in lyrics in Music hall performances around the states.

Charles-Heidsieck was owned for a time by Henriot, but was sold in 1985 to the Rémy-Cointreau group and in 2011 to Christopher Descours and EPI. Daniel Thibault was Chef de caves here and at Piper-Heidsieck before he passed away prematurely in February 2002, missed by an entire wine world.

Today’s winemaker my dear friend Cyril Brun follows the same delightfully toasted style. Before the incomparable Thibault came into the picture, they did not own their own vineyards. Today they have 30 hectares in Ambonnay, Bouzy and Oger.

The non-vintage champagne Brut Resérve is today one of the best on the market and the vintage wine is always a joy to follow. The decision to discontinue Champagne Charlie and replace the prestigious champagne with Blanc de Millénaires has been praised by many. Personally, I would have liked to have seen both fit in the portfolio, which is said to happen again in a couple of years. All wines are beautifully toasted. It was no easy task for Daniel Thibault’s successor Regis Camus to fill the void left by the already legendary winemaker, but the wines under his leadership and with skillful Cyril Brun now at the helm seem to be just as good. Keep your eyes open for La Collection Crayères.

Often a 5-star house.


Champagne Grower of the Year 

Anselme Selosse

During this year we’ve opened & poured so many great Champagnes from the magician from Avize that will hit legendary status, if they are not already legends!

Champagne Terroir of the Year 

Ambonnay Grand Cru

380 hectares
84 % Pinot noir (PN), 16 % Chardonnay (CH)

4 N-M, 87 R-M, 1 C-M

Ambonnay is one of the largest Grand Cru villages with its 380 hectares of vineyards. Most growers belong to the cooperative, but many of these also sell a small amount of their own champagnes. Some of the village’s prime locations are owned by R.H. Coutier, H. Billiot, Soutiran, Egly-Ouriet, Paul Déthune, Marguet and the big champagne houses Moët & Chandon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot, Mumm and Taittinger. Geographically and geologically, Ambonnay is an extension of Bouzy’s vineyards to the east. Ambonnay’s prime locations usually have a south-eastern exposure at an altitude of 150-180 meters above sea level and are mostly located northwest of the picturesque little village known for its narrow, well-kept streets. Ambonnay’s level is more constant than Bouzys’, but even here the quality level varies markedly within its limits.

Unfortunately, many growers of tradition and old habit in the village still insist on making red wine under the name Ambonnay Rouge from their best locations instead of making significantly better vineyard champagnes, but they are becoming fewer and fewer fortunately. Historically, it is in many legendary prestige cuvées that we have come to know Ambonnay’s luminosity and grandeur. Most often, Ambonnay has been given the role of a bridge between juicy animal Aÿ and razor-sharp chardonnay from Avize. On its own, Ambonnay can also be fantastically balanced and enchanting as a symphonic soloist, lighter and less expressive than Aÿ, but actually most elegant of all pinot noir when everything falls into place. Rarely animal-like, hazelnut-scented or purely burgundy, always more elusively fruity, raspberry-scented, slimy creamy and balanced in a way that attracts reflection. Like Sillery and Bouzy, Ambonnay’s wines benefit greatly from being stored in oak barrels.

Anyone who doubts that pinot noir from Ambonnay in oak barrels gets a greater wealth and complexity should try still wines at Krug or even better the world’s most expensive champagne Krug ‘Clos d’Ambonnay’. At the same level we find Selosse ‘Le Bout du Clos’ which is one of the most expressive and interesting champagnes imaginable. Almost at the same stratospheric level are certain editions of Egly-Ouriet’s Blanc de Noirs and Déthune from old vines in Les Crayères, where Marguet also makes a vineyard designation, albeit a much lighter and paler edition of the same location. The newcomer Gonet-Médeville also makes a nice vineyard-designated La Grande Ruelle with great finesse even though it is a pure blanc de noirs. From the same location, Marguet today makes his best wine with Selosse-lik sesame oil bouquet. The relatively high proportion of chardonnay is otherwise remarkable in the village and several of the growers keep their chardonnay very high. Personally, I agree that there is fine chardonnay here, especially from terre blanches, which shines most from other pinot villages, but up to the fantastic level that the village’s foremost pinot noir possesses, they never reach.

The largest landowners in the village are Taittinger, Mumm, Louis Roederer, Moët & Chandon, Piper-Heidsieck, Pol Roger, Krug and Duval-Leroy.

