The medallists from The Champagne Masters 2020

We bring you the full list of medallists from this year’s Champagne Masters, one of the biggest blind tastings of this famous fizz, employing Masters of Wine only.

Patrick Schmitt MW at The Champagne Masters 2020

Having previously written about some of the highlights from the 2020 Champagne Masters, we are now revealing all the medal-winners from the tasting, which took in every major style of Champagne, and many of the region’s most famous names.

Notable among this year’s results was the strong performance by the region’s grower-cooperative brands, in particular Castelnau and Palmer, along with Collet and Nicolas Feuillatte, which together proved that there is both quality and value to be had with these less illustrious labels.

However, the star Champagne producer this year was grande marque Piper-Heidsieck, which has shown itself brilliant at crafting both very dry and sweet Champagnes, along with entry-level Brut NVs, great-value vintage, and a range-topping prestige cuvée, with its Rare 2006 the highest overall scorer of the 2020 tasting – and its Rare Rosé 2008 not far behind.

Coming close to Piper in terms of the tally of top medals was Henriot, a house that’s producing extremely fine Champagne at all levels, in particular rosé, and one that, in my view, deserves wider recognition.

Among the other notable names from this year’s tasting was Charles Heidsieck, as well as Pommery and Moët & Chandon, while we were also impressed by the quality of cuvées from a relative newcomer to the Champagne scene, the house of Brimoncourt.

Please see below for the results in full and more information on The Champagne Masters, including how to enter.

For a full report on the tasting and an in-depth review of the trends taking hold in Champagne right now, see this year’s Champagne Report by the drinks business.

Non-Vintage

Company Wine Name Dosage Medal
£10-£15
Aldi Stores UK Veuve Monsigny Brut Brut Bronze
£15-£20
Champagne Vollereaux Brut Réserve Brut Bronze
£20-£30
Champagne Castelnau Brut Réserve Brut Gold
Champagne Beaumont des Crayères Grande Réserve Brut Silver
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Brut Brut Silver
Champagne Cuillier Perpétuel Brut Bronze
Champagne Vollereaux Célébration Brut Premier Cru Brut Bronze
Champagne Fallet Dart Heres Brut Bronze
£30-£50
Champagne Palmer & Co Brut Réserve Brut Gold
Vranken-Pommery Monopole Pommery Apanage Brut Brut Gold
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut Brut Gold
Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain Brut Gold
Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial NV Brut Gold
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Sublime Demi-sec Gold
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Essentiel Extra-brut Silver
Vranken-Pommery Monopole Pommery Brut Royal Brut Silver
Champagne Brimoncourt Brut Régence Brut Silver
Champagne Delamotte Brut NV Brut Silver
Champagne Vincent d’Astrée Brut Premier Cru Brut Silver
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Brut Silver
G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon Brut Silver
G.H. Mumm RSRV 4.5 Brut Silver
Frerejean Frères Brut NV Premier Cru Brut Silver
Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve NV Brut Silver
Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut NV Brut Silver
Champagne Lanson Le Black Label Brut Silver
Champagne Collet Brut Art Déco Premier Cru Brut Bronze
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Exclusive Brut Bronze
Champagne Deutz Deutz Brut Classic Brut Bronze
Champagne Lanson Le White Label Sec Sec Bronze
£50+
Champagne Brimoncourt Extra Brut Grand Cru Extra-brut Gold
Charles Heidsieck Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve Brut Silver

Vintage

Company Wine Name Dosage Medal
£20-£30
Champagne Vollereaux Cuvée Marguerite 2011 Brut Silver
£30-£50
Champagne Collet Millésime 2008 Brut Silver
G.H. Mumm Millesime 2013 Brut Silver
£50+
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Vintage 2012 Brut Master
Champagne Palmer & Co Vintage 2012 Brut Gold
Charles Heidsieck Vintage Brut 2012 Brut Gold
Champagne Castelnau Blanc de Blancs 2006 Brut Silver
Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2012 Brut Silver
Vranken-Pommery Monopole Pommery Grand Cru 2008 Brut Silver
Champagne Henriot Brut Millésimé 2008 Brut Silver
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Brut 2012 Brut Silver
Champagne Lanson Le Vintage 2009 Brut Silver

Prestige Cuvée

Company Wine Name Dosage Medal
£30-£50
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Terroir Premier Cru NV Brut Silver
Champagne Cuillier Grande Réserve NV Extra Brut Bronze
£50+
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millésime 2006 Brut Master
Champagne Henriot Cuvée Hemera 2006 Extra Brut Master
Champagne Deutz Amour de Deutz 2010 Brut Gold
Centre Vinicole – Champagne
Nicolas Feuillatte
Palmes d’Or Brut Vintage 2008 Brut Gold
G.H. Mumm RSRV Lalou 2006 Brut Gold
Champagne Lanson Lanson Noble Cuvée 2002 Brut Gold
Champagne Comtes de Dampierre Family Reserve Blanc de Blancs
Grand Cru 2012
Brut Gold
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes D’Or Rosé Vintage 2008 Brut Gold
Champagne Deutz William Deutz 2009 Brut Silver
Champagne Fallet Dart Cuvée Quercus NV Extra Brut Silver
Champagne Fallet Dart Cuvée Eocene NV Extra Brut Silver
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2006 Brut Silver
Vranken-Pommery Monopole Pommery Cuvée Louise 2004 Brut Silver

