Find out more about the world-renowned names that make up the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards judging line-up in this Q&A series.
Rytis Jurkenas is joint director of Champagne Tracker, a resource devoted to Champagne, and the manager of Kalba.Lt, the largest educational company in his native Lithuania. He began learning about wine in 1993 and Champagne has been his passion since 2002. Jurkenas visits the region regularly and currently holds more than 2,500 Champagne tasting notes.
Read our interview with Rytis Jurkenas below…
☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why?
I am very lucky with the decade I was born in. The 1960s were great in Champagne and years like 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966 and 1969 still touch my soul every time I enjoy a sip! The only wine I have awarded 100 points is from my decade – the recently disgorged 1961 Salon.
☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it?
As we were behind the Iron Curtain, my first wine ‘moment’ was when I was 25 years old and first visited Spain. I had a 1964 Rioja in my hotel room, was sipping it alone and thought it was magical to understand how a wine can age, and what a beauty it is to appreciate a wine’s evolution.
☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar and what is your most recent addition?
I have 2,100 bottles in my cellar, 700 of these being a nice collection of different Champagnes. The most recent additions are: 2008 vintage Champagne from Serge Mathieu; a magnum of the 1985 G.H.Mumm Cuvée R.Lalou, and 1981 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé.
☆ Which vintage and region (or wine) do you wish you’d bought a whole case of wine from?
A most difficult question! Of course it would have to be Champagne, but which? I adore so many of them, that to choose only one seems like a sin… let’s say it could be a case of Jacques Selosse MIllesime 1990.
☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why?
I am still re-discovering different areas in Champagne. Over the last 12 months I have been spending more time in the Aube region and found so many incredibly good Champagnes, with such diversity. It differs from other Champagne regions, especially Grand Cru, but nonetheless I fell in love with number of producers there.
☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)?
For winemaking, it would have to be Mr Jean-Baptist Lecallon from Roederer. I adore his philosophy, which combines the deepest understanding of terroir and viticulture with everything the modern technology can offer.
☆ Mr Richard Juhlin is an idol as a Champagne critic. His most recent book, The Scent of Champagne, is one of the best and made a deep impact on me while I was discovering Champagne.
☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment?
Back in 2002 I was treated with the combination of 1996 Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque and black caviar. It was one of those enlightening moments when I discovered such complexity and a perfect match, where both the wine and the food were inter-playing and fulfilling each other. Another unforgettable experience is to combine young Champagne with lychee fruit – it is always rewarding.
☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?
A case of Krug 1928. I would drink it with my wife and a bunch of champagne-loving friends.
☆ What are you most looking forward to about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
I adore blind tastings as when you are left alone with a wine, it speaks to you and reveals its true essence and, without prejudice, you become part of an exciting discovery in every glass. I am very much looking forward to that journey and discovery in a very professional environment.
Written by Decanter