Held earlier this year at the Flying Winemaker’s tasting room in Central, the blind tasting competition chaired by drinks business Hong Kong editorial team brought together a panel of expert judges including Hong Kong’s seasoned wine educators and consultants to examine flights of sparkling wine expressions from around the globe, from Champagne to Prosecco, Cava to crémant.
Champagne lived up to its reputation and won two highly coveted accolades of Master both in the pricier category. Champagne Castelnau’s Blanc de Blancs 2005, made from grapes selected from crus of the Montagne de Reims and Côte des Blancs, was a unanimous favourite among judges.
With a 8g/l dosage, the brut impressed the judges with its balance, concentrated fruit flavours and complexity. Hailing the wine “an exceptional beauty,” Hong Kong-based wine consultant Yu-Kong Chow, commented: “From its compelling nose of ripe white fruits and yeastiness to the combination of elegance and persistence in its fresh and rich palate, [the wine] captured the imagination.”
Graham Kwok, assistant brand marketing manager at Hong Kong’s biggest wine retailer Watson’s Wine, agreed, adding that the fizz was “perfect to consume now with its full maturity.”
In the same HK$400 to HK$799 price band, Champagne Lanson Rose Label was another standout. A blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 32% Chardonnay and 15% Meunier, the wine delivered a lively and persistent palate with plenty of lemon and red fruits, taking home a Master. The house’s extra age brut won a Gold as well.
Outside of Champagne, it’s almost guaranteed that the price ladder is rather lower but for any savvy-wine consumers that does’t mean quality is compromised. “Champagne will still dominate the market in terms of size but Prosecco and sparkling wines from Australia will see stronger growth in the coming years. This will be largely due to price performance, improvement to quality and more intensive promotion and marketing,” Chow, observed.
Encouragingly, there’s a trend among sparkling wine producers which is to push down sugar levels to reduce what the trade calls “excessive make-up”. This, in general when done right, leads to less cloying and more balanced bubbles, be it Prosecco, Cava, crémant or other sparkling wines.
Acidity for many is considered a key feature in a good sparkling wine. “Sparkling has to be simple or complex but it must have acidity to ensure the wine is fresh, has the necessary framework and structure and to support ageing. A flabby sparkling wine tastes like an alcoholic fizzy drink,” comments Tersina Shieh, wine marketer and independent wine judge, when asked about what makes a great sparkling wine.
In Italy, much has been said about the rise of Prosecco for its approachability and favourable price points but there are plenty of overlooked fizz and Spumante that deserve recognition. One example is Mezzacorona Rotari’s Brut Trento Riserva 2014 made from Chardonnay. The wine is among the best value one can find with a price tag of less than HK$100. Speaking of the wine, Chow commented:, “What a great sparkling for such a price category! This Trento gem exudes a soft mesmerising floral scent with a background of white fruits and a touch of toastiness. The pleasing, delicate, refreshing yet balanced palate that finishes with an uplifting note just brightens the day.”
Also winning a gold was Spain’s Godelia Cuvee 2015, a lively fizz made from the indigenous Godello grape. Aged for 22 months on lees before riddling and disgorging, the wine packs plenty of freshness, citrus flavours balanced with bready yeastiness. Praising the wine, Shieh commented: “It is fresh with complexity from the time on lees and a crisp acidity. It has a high price quality ratio and it’s a good example to show consumers that bubbles don’t need to break the bank.”
Another wine that had judges raving was Sidewood Estate Isabella Rose Methode Traditionnelle 2013 from Australia’s Adelaide Hills. Packed with plenty of red fruits, yeastiness, and layers of complexity from an extensive 54-month lees contact and ageing, the rosé is a crowd pleaser that ticked off every box.
It’s worth noting that there were silver medal winners in this competition worth seeking out. Azienda Agricola Andreola’s Dirupo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut DOCG, as judge Kwok acknowledged is “a very good example for high-quality Prosecco showing enormous typicity of the region.”
Click through the pages to check out all the results.