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DWWA 2014: Champagne insights

Hear from our Champagne Regional Chair Richard Juhlin on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

Champagne is not only the world’s most famous wine region, it is also the most diverse and difficult to taste, with style preferences inevitably influencing judges’ scores. This year, both classic blends and highly individualistic Champagnes were rewarded, which illustrates that there is not a single recipe for success. Fortunately, this ensures that we will continue to see more of Champagne’s greatest strength: its myriad styles. It’s also thought-provoking that the oldest wine of all those we tasted (a 1995) took home one of our three Trophies – proof that Champagne is one of the world’s most ageworthy wines, especially when bottles are cellared well. It is also worth noting that there were very few defective or technically inferior bottles, and that the average quality level across all categories (except the demi-sec Champagnes) was uniformly high.

What should we buy from here?

The impression of terroir in the blancs de noirs made solely from the underrated Pinot Meunier grape was considerably more noticeable than I had expected. Pinot Meunier doesn’t usually reflect terroir as well as Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, but the examples we tasted this year had a clear stamp from the soil. The use of lesser-known grape varieties such as Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, Petit Meslier and Fromenteau is increasing rapidly in the region. Quality wise, there is a question mark over these wines, but it has to be a good thing in terms of diversity: the more styles available, the better. Rosé is more serious than ever, and quality high.

What should we leave on the shelf?

2005 is certainly a crowd-pleasing vintage with a plethora of aromas and sweet roundness, but it didn’t impress our expert panel as much, with the exception of blanc de blancs. 2007 is also not a classic vintage – the majority showed an apple peel aroma and a tannin-like harshness on the aftertaste.

What should we keep an eye on?

The 2006 vintage is going to be grand, something the perfectly balanced 2002 wines already are. But I believe the future star will be the magically well-built 2008s. The best wines, of course, are not on the market yet, but the few we tasted were already shining like small, uncut diamonds. It certainly bodes well for an even larger Trophy and medal haul in future DWWA competitions.

Written by Decanter

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