Blanc de Blancs

Company Wine Name Dosage Medal
£30-£50
G.H. Mumm RSRV Blanc de Blancs 2014 Brut Master
Champagne Collet Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru NV Brut Gold
Vranken-Pommery Monopole Pommery Blanc de Blancs NV Brut Silver
Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs NV Brut Silver
Champagne Beaumont des Crayères Grand Chardonnay NV Brut Silver
Champagne Vincent d’Astrée Brut Millésime Premier Cru 2011 Brut Silver
£50+
Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV Brut Gold
Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 2006 Brut Gold
Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Essentiel Blanc de Blancs NV Extra Brut Silver
Champagne Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs NV Brut Silver
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs NV Brut Silver
Champagne J. de Telmont Blanc de Blancs
Grand Couronnement 2006
Brut Silver
Champagne Frerejean Frères VV26 NV Grand Cru Brut Bronze

Blanc de Noirs

Company Wine Name Dosage Medal
£30-£50
Champagne Beaumont des Crayères Grand Meunier NV Extra Brut Silver
G.H. Mumm RSRV Blanc de Noirs 2012 Brut Silver

Rosé

Company Wine Name Dosage Medal
£30-£50
Champagne Brimoncourt Brut Rosé Brut Gold
G.H. Mumm RSRV Rosé Foujita Brut Gold
Champagne Collet Brut Rosé Brut Silver
Champagne Collet Rosé Dry Collection Privée Sec Silver
Champagne Castelnau Rosé NV Brut Silver
Vranken-Pommery Monopole Pommery Brut Rosé Royal Brut Silver
Champagne Fallet Dart Rosé Anthocyane Brut Silver
G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon Rosé Brut Silver
Champagne Lanson Le Rosé Brut Silver
Champagne Beaumont des Crayères Grand Rosé Brut Bronze
Champagne Vincent d’Astrée Brut Rosé Premier Cru Brut Bronze
Champagne Palmer & Co Rosé Solera Brut Bronze
£50+
Rare Champagne Rare Rosé Millésime 2008 Brut Master
Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve Brut Master
Champagne Henriot Rosé Millésime 2012 Brut Gold
Champagne Henriot Brut Rosé Sec Silver
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé Brut Silver
Champagne Deutz Deutz Brut Rosé Brut Silver

ABOUT THE COMPETITION

The judges (left to right): Simon Field MW, Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW and Patrick Schmitt MW

The Champagne Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business, and is an extension of its successful Masters series for grape varieties, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as regions like Rioja and Tuscany. The competition is exclusively for Champagne, and the entries were judged using Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic glasses supplied by Wine Sorted. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Champagne Master.

The Champagnes were judged on 4-5 September by Patrick Schmitt MW, Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW and Simon Field MW.

Please visit The Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

Read more 

21 CHAMPAGNES FOR ALL BUDGETS, TASTES AND OCCASIONS

THIS IS OUR BEST CHAMPAGNE OF 2020

THIS YEAR’S BEST CHAMPAGNE FOR UNDER £30 REVEALED

The Global Rosé Masters 2020: results and highlights

We bring you all the medal winners and our top picks from this year’s Global Rosé Masters, which is the biggest single blind tasting of pink wines in the UK so far this year.

All the following recommendations hail from 2020’s Global Rosé Masters, a competition that sees all sources of pink wine judged side by side with only the most basic knowledge of style and cost.
While Champagne excelled in the pink sparkling category, and Provence was the dominant force in the still dry rosé and oaked rosé categories, there were plenty of other sources that featured.
Indeed, among the sparklings, it was a Crémant de Bourgogne that wowed for its quality and relative value, while among the still wines, we had an ultimate barrel-fermented rosé that was not from Provence.
Furthermore, among the Golds were stunning salmon-coloured drops from a broad array of locations, from Greece, to Priorat, and within Italy, both Sicily and the Tuscan coast.
As for the base standard of wines this year, it was undoubtedly better than ever before – and we’ve been running The Global Rosé Masters for almost a decade.
So, look below for a listing of all the medallists from this year’s competition, and read on to see our highlights, and to find out more about the tasting.

Dry sparkling rosé (12 g/l or lower)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under  £10 
Bortoluzzi Rosa di Gemina Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Silver
Valdo Spumanti Valdo Marca Oro Rosé Brut Veneto and Sicily Italy NV Silver
Vigna Dogarina Spumante Rosé Brut Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Bosco del Merlo Spumante Rosé Brut Veneto Italy NV Bronze
 £10-£15
Matahiwi Estate Matahiwi Estate Brut Rosé Wairarapa New Zealand NV Silver
Valdo Spumanti Valdo Floral Rosé Brut Veneto and Sicily Italy NV Silver
Colesel Spumanti Pavana Rosé Spumante Veneto Italy 2018 Bronze
 £15-£20
Maison Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Bourgogne France NV Silver
Fantinel Fantinel “One & Only” Rosé Brut Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Silver
 £20-£30
Maison Louis Bouillot Perle d’Or Rosé Bourgogne France 2015 Gold
Tenuta Montemagno TM Brut 24 Mesi – Metodo Classico Piedmont Italy NV Bronze
 £30-£50
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvée Spéciale Rosé Champagne France NV Gold
Gusbourne Estate Rosé Kent UK 2016 Gold
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Reserve Exclusive Rosé Champagne France NV Silver
 £50+
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d’Or Rosé Intense Champagne France 2008 Master

