To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Decanter World Wine Awards, we're profiling a number of this year's judges, who are some of the world's most renowned wine experts. Our 'Meet the Judges' interview series offers a rare insight into the world of wine and judging from the key industry experts choosing this year's best wines.
In this exclusive interview, meet Finnish Master of Wine and Decanter’s new Regional Chair for Champagne, Essi Avellan MW…
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you based and where do you work?
I’m based in Helsinki but travel for a good part of the year. I share my time between Champagne and the sparkling wines of the world – the latter having been an intense focus of mine over the last year, as I’ve been revising Tom Stevenson’s Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine. I’m the Editor of FINE Champagne magazine, but I do a bit of freelancing in addition to lecturing and consulting.
Tell us a bit about your expertise and how you got into wine?
I got into wine during my business studies and was immediately captured by wine as a product, as well as the world around wine. It’s such a complex product that involves history, culture, gastronomy, geography, chemistry, biology…
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while working in the wine industry?
The one I learned during my very early wine days while doing a couple of harvests in Bordeaux (it’s stayed with me ever since): to appreciate the effort that has been put in crafting a bottle of wine.
Who has been your biggest inspiration during your wine career?
It’s impossible to name just one as the wine world is full of extraordinary personalities and talents. Lately I’ve been appreciating meeting and discussing with the best sparkling makers in the world.
What are your most memorable wine moments from the last ten years?
We did a ‘scientific experiment’ in a hot air balloon to see how altitude changes the taste of Champagne (or our perception of it). Sharing a bottle of Comtes de Champagne at various heights with colleagues and dear friends was truly memorable and great fun.
Which kinds of wines do you think should be given more attention in 2013?
Sparkling wines for sure, there’s a lot to discover in New Zealand, England, Canada and Chile, for example.
Which wines are you drinking at home at the moment?
Nearly exclusively sparkling wine (mainly Champagne).
Is there a strong wine scene in your city?
There’s a boom in Finland for both sparkling and Champagne at the moment, which is exciting.
What’s your desert island wine?
I could never get bored of Cristal Rosé!
What single piece of advice do you have for people just starting out in wine?
Travel to where wine is made, it’s the best and most fun way to discover wine.
When judging, what are you looking for in great wine?
Balance, and as a sparkling wine judge with a Champagne palate, finesse and liveliness.
Finally, what do you look forward to most about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
It’s a great week of judging the current offerings in Champagne with a highly skilled panel.
Written by Decanter.com