It was a night of nights. An A-list Sydney Champagne guest list gathered at the Pavilion to taste fifteen Champagnes over five brackets and await the announcement of the 2012 Vin de Champagne Awards.
The bi-annual Vin de Champagne Awards are organised on behalf of the Comité Champagne, and not only aim to celebrate and encourage the enjoyment of Champagne in Australia but seek to find Champagne Ambassadors who will share their knowledge and appreciation of Champagne.
The soiree confirms that Australians are enjoying Champagne more than ever. In fact, in 2011 Australia imported 4,863,783 bottles placing it in number eighth position for Champagne importing.
For the 2012 awards, Thibaut Le Mailloux, Communications Director of Comité Champagne, joined Australian judges Peter Bourne, Huon Hooke and Bernadette O’Shea in deciding the winners.
Thibaut Le Mailloux reminded me that Champagne is first and foremost a wine. He continued with praises for the slow evolution of Champagne – with ancient traditions retained – from the eras when it was considered a dessert wine and aperitif to a wine of diversity which can be matched with any course and any food.
What did he think of the food at the awards dinner? “Excellent, experimental and educational at the same time” Le Mailloux enthused about the menu by Chef Justin North.
Lease 65 Oysters, Ponzu Dressing
LAURENT PERRIER ULTRA BRUT
Very pale and crystal-bright in colour, intense and complex on the nose with a wide range of aromas, including citrus and white fruit and flowers, such as honeysuckle.
The combined effect gives off an impression of freshness, much like ocean air. Airy and delicate, yet surprisingly long. Floral and fruit flavours combine with mineral notes to give a wine that is pure without being austere.
Kinkawooka Petit Bouchot Mussels, Vietnamese Dressing
CHARLES HEIDSIECK BRUT RESERVE
To the eye: A deep golden robe with delicate, vivacious and long-lasting bubbles. To the nose: With 40% of reserve wies, the blend offers a complex, voluptious nose with notes of freshly baked brioche and the richness of roasted coffee beans along with an opulent selection of ripe, sun-drenched fruits such as mango, apricot and greengage plum combined with dried fruits, pistachio and almond. On the palate: The texture is reminiscent of a crisp laayer of nougatine on a velvety cream pastry filled with plump red plums and red cherries. The reserve wines, some dating back ten years, give the wine lushness and bottle maturation delivers notes of amber and vanilla.
LANSON GOLD LABEL 2002
To the eye: light gold colour with fine bubbles forming a noticeable ring. To the nose: intense nose revealing notes of candied fruits, grape jame, acacia and lime tree flowers, honey. On the palate: dense attack expressing rich and complex aromas of winter pear and quince with some notes of fix alcohol. Well balanced. The finish is persistent.
Heirloom Tomato, Goats’ Curd Chantilly, Black Olive
RUINART BLANC DE BLANCS
Superb, golden yellow colour characteristic of Chardonnay with a beautiful luminosity. Very fine long lasting bubbles. Clean, intense first nose. Second nose showing warm, rich notes of brioche, French toast and roasted almonds. Very supple and harmonious palate.
Well balanced, rich, suave and soft wine with notes of soft honey flavours. Good intensity. Light mineral notes and a long sustained finish.
Slow cooked octopus, Albacore tuna, ginger, black sesame and miso emulsion
Bollinger is famed for its still red Coteaux Champenois wine, made very much with Burgundian characteristics – great colour and depth of peppery fruit. It is this still red wine which is effectively blended with the base of Bollinger Special Cuvée to create Bollinger Rosé.
The resultant wine is savoury with great depth and some pleasing “grip” which makes it an ideal savoury food wine as well as the perfect aperitif.
VEUVE CLIQUOT VINTAGE ROSE 2004
The wine has a luminous, brilliant colour. The fine bubbles rise delicately, forming a chain of little beads before gently disappearing. The initial bouquet is elegant, opening on to aromas of crunchy fresh fruit (bush peach), citrus fruit and a mineral touch that comes from chalky soils.
The notes of violet and lilac are reminiscent of spring fragrances, and later on, notes of a more “bready” style (hazelnut, crystallised quince, fresh butter) gradually take over. On the palate the opening is clean-cut. The Vintage 2004 has a generous freshness; the Pinto Noir intensifies its role, lending body to a tense and very lively wine.
MOET & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE 2002
Golden straw yellow in colour with green highlights. A sparkling nose of tangy intensity, green apple and citrus fruit. The freshness of mineral nuances and white flowers. The elegance of blond mature notes: brioche, cereals, fresh nuts. A palate combining generosity and subtlety.
Grand Vintage 2002 is mature harmonious and precise with a delicious generosity of white fruits (pear, peach, apple.) There is an alluring caress of fine bubbles and a soft vervacity of citrus fruit and gooseberry nuances.