Sweet sparkling rosé (+12 g/l)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under  £10 
Bosco Viticoltor Rosato Spumante Bosco dei Cirmioli Veneto Italy NV Bronze
£15-£20
Andreola Bollé Vino Spumante Rosé Extra Dry Veneto Italy NV Silver
Tenuta Montemagno TM Roses – Malvasia di Casorzo DOC Spumante Piedmont Italy NV Silver
Banfi Rosa Regale Piedmont Italy 2019 Silver

Still unoaked dry rosé (4 g/l or lower)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under  £10 
Mirabeau en Provence Belle Année Provence France 2019 Gold
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Le Versant Grenache Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Biecher Le Chef Rosé Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Bodegas Luzón Luzón Rosado Colección Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Cielo e Terra Bericanto Rosato Vicenza DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Casa Girelli Canaletto Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Piquepoul Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Bronze
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Ensedune Cabernet Franc Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Bronze
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Griset Sauvignon gris Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Bronze
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Les Amours d’Haut Gléon Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Bronze
Dievole Le Due Arbie Rosato Tuscany Italy 2019 Bronze
Bodegas Alceño Alceño Rosado Jumilla Spain 2019 Bronze
£10-£15
Gérard Bertrand Hampton Water Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Gold
Chivite Las Fincas Rosado Navarra Spain 2018 Gold
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Classic Provence France 2019 Gold
Lawson’s Dry Hills Pink Pinot Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Gold
Maison Gutowski M–G Grande Cuvée Provence France 2019 Gold
Born Rosé Barcelona Born Rosé Penedès Spain 2019 Gold
Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Languedoc Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Gold
Holden Manz Hiro Franschhoek Valley South Africa 2019 Silver
Barton & Guestier Rosé d’Anjou Loire Valley France 2019 Silver
Bodegas Izadi Izadi Larrosa Rioja Spain 2019 Silver
Vignerons de Tutiac Lion & The Lily Bordeaux France 2019 Silver
Marisco Vineyards The Ned Rosé Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Rosé Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Marisco Vineyards Leefield Station Pinot Rosé Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Silver
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Paradis Secret Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Mission Hill Estate Winery Reserve Rosé Okanagan Valley Canada 2019 Silver
Frescobaldi Alìe Tuscany Italy 2019 Silver
Rioja Vega Rosado Colección Tempranillo Rioja Spain 2019 Silver
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Pure Provence France 2019 Silver
Viña Leyda Leyda Rosé Leyda Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Bodegas Príncipe de Viana Príncipe de Viana Edición Rosa Navarra Spain 2019 Silver
Bodegas Olivares Olivares Rosado Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Piera 1899 Pietra di Pinot Grigio Blush DOC delle Venezie Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Silver
Bodegas Bilbainas Viña Pomal Rosado Rioja Spain 2019 Silver
Raimat Raimat Rosada Catalonia Spain 2019 Silver
Santa Tresa Rosa di Santa Tresa Sicily Italy 2019 Silver
Château de Sannes 1603 Provence France 2019 Bronze
Wakefield/Taylors Wines Pinot Noir Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Bronze
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Altitude Pinot Noir Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Château Saint Jacques d’Albas La Chapelle en Rose Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Gold
Mission Hill Estate Winery Terroir Rosé Okanagan Valley Canada 2019 Gold
Minuty Minuty Prestige Provence France 2019 Gold
Château Léoube Rosé de Léoube Provence France 2019 Gold
Château Léoube LOVE by Léoube Provence France 2019 Gold
Mirabeau en Provence Mirabeau Etoile Provence France 2019 Gold
Chamlija Rosé de Strandja Strandja Mountain Turkey 2019 Silver
Château de Sannes Aciana Provence France 2019 Silver
Maison Saint Aix AIX Rosé Provence France 2019 Silver
Les Vignobles Foncalieu Domaine Haut Gléon Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Silver
Banfi Srl Cost’è Tuscany Italy 2019 Silver
Torre Mora Scalunera Etna Rosato DOC Sicily Italy 2019 Silver
Tenuta Moraia Rosato Maremma Toscana DOC Tuscany Italy 2019 Silver
Alpha Estate Rosé Single Vineyard Hedgehog Amyndeon Greece 2019 Silver
Poggio al Tesoro Cassiopea Tuscany Italy 2019 Silver
Château Des Demoiselles Charme des Demoiselles Provence France 2019 Silver
Roseline Diffusion Roseline Prestige Provence France 2019 Silver
Australian Vintage Winemakers Select Tempranillo Rose Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Bronze
£20-£30
Domaines Ott By Ott Provence France 2018 Master
Minuty Château Minuty Rose et Or Provence France 2019 Gold
Scala De Scala Dei Pla dels Angels Catalonia Spain 2019 Gold
Château Léoube Rosé Secret de Léoube Provence France 2019 Gold
Château des Demoiselles Château des Demoiselles Provence France 2019 Gold
Caves d’Esclans Whispering Angel Provence France 2019 Gold
Gusbourne Estate Cherry Garden Rosé Kent UK 2019 Silver
Château Sainte-Roseline Cru Classé Lampe de Méduse Cru Classé Provence France 2019 Silver
£30-£50
Domaines Ott Clos Mireille Rosé Provence France 2018 Master
Château Léoube Rosé La Londe Léoube Provence France 2019 Gold
Château Sainte Roseline Cru Classé La Chapelle de Sainte Roseline Cru Classé Provence France 2019 Silver
£50+
Minuty Château Minuty 281 Provence France 2019 Master