Main producers in the village: Egly-Ouriet, R.H. Coutier, Paul Déthune, Marie-Noëlle Ledru, Eric Rodez and Marguet, H. Billiot in that order.


Multi-vintage of the Year 

mv Krug ‘Private Cuvée’ [base 60’s]

‘Krug Private Cuvée is the predecessor to Krug Grande Cuvée and Krug now communicates that this was largely the same wine as Grande Cuvée. I do not really agree as it is quite clear that Grande Cuvée is always a little lighter, more multifaceted and more Chardonnay-driven floral. Private Cuvée was certainly also a multivintage but with more weight and reminded much more of the vintage wine than Grande Cuvée does. The style from the 20’s to the 60’s is strikingly constant and if you find a bottle with a good level and with a price tag you can handle, it is a chance you must not miss.’

96[96]p 

Blanc de Blancs of the Year 

1959 Franck Bonville ‘Vinothèque’ 

‘It was incredibly generous of Olivier to send a bottle of the most legendary vintage of all when I was about to finish my book the Champagne Magnum Opus. Color, mousse and energy indicated a wine from the late 90’s, which was exactly what most people guessed at our tasting before they were met by the colossal wall of giant aromas from the sun-saturated railway rails so typical of 1976 and 1959. In one part, there is a freshness and florality with shades of acacia, linden, lime and lemon zest. Under this volatile layer dominates, cigar, macadam, roasted almonds, walnuts, tar, dark chocolate, violet, dandelion, iron and smoked wood. Phenomenally impressive with a heavenly long honey-like aftertaste with a smoky note. A legendary wine that is among the best ever from a grower among the 59’s from Ed Bonville, Diebolt-Vallois and Paul Bara.’

98[98]p 


Blanc de Noirs of the Year 

1996 Krug ’Clos d’Ambonnay’ 

‘The most expensive young champagne in the world comes from a tiny, magical, walled-in plot of 0.68 hectares in the middle of Ambonnay. 3,000 euros per bottle does not seem to frighten off the Krugists since all of the 3,000 bottles have already been reserved. The wine itself is fantastic first and foremost because it is clearly a brother to the other siblings in the Krug family. The wine breathes far more of Krug than of Ambonnay in precisely the same way as Clos du Mesnil does in its way. It feels as though all the Krug wines receive a final little spray of Krug perfume that distinguishes them from everything else independent of where they are grown. It does not matter if others copy their methods with small oak barrels, no malolactic fermentation, 12 years of storage and other technicalities. Krug they can never copy anyway. I think that Clos d´Ambonnay is very reminiscent of the ordinary vintage wine and is surprisingly enough only marginally more full-bodied than it. A blanc de noirs with insane elegance far distant from any ungracefulness.

The ’96 is a long a tight wine. The acidity is certainly clear and quite hard under the surface like all 96’s, but it is embedded in a thick seductive chewable layer of nougat, leather, autumn aromas and cocoa. Magnificent and a pleasure for both brain and heart. Latest absolutely magnificent and best of all 96s !!! Very reminiscent of Krug’s vintage wine from the same year and is not at all such a clear Blanc de Noirs, but in fact best of all in an elegant, fresh and senseless Krug-scented way.’

99[99]p 


Tête de Cuvée of the Year

mv Laurent-Perrier ’Grand Siècle Itération N°23’ [magnum]

‘Now in numbered magnum format and released a few years later, the wine appears youthful, but delightfully beautiful and balanced. 65% in 2006, 20% in 2004 for crispy minerality and 15% in 2002 for perfume and silky rondor. 11 Grand Cru’s with Avize, Mesnil, Cramant, Bouzy and Ambonnay as the dominant pieces of the puzzle in the harmoniously delicate composition. On magnum, it is impossible to imagine that 2006, with its normally round and fruit-driven style, forms the lion’s part of the cuvée. Today, the wine is certainly wonderfully elegant and completely harmonious already, but its main advantages are based on fresh spiritual ethereal feeling and youthful resilience. The freshly washed sheets that dry in the summerwind fan are everywhere present together with spring flowers, stone fruits, Granny Smith apples and on magnum a roasted reductive note of pure chalk. Of course, there is also a high concentration and density with a gentle layer of browned butter, English butter fudge and vanilla. The wine has an enormous length of chalk reeking rockiness. Great to drink in the garden on a cool summer day, but maybe even bigger in an autumn forest when the mushrooms are just sprouting from the ground. If you have the opportunity, feel free to try both variants to see two sides of this exemplary beauty and elegance.’