Visiting VIP judge, Thibaut Le Mailloux explained the daring of this bracket: one white and two rosé – two Vintage and one NV – two not made on wood and one slightly oaked. With the seafood he suggested, the most obvious Champagne match would have been Blanc de Blanc. Matching the octopus with a Vintage Rosé he thinks was a bit more daring, with the non vintage fermented in oak barrells even moreso. None of the three Champagnes were obvious choices with this dish “but the three worked perfectly well and help us understand the diversity of Champagne.”
Crushed Dutch cream potatoes, shaved prosciutto, crisp skins, prawns with beurre noisette
DELAMOTTE BLANC DE BLANCS
Foremost a mineral wine, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV has a textbook chalkiness; with time in the glass showing its complexity from the lees and white flesh fruit.
On its own, with fresh oysters, elegant seawater fish or simply fresh radish with a touch of fleur de sel, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs is a versatile wine as aperitif or at the table.
GH MUMM de CRAMANT BLANC DE BLANCS
A pure, luminous colour sparkling wiht fine delicate bubbles.
Hints of scented white blossoms, lemon and fresh fruit.
A subtle and elegant attack that is rich in minerals, leading into a smooth body and a rich and expressive finish that testifies to its ageing potential.
AYALA BLANC DE BLANCS 2004
Ayala’s 2004 Blanc de Blancs is a wine of precision and great intensity. With characters in the citrus spectrum it is precise and pure and combines character and delicacy. In conformity with Ayala’s philosophy of allowing quality fruit to shine through unencumbered by excessive sugar additions this wine also has a low final dosage of 7 grams of sugar per litre.
Tight, precise and pure, Ayala’s 2004 Blanc de Blanc showcases one of the great strengths of Champagne – delicate and pristine fruit.
Poached Organic Chicken, Crab, Sweet Corn and Bonito
LOUIS ROEDERER CRISTAL 2005
Lively, uninterrupted bubbles, with a steady creamy flow. An intensely elegant, rich ripe bouquet. A succession of white fruits (apple), ripe and juicer yellow fruits (peaches) and slightly sour citrus fruits (mandarin oranges.)
The quite typical Chardonnay notes appear after a few minutes: white flowers (acacia), dried fruit, buttery caramel hints, suggestive of almost vanilla-like pastries. The bouquet is striking: it has great aromatic freshness but is already very open and mature.
The bite is full-bodied, soft and winey. It gives a well-rounded almost smooth impression with ripe sun-drenched white and yellow fruits. The flavours are accessible, rich, fleshy fruit combined with warm almost buttery hints. The finish is slightly tighter with a delicious, lingering, sensuous and almost sweet taste.
POL ROGER BRUT VINTAGE 2002
The wine has a luminous, brilliant gold colour. The fine but golden yellow straw-like colour, bright and full of intensity with attractive lingering bubbles.
A fine nose with enticing notes of fresh honey, candied grapefruit and lime. On the palate a dominating fruitiness with light biscuit character. A full and long texture displaying freshness and vinosity. The wine is blanced with remarkable harmony.
CUVEE WILLIAM DEUTZ 1999
Golden appearance, scintillating with warm reflections. The nose is precise, delicate and intense exhaling fruity plum and poached white peach aromas, blended with flowery perfumes and spices characteristic of a wine which is slow to reveal its age. The lively, frank attack reveals a racy complexity where mineral and roasting notes mix easily. This makes way for a generous, ripe aromatic expression: yellow fruit, stem ginger and nutmeg.
The mouth seduces with its tender, velvety style. Body and vinosity respond to the initial freshness to give a sensation of balance and absolute refinement. The aroma lingers for a very long time. The fresh flavours of brioche and hazelnut linger indefinitely on very slight menthol notes.
Strawberry and Lemon Custard Trifle
Golden appearance with a rich creamy mousse and powerful nose, very long on the palate, with a succssion of orchard-fruit aromas. Powerful nose iwth hints of pipped-fruit jam, apples and quince.
Rounded and long on the palate, with a succession of apple and pear and fresh-fruit fragrances. Persistent bead of bubbles with a creamy mousse.
TAITTINGER BRUT MILLESIME 2005
A shimmering golden yellow. The nose reveals a beautiful aromatic intensity. After the first floral notes, in which we can see a hint of honeysuckle, riper fruity and generous fragrances of raisins and hot honey fruits such as greengage plums are displayed.
The palate is fresh with an indulgent quality reminiscent of the flavour of syrupy preseved fruits. A supple palate completes the qualities of balance and richness. A real finess becomes apparent in an aftertaste that is also long and complex.
And who were the winners? Well, the obvious answer on the night, when presented with these beautiful Champagnes and the stunning menu created by Chef Justin North, was that we all were – right?
Voila. Congratulations and well earned applause to:
Dan Buckle who won the professional award and Matthew Stutsel (pictured above) who won the amateur award.