Unoaked medium-dry rosé (4 g/l to 12 g/l)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under  £10 
Bosco del Merlo Pinot Grigio Rosé DOC Veneto Italy 2018 Silver
Cantine di Ora Masso Antico Primitivo Rosé Puglia Italy 2019 Silver
Botter Vivolo di Sasso Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Mission Hill Estate Winery Estate Rosé Okanagan Valley Canada 2019 Silver
Casa Vinicola Sartori Vero d’Oro Rosato Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Pasqua Mater Anna Pinot Grigio
Rosé delle Venezie DOC
Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Siegel Wines Siegel Rosé Cinsault Colchagua Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Bodegas San Dionisio SF Rosado Jumilla Spain 2019 Bronze
Botter Pinot Grigio Rosato delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
£10-£15 
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Silver
Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Cecilia Beretta Freeda Rosé Trevenezie Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Cantine San Marzano Tramari Rosé di Primitivo Salento IGP Puglia Italy 2019 Bronze
Bodegas Carchelo Carchelo Rosé Jumilla Spain 2019 Bronze
Cantine di Ora Amicone Corvina Rosato Verona IGT Veneto Italy 2018 Bronze
Cantine di Ora Il Casato – Schiava Valdadige DOC Trentino-Alto Adige Italy 2019 Bronze
Cantina di Bertiolo Villa San Martino Pinot Grigio Blush Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Bronze
Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine Pasqua 11 Minutes Rosé Trevenezie IGT Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Bird in Hand Bird in Hand Pinot Nero Rosé Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Silver
£20-£30
Fantinel Sun Goddess Pinot Grigio Ramato Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2019 Gold

Oaked dry rosé (4 g/l or lower)

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Gérard Bertrand Joy’s Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Gold
Chivite Las Fincas Rosado Fermentado en Barrica Navarra Spain 2018 Gold
Marisco Vineyards The King’s Desire Pinot Rosé Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Bronze
Finca Albret Albret Rocío Navarra Spain 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Bodegas Juan Gil Juan Gil Rosado Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Copper Rosé Hunter Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Quinta Nova de Nossa
Senhora do Carmo
Quinta Nova de Nossa
Senhora do Carmo Rosé
Douro Portugal 2019 Bronze
£20-£30
Gérard Bertrand Château la Sauvageonne La Villa Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Master
Terra Sancta Wine Terra Sancta Special Release First Vines Rosé Central Otago New Zealand 2019 Silver
£30-£50
Domaines Ott Château Romassan Provence France 2018 Gold
Caves d’Esclans Rock Angel Provence France 2019 Gold
Château d’Esclans Château d’Esclans Provence France 2018 Gold
Poggio al Tesoro Cassiopea Pagus Cerbaia Tuscany Italy 2017 Silver
£50+
Gérard Bertrand Clos du Temple Languedoc-Roussillon France 2019 Master
Château d’Esclans Les Clans Provence France 2018 Master
Château d’Esclans Garrus Provence France 2018 Master

Global Organic Masters 2020: the results in full

While organic expressions only account for five per cent of the world’s wine output, there are incredible – and often affordable – bottles to be had in all categories, as Patrick Schmitt MW discovers. Read on for our analysis of the organic wine category and the results from this years’s competition in full.

There’s a perception among some consumers that going for organic may be limiting one’s options in the wine category. To some extent that’s true – organic wine represents less than 5% of global wine production, even though the agricultural method is in the ascendance. But as the 2020 Organic Wine Masters showed clearly, you can now find an organic version of every style of wine, including the mainstream categories. Indeed, we had organic Prosecco, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Australian Chardonnay, Provençal rosé and Rioja – to name just some of the world’s best-selling wine styles.

There’s another preconceived notion regarding organics, however, although it’s diminishing. This concerns an idea that the organic alternatives of best-selling wine styles are lesser versions. Again, this is something that this year’s Organic Wine Masters proved to be unfounded. The certified organic samples in the famous categories mentioned above were all outstanding, benchmark wines. Finally, there’s a belief that organic wines may be as good as equivalents made using conventional farming techniques, but are much less good value. Once more, this was shown not to be the case. Although we were tasting only organic wine, and therefore not comparing the category with equivalents made by conventional winemaking methods, because we assess so much wine through our Global Masters programme, we have a good sense of the quality-to-price ratio in all the key styles. And, to our surprise, organic wines are able to deliver a lot of wine for the cash. We had class-leading samples in this tasting at entry-point prices. Why should this be a surprise? Quite simply because organic farming techniques generally produce lower yields and require more labour, making an organic wine around 20% more expensive to produce, on average.

So, with that general assessment of the category as its stands today, let’s look at the highlights that led us to form the conclusions above.

Extraordinary value
Initially, the sparkling flights proved home to some of the most exciting wines of the blind tasting. If there were one type of fizz that stood out for extraordinary value it was Cava.