94[96]p 

Late Disgorged Champagne of the Year [Œnothèque – Vinothèque – Collectrion] 

1959 Moët & Chandon ’Grand Vintage Collection Zéro Dosage’

‘Down in Moët’s cellar with the whole champagne elite, this eventually became my winner. A wine that brought me and Benoit Gouez together more than a decade ago. Even without dosage, Thierry’s newly disgorged magnum is absolutely fabulous with an enormous power, but also with a nougat-scented charm and bready richness that embeds the notes of perigord truffles, railway rails, mouldered autumn leaves and cep mushrooms in a lust-filled warm blanket. So monumental and at the same time easy to love for anyone. One of the most interesting aspects is that the wine is now superior to Dom Pérignon from the same year, despite having chosen its main grapes for the prestige champagne. Just as with Veuve Clicquot and Pommery, it happens in some vintages that the vintage wine’s heavier Pinot-driven composition lasts better and becomes more magnificent with long storage than the prestige champagne.’

98(98)p


Rosé of the Year 

1996 Deutz ’Cuvée William Deutz Rosé Vinothèque’ 

‘Outstanding elegant and lovely Aÿ-scented sensual. Bright in color, but also notes of coffee, nougat, orange blossom and bergamot together with the more classic features. I am very happy that I still have a good amount of bottles left in my cellar of this deliciously elegant and beautiful wine. So much milk chocolate and strawberries in the aroma intertwined with roasted coffee and cream. Slim seamless elegance and still youthful freshness in an integrated whole. Surprisingly bright in color nowadays.’

96(96)p

Best New Release of the Year 

2015 Deutz ’Hommage à William Deutz Parcelles La Côte Glacièrre’ 

‘There are two parameters that pull in different directions from the two pinot locations Deutz chose to separate as vineyard wines in Aÿ. On the one hand the age of the vines which varies quite significantly and the angle of the sun where Meurtet has a cooler position. This should make Meurtet a little shyer and less sun-ripened. That was the case in 2012, but on my first taste of the two in 2015, I found greater resilience, minerality and slightly greater depth in sun-catching La Côte Glacière. It is difficult to deduce the explanation and the future will show whether this will be the truth further ahead. Of course, the differences are small and both are dominated from the start by the vintage’s softness and super rich fruit. The basic notes in both are sweet ripe pears and strawberries, but with underlying extracts that will be highlighted in a couple. Extremely good and exciting wines to taste side by side every time. At present, this is my winner.’

93(96)p


Oldest bottle of the Year 

1921 Pol Roger ’Millésime Vinothèque’ 

‘Perhaps the most enjoyable of all of the Champagnes tasted at the “century tasting” at Pol Roger in October 1998. The bottle we tasted had just undergone dégorgement and was very elegant and youthful. The entire wine exuded charm and buoyancy. The fruit and the lightly toasted aromas resemble those found in the ’47 and the ’75, but the butter-toffee aftertaste is even longer. Still perfect!’

98(98)p

1921 Moët & Chandon ‘Grand Vintage Collection Zero Dosage’ 

‘The champagne that was the very pretext to attract the entire world elite for a champagne tasting on its 100th anniversary. We started by going through a surprisingly good line-up of still unfiltered wines from 2021 and a few hours and about 20 wines later we were at the final. The indestructible ultra-concentrated vintage that is probably Europe’s premier wine vintage of all categories. In Champagne it has tough competition from 1928, 1955, 1959 and maybe one of the younger vintages like 1979 and 1996. If we stick strictly to Moët & Chandon, it gets the strongest competition from 1959, 1961 and 1962. It was the first time I tasted the wine without dosage freshly disgorged by master Thierry. Strikingly lively, young, resilient and crackling in every way. Imagine if we humans could preserve the same luster for a hundred years. The freshness and the fleeting florality of lily of the valley, acacia and orange blossom are most striking. There is not a milligram of oxidation here. Only an increased concentration in silkiness and affectionately seamless texture that lies like a carpet under the canonical and angelically dancing floral ballet that the aromas shape. The wine is colossally dense, but only medium-bodied and the aroma is more elegant than heroically full-bodied as in the normally disgorged and dosed variety. The same typical aromas of caramel, honey, espresso, hazelnut and brioche are found here but slightly toned down in favor of the minority-driven youthful young floral vitality. World class, but beaten with a nose length of both 1959 and 1962 and by itself in normal disgorged version.’

