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Vintage Champagne – Great French Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2009

Speaker: Tom Stevenson

Wines: Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2002; Taittinger 2002 Brut; Paul Goerg Blanc de Blancs 2002, Premier Cru; Piper-Heidsieck 2000 Brut Millésime; Pol Roger 1999 Blanc de Blancs Brut; Lanson 1998 Gold Label Brut; Bollinger RD 1997; Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne 1996; Charles Heidsieck 1995 Blanc de Millenaires; Palmer Blanc de Blancs 1995 (magnums)

Tom Stevenson opened his masterclass by saying that vintage Champagne is always better value than non-vintage. ‘What is vintage Champagne?’ he asked. ‘It is selected from the very best grapes available – the top 10% to 15% – and the quality of vintage is on average four times as good as non-vintage.’

Surprise of the day: Late in the masterclass Stevenson demonstrated value for money: the last wine, the Palmer Blanc de Blancs 1995, costs around €51 in magnum. Few had heard of this Champagne, from Montagne de Reims. An audible gasp went up from the audience – particularly as it was many people’s favourite of the class, as evidenced by a show of hands.

Quote of the day: ‘You might find the Lanson 1998 a bit perky,’ said Stevenson. ‘That’s nothing: when I first tasted the 1996 I said it was like gargling with razor blades. I wasn’t trying to be insulting; I loved it.’

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