Somehow, this traditional method sparking wine, even when made according to organic strictures, managed to yield creamy, bready, fruity-tasting results at bargain prices.

So, where you see Golds for sub-£10 fizz, it’s because these wines were the best of their category, and therefore awarded the top medal relative to their peers. Whether it was the inexpensive wines from Cava Pata Negra, Cava Jaume Serra or Cava Contevedo, there was so much character for the cash, and it was organic. Such wines served as a reminder to us all not to forget Cava when asked to find inexpensive fizz for parties or celebrations.

Moving up the pricing scale, Cava again performed brilliantly over £15 with Vilaurnau’s organic limited edition version, although here too we had a deliciously fruity fizz, albeit in a more aromatic and gently sweet style, with Maschio’s Prosecco DOCG.

Over £20, and we had some interesting stars. One was a lovely baked apple-and pastry-scented sparkling from England’s Davenport Estate, while another was a top DOCG Prosecco from Masottina, and a third was a pink fizz, again from England, this time from the first-rate Oxney Organic Estate.

Going up further in price, we had remarkable organic Champagnes from Drappier, above all its Quattuor Blanc de Quatre Blancs, which employs the full four white grapes of Champagne, including Arbane, Chardonnay, Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc. This makes this fizz particularly special, as it provides a home for the historic, near-forgotten grapes of Champagne, while supporting organic farming, which is a relative rarity in the region. It also helps that this high-quality output hails from the region’s most sustainable producer – Drappier is carbon neutral.

Among the still wines, starting with the cheapest whites, there was plenty to prove that you don’t need to turn your back on organic wines when you’re on a tight budget. While we did not quite reach the Gold standard under £10, we had plenty of delicious drops that we can recommend. Italy and Spain were notably strong sources of good-value organic whites, including those from the former’s Masso Antico, Corvezzo and Rallo, and the latter’s Bodegas Luzón. But we also had a powerfully scented and pristine Torrontés from Argentina’s Santa Julia.

Moving over £10, there were some outstanding whites, including a typically pungent Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough’s Darling Wines, a peachy drop from Sicily’s Santa Tresa, along with a waxy white from the same Italian island, this time from Azienda Agricola Cortese, then a nutty, peachy classic Chardonnay from Australia’s Angove Family Winemakers.

Then, at the very top of the organic white wine quality pyramid in this year’s competition was an oily, barrel-fermented blockbuster from brilliant biodynamic stalwart Château Maris in Minervois. We’ve given top ratings to this producer’s Syrah and Grenache red blends in the past, but this year, it was the white wine that we sampled, and wow, it’s good.

Sticking with the more refreshing end of the tasting, following the fizz and white wines, we had a few organic rosés to try, with two proving notable, including a lovely fresh, pale, strawberry-scented sample from England’s Albury Vineyard, then a moreish and delicate white cherry-tasting pink from Provence’s notable organic-only estate, Château Léoube – a benchmark rosé that’s also organically produced.

Similar to the first part of this tasting, there was great diversity in the reds, and, also like the organic whites, at entry-point prices it was Italy and Spain that dominated among the medal-winners. Among these was a delicious cherry-loaded Negroamaro from Masso Antico and a range of first rate, powerfully tannic reds from Jumilla employing the hardy Monastrell grape, while among

the oak influenced bargain reds was a barrel-fermented Tempranillo from Spain’s Finca Constancia – a remarkable find for anyone wanting a red rich in red fruit and vanillin, but with little money to spend.

More great wines featured from Château Maris, complete with layers of red fruit and spice, while we also saw a pair of stars from Chile, both from two of the country’s top organic and biodynamic estates, Vermonte and Emiliana. Although quite pricy, I particularly recommend the latter’s underrated icon red called Coyam, which, unusually for Chilean fine wines, is dominated by Syrah, rather than Cabernet Sauvignon.

While the highest-priced reds also saw some great Monastrell-based wines from the aforementioned Jumilla – producers Alceno and Parajes del Valle – it was Australia that dominated the top scorers.

As you can see from the Masters, which are awarded for the very best examples of the category, it was Gemtree, Angove and Kalleske that wowed, representing the McLaren Vale and Barossa regions. Making such wines remarkable were very old vines, primarily Shiraz, that yielded concentrated black fruit flavours, with a peppery interest, and a cool minty edge. Not only that, but such characters had been complemented by the cream and cocoa flavours of maturation in barriques, to create something complex, indulgent, and, while delicious as a young wine, something with great ageing potential too. It was pleasing to think that such producers were doing great work capturing the essence of historic vineyards while managing them without the use of synthetic inputs. At the same time, these wines highlight the quality available from Australia’s old vine

Shiraz – while also representing relative good value compared with the prices of fine wines from famous European wine regions, along with those from certain parts of the United States.

While this tasting is only a snapshot of the global organic wine category, it does serve to highlight the range of bottles on offer in this sector, as well as draw attention to the greats championing this worthy approach to vineyard management and wine production.