97(97)p

1921 Moët & Chandon ‘Grand Vintage Collection’          

‘The foremost Moët & Chandon of all time, we are some who have claimed. Is this still true? Yes, considering that the competition comes from vintages made on magnum, the answer is a resounding yes. Disgorged a number of years ago and now fully integrated with its perfectly balanced dosage. Maybe not as resilient and impressively youthful as the newly discorged variant, but what does it do when the taste sensation and enjoyment is even higher. Reaction de Maillard gives here gives a larger bouquet and more of all the butterscotch and roasted aromas together with honeysuckle and geranium instead of orange blossom and lily of the valley as in the dosage free version. I enjoy 1959 and 1962 as much on magnum, but dream of one day finding a forgotten magnum in 1921 in Moët’s basement.’

98(98)p


Grand Trophy of the Year ’21 

1996 Krug ’Clos d’Ambonnay’ 

The most expensive young champagne in the world comes from a tiny, magical, walled-in plot of 0.68 hectares in the middle of Ambonnay. 3,000 euros per bottle does not seem to frighten off the Krugists since all of the 3,000 bottles have already been reserved. The wine itself is fantastic first and foremost because it is clearly a brother to the other siblings in the Krug family. The wine breathes far more of Krug than of Ambonnay in precisely the same way as Clos du Mesnil does in its way. It feels as though all the Krug wines receive a final little spray of Krug perfume that distinguishes them from everything else independent of where they are grown. It does not matter if others copy their methods with small oak barrels, no malolactic fermentation, 12 years of storage and other technicalities. Krug they can never copy anyway. I think that Clos d´Ambonnay is very reminiscent of the ordinary vintage wine and is surprisingly enough only marginally more full-bodied than it. A blanc de noirs with insane elegance far distant from any ungracefulness.

The ’96 is a long a tight wine. The acidity is certainly clear and quite hard under the surface like all 96’s, but it is embedded in a thick seductive chewable layer of nougat, leather, autumn aromas and cocoa. Magnificent and a pleasure for both brain and heart. Latest absolutely magnificent and best of all 96s !!! Very reminiscent of Krug’s vintage wine from the same year and is not at all such a clear Blanc de Noirs, but in fact best of all in an elegant, fresh and senseless Krug-scented way.’

99[99]p 


Best Champagne Hiking of the Year 

1976 Henriot ’Cuvée Baccarat’ @ Place de Vosges on sunny day in September.

Me & Björnstierne had a lay-over in Paris on a September Sunday before meeting up a VIP-group before going to Champagne. We left Stockholm early as … We checked in at the beautiful boutique hotel Cour des Vosges. I had prepared a blind-bottle for Björnstierne to work on. But after our traditional lunch at Ma Bourgogne it started to rain like those tropical rains in Tokyo. We ordered another bottle of Pomerol & waited.

And suddenly, as divine intervention the clouds disappeared and the September sun lit-up the beautiful & ‘trés Parisienne’ Place de Vosges.

‘The ’76 is a textbook example of an elegant cuvée Champagne. It is smooth, generous, and easy to appreciate, with its bouquet of mature Chardonnay and exemplary soft mousse. I found a normally disgorged bottle in a small wine shop in central Paris. The price was ridiculously low and the wine was wonderful. Relatively dark and developed in color. The nose had more maturity than Les Enchanteleurs in magnum, but the scent was still floral and completely packed with sensual, vanilla-drenched fruit.’

96(96)p


Wine Quote of the Year 

‘So, do You only drink French wines sir?’ Oh no! I drink all kinds of wines, But I only really enjoy french wines!’

– Over heard an English gentleman @ Le Maurice ** in Paris. 


Champagne & Food Combo of the Year 

2008 Deutz ‘Cuvée William Deutz’ with ‘Colours of caviar’ with smoked sabayon’ @ Guy Savoy *** in Paris on the same day as I was awarded two new gold medlas @ Gourmand Cookbook Awards. 


Champagne List of the Year 

Operakällaren

Stockholm

‘In our wine cellar there is a large selection of fine wines from around the world. Cellar master Jean-Paul Bénèzeth has since 1989 built up the Nobis cellar, which today is Sweden’s largest wine cellar with about 2,100 different labels. The number of bottles fluctuates between 35,000 and 40,000. Many of the unique vintage verticals Nobiskällaren has received through Jean-Paul’s contacts all over the world among wine suppliers, wine merchants and directly from the producers. Several of the best wine producers are represented in the Operakällare famous wine cellar with completely unique vintage verticals that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.’

[read the wine list here]

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