White Organic Sparkling

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Jaume Serra Cava Pata Negra Brut Organic Penedès Spain NV Gold
Jaume Serra Heretat El Padruell Brut Organic Cava Penedès Spain NV Gold
Jaume Serra Cava Jaume Serra Brut Organic Penedès Spain NV Gold
Jaume Serra Cava Contevedo Organic Brut Penedès Spain NV Gold
Cantine Riunite & CIV Righi Pignoletto DOC Vino Frizzante Secco Biologico Emilia-Romagna Italy NV Silver
Anna Spinato Winery Prosecco Organic DOC Brut Veneto Italy NV Silver
Corvezzo Prosecco DOC Extra Dry Organic & Vegan Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Aldi Stores UK Organic Prosecco Veneto Italy NV Silver
£10-£15
Cantine Maschio Maschio Prosecco DOC Biologico Extra Dry Veneto Italy NV Gold
Vilarnau Vilarnau Limited Edition Penedès Spain NV Gold
Piera 1899 Pura Terra Prosecco DOC Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2018 Silver
Azienda Agricola Giol Prosecco Spumante Extra Dry DOC Treviso Veneto Italy 2018 Silver
Azienda Agricola Giol Prosecco Spumante Brut DOC Treviso Veneto Italy 2018 Bronze
£15-£20
Masottina Prosecco Brut Organic DOC Veneto Italy NV Silver
Ma SPA Vallate Prosecco Brut Organic DOC Veneto Italy NV Bronze
£20-£30
Davenport Vineyards Limney Estate Kent & Sussex UK 2014 Gold
Masottina Costabella Brut Biologico Conegliano
Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore
Veneto Italy NV Gold
Jasmine Monet Organic Black Mendoza Argentina 2019 Silver
£30-£50
Champagne Drappier Clarevallis Champagne France NV Silver
£50+
Champagne Drappier Quattuor – Blanc de Quatre Blancs Champagne France NV Gold

Rosé Organic Sparkling

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Jaume Serra Cava Contevedo Rosado Brut Organico Penedès Spain NV Silver
£30-£50
Oxney Organic Estate Classic Rosé East Sussex UK 2016 Gold

Red Organic Sparkling

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Righi Lambrusco di Modena DOC Frizzante Semisecco Biologico Emilia-Romagna Italy NV Bronze

White Organic Still Wine

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Azienda Agricola Giol Pinot Grigio Veneto Italy 2018 Silver
Schenk Italian Wineries Masso Antico Passerina Terre di Chieti IGT Bio Abruzzo Italy 2018 Silver
Corvezzo Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC Organic & Vegan Veneto Italy 2019 Silver
Bodega Santa Julia Santa Julia Organic Torrontes Mendoza Argentina 2019 Silver
Aldi Stores UK Unfiltered Sicilian Cattaratto Sicily Italy 2019 Silver
Bodegas Luzón Luzón Verde Organic Blanco Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Schenk Italian Wineries Gergenti Grillo Siciliana DOC Bio Sicily Italy 2019 Bronze
Aldi Stores UK Organic Pinot Grigio Veneto Italy NV Bronze
Bodegas Corral Don Jacobo Tempranillo Blanco Ecológico Rioja Spain 2019 Bronze
Perlage Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Vinicola Tombacco 47 Anno Domini – Pinot Grigio DOC
Delle Venezie, Bio Vegan
Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
Botter Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC Bio – Uccellini Veneto Italy 2019 Bronze
£10-£15
Angove Family Winemakers Angove Organic Chardonnay South Australia Australia 2019 Gold
Santa Tresa Rina Ianca Grillo Viognier Sicilia DOC Sicily Italy 2019 Gold
Viñedos Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Piera 1899 Pura Terra Pinot Grigio DOC Friuli-Venezia Giulia Italy 2018 Silver
Bodegas Corral Vine Roots Garnacha Blanca Rioja Spain 2019 Silver
Ontalba Ontalba Sauvignon Blanc Jumilla Spain 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
The Darling Wines The Darling Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand 2019 Gold
Angove Family Winemakers Wild Olive Organic McLaren Vale Chardonnay McLaren Vale Australia 2019 Gold
Azienda Agricola Cortese Vanedda Bianco Terre Siciliane IGP Sicily Italy 2017 Gold
Davenport Vineyards Horsmonden Dry White Kent UK 2018 Silver
£30-£50
Château Maris Brama Occitanie France 2016 Master

Rosé Organic Still Wine

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
£10-£15
Bodegas Carchelo Carchelo Rosé Jumilla Spain 2019 Bronze
£15-£20
Albury Vineyard Silent Pool Rosé Surrey UK 2019 Silver
£20-£30
Château Léoube Rosé Château Léoube Provence France 2019 Gold

Red Organic Still Wine

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Schenk Italian Wineries Masso Antico Negroamaro del Salento IGT Bio Puglia Italy 2019 Silver
Bodegas Viña Elena Pacheco Monastrell Organic Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Juan Gil Honoro Vera Organic Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Bodegas Luzón Luzon Verde Organic Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Bodegas Luzón Verdecillo No Added Suphites Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Bodegas Luzón Verdecillo Organic & Vegan Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Bodegas Carchelo EYA Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Finca Constancia Entre Lunas Organic Moon Wine Castilla-La Mancha Spain 2018 Silver
Les Vignerons de Tutiac Tutiac ZRP Bordeaux France 2019 Bronze
Viniberia Carta Roja Pura Organic NSA Monastrell Jumilla Spain 2019 Bronze
Bodega Santa Julia Santa Julia Organic Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Bronze
Aldi Stores UK Exquisite Collection Organic Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2018 Bronze
Aldi Irl Toro Loco Organic Red Utiel-Requena Spain 2018 Bronze
VSPT Wine Group Alpaca Organic Red Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Bodegas 1890 Pata Negra Apasionado Organic Jumilla Spain 2018 Bronze
£10-£15
Angove Family Winemakers Organic Shiraz Cabernet South Australia Australia 2019 Gold
Bodegas Corral Don Jacobo Crianza Ecológico Rioja Spain 2017 Gold
Bodegas Corral Honoro Vera Organic Rioja Spain 2017 Gold
Bodega Santa Julia El Burro Santa Julia Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019 Silver
Ego Bodegas Finca Bacara – 3015 Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Ego Bodegas Goru Organic Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Ontalba Ontalba Monastrell Syrah Jumilla Spain 2018 Silver
Ego Bodegas Talento Eco by Ego Jumilla Spain 2019 Silver
Bodegas Corral Don Jacobo Tempranillo Ecológico Rioja Spain 2019 Silver
Viñedos Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Carmenère/Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Viñedos Veramonte Veramonte Pinot Noir Casablanca Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Angove Family Winemakers Organic Cabernet Sauvignon South Australia Australia 2018 Silver
Angove Family Winemakers Organic Shiraz South Australia Australia 2018 Silver
Cono Sur Organic Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Santa Tresa Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG Sicily Italy 2018 Silver
Viñedos Emiliana Adobe Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
£15-£20
Château Maris Savoir Vieillir Occitanie France 2019 Gold
Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso DOC Sicily Italy 2018 Gold
Bodegas Alceño Alceño Organic Jumilla Spain 2018 Gold
Viñedos Emiliana Salvaje Casablanca Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Gemtree Wines Uncut Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2018 Silver
Angove Family Winemakers Wild Olive Organic McLaren Vale Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2018 Silver
Azienda Agricola Cortese Sabuci Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico DOCG Sicily Italy 2017 Silver
Chateau Maris Les Planels Occitanie France 2017 Bronze
Viña Tarapacá Tarapacá Gran Reserva Organic Wine (GROW) Maipo Valley Chile 2017 Bronze
£20-£30
Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Vineyard McLaren Vale Grenache McLaren Vale Australia 2018 Master
Château Maris Las Combes Occitanie France 2017 Gold
Viñedos Emiliana Coyam Colchagua Valley Chile 2017 Gold
Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz Grenache McLaren Vale Australia 2018 Gold
Parajes del Valle

Bodegas y Viñedos

Terraje Monastrell Jumilla Spain 2018 Gold
Angove Family Winemakers Warboys Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2018 Silver
£30-£50
Kalleske Wines Kalleske Greenock Barossa Valley Australia 2018 Master
Gemtree Wines Ernest Allan Shiraz McLaren Vale Australia 2018 Master
Gemtree Wines Obsidian McLaren Vale Australia 2018 Master
£50+
Kalleske Wines Kalleske Eduard Barossa Valley Australia 2017 Master

About the competition

The Global Organic Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business, and forms part of its successful Masters series for noble grape varieties, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; major wine styles, from sparkling to fortified; and famous regions including Rioja, Champagne and Tuscany. The competition is exclusively for organic wines. The top wines were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those expressions that stood out as being outstanding in their field received the ultimate accolade – the title of Organic Master. This report features the medal winners only.

Please visit the Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call: +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: sophie@thedrinksbusiness.com

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TOP 10 AWARD-WINNING ECO-FRIENDLY WINES FROM THE ORGANIC MASTERS 2020

The results in full from the Malbec Masters 2018

If you want to know who’s making delicious Malbec right across the price spectrum, then read on – our results will surprise you, especially this year’s top scorer…

Malbec is one of this century’s most notable and lasting vinous phenomena. And, as with any success story, it’s natural to ask why the performance has been so positive. With Malbec, the explanations tend to focus on its close association with one nation – Argentina – and its equally strong link with one ingredient – beef, especially steak. But such reasons aren’t enough if one wants to understand the sustained demand for Malbec from major wine importing countries around the world. For that, one needs to closely analyse the taste profile of this grape, which is something we’ve done over the course of several years with our Global Malbec Masters, which see us quality-assess samples from this grape from a broad range of sources, with only a knowledge of the basic style and price band.

Having chaired such a tasting now on a number of occasions, it’s clear that one fundamental cause of Malbec’s widespread take-up, in both retailers and restaurants, is the quality of red wine it manages to yield even at low prices. This is a grape, particularly when grown in South America, that can produce reliably juicy, fruity, generous and balanced results sub £10 – something that we can’t say is true of other noble grapes, such as Pinot Noir (based on our Masters tastings that consider the character and quality of all noble grapes).

Not only that, but if one wants to spend a little more, and surpass the psychological barrier of £10 for a bottle of wine in the UK off-trade, there is a lot of high-quality Malbec to choose from, with the offer between £10 and £20 notably strong in terms of excellence for your outlay. However, it’s over £20 that the truly outstanding results can be found, while there are some fine wines from Malbec being made today over £50 that can happily sit alongside some of the world’s greats, from any grape.

Indeed, this aspect to Malbec, it’s ability, even when the sole grape in a red, to create complex, age-worthy, and concentrated wines, is something that deserves greater recognition. While it can make lovely, albeit fairly simple, reds at low prices, it is also a source of fine wine. The areas yielding such greatness, however, are not myriad – although with the development of new places in Argentina, they are becoming increasingly numerate.

But, if there was one notable learning from this year’s Malbec Masters, it was this: the crown for the world’s greatest expression of Malbec has been passed back to Cahors. This region in France, the native home of Malbec, has been, relative to Mendoza at least, almost forgotten about in the modern life of this grape – although not without good reason. Sadly, despite the suitability of this variety for Cahors, with its dry climate, and varied terroirs based on clay and limestone soils, the viticulture and winemaking in the last century for the most part, wasn’t conducive to great wines. But, our winning Malbec in this year’s competition was from an estate that was pioneering in the region’s turnaround. Called Château Lagrezette, owned by the powerful and well-financed former CEO of Cartier, Alain Perrin, this Cahors property has been dedicated to making fine wine from Malbec grown in this appellation. And, instrumental in realising this ambition has been famous consultant Michel Rolland, who has just celebrated 30 years of working in Cahors with Lagrezette.

Indeed, speaking to db following this year’s blind tasting, and not aware that his wine had been our highest-scoring Malbec in the competition, he said that Cahors had “been in the Middle Ages, but now makes beautiful wine”.

Château Lagrezette in Cahors was the source of this year’s top-scoring Malbec. Picture credit: alain-dominique-perrin.com

Rolland is, however, best known for his work with Malbec from Argentina – where he crafts and part-owns the Clos de los Siete brand – and sees both Cahors and the south American nation as sources of first-rate Malbec at a range of price levels. While he says that the limestone soils and slightly cooler climate of Cahors brings a Malbec with more freshness, key to this grape’s performance in southwest France and across the full length of Argentina, is the dry nature of the climate. Malbec is very sensitive to moisture during both flowering, and the end of the ripening season, and both Cahors and Argentina have continental conditions, ensuring that precipitation during the growing season is very low.

There are of course other places where Malbec can produce lovely results, including parts of Chile, Colchagua in particular, along with California, especially Napa, and Australia – we even awarded a top accolade of Malbec Master to Wakefield/Taylors for its example from Clare Valley. More of a surprise in this year’s results was a delicious example from the Aegeon, where Turkey’s Kavaklidere is behind a varietal Malbec of note.

Within Argentina, the quality of the Malbec is well recognised from the historic area of Lujan de Cuyo, where old vines and great winemakers are combined to great effect (particularly in the Las Compuertas sub-region, home to producers such as Terrazas de los Andes). But relatively new to the Argentine Malbec story is the Uco Valley, and within it, the emerging sub-regions of Alta Mira and Gualtallary, where high-elevations and particular soil profiles are creating Malbecs of extraordinary balance and concentration. Not only that, but as the vines age, there is more to come.

Maybe not reaching quite the same level of quality and intensity, but coming close, are the top wines from Argentina’s San Juan – a region best-known for big volume production, but within it, in the higher attitude Pedernal Valley, a source of fine wines too (proven by the Gold medal for the Pyros Single Vineyard Malbec in this year’s Masters).

But the other change in Malbec making, particularly within Argentina, is connected less to altitude, soil, and vine age, but the winemaker, in terms of their handling of the grapes, from earlier picking times to gentler extraction regimes and shorter barrel-maturation times. In general, the top names in the country are becoming more confident in the inherent quality of the Malbec being produced today, and are happier to intervene less in the cellar, but also pick a bit sooner to create a fresher less jammy style of wine.

In short, Argentine Malbec is still a powerful style of wine, but today’s top examples are less likely to smell and taste so strongly of barrel-sourced characters, and more likely to showcase pure fruit flavours, from raspberry to blueberry, than something more raisined.

Cahors, on the other hand, which was producing rather hard wines with some unripe fruit characters is, as yields are reduced, and average temperatures increase, producing richer Malbecs. So, while French Malbecs are bulking up, Argentine equivalents are slimming down. The key in either case is balance.

And, the top examples over the following pages are wines where there is fruit concentration and ripeness, without too much sweetness and warmth from high alcohols. Furthermore, while we embrace some of the more fresh, floral and red berry characters of well-made Malbec from cooler sites, where early-picking produces greener flavours, we were less likely to award top-scores. Of course a touch of spicy pepper, akin to Syrah from the Northern Rhône in a cooler vintage, can be a complexing element to sharper, fresher Malbec styles, but our belief is that this grape should not yield wines with crunchy green characters, even in small doses, and particularly at the top end – where consumers are looking for ripe, concentrated wines.

While Malbec from traditional sources such as Cahors, and new higher parts of the Uco, still has potential for improvement, our feeling is that the next stage in the stylistic development of wines from this grape, will come by blending Malbec with other grapes. On its own, the grape can certainly deliver plenty of fruit and texture, but other varieties could be successfully used to add a bit of seasoning to Malbec, a touch more complexity and persistence, as well as stylistic diversity.

For now, however, if you want to know who’s making delicious Malbec right across the price spectrum, look at the medallists from this year’s competition – featured in full, below.

Champagne Masters 2017: the results in full

We bring you the all the medal-winning wines from this year’s Champagne Masters, including the biggest names in the business, and some relative newcomers to the category that are offering great fizz at competitive prices.

The Champagnes were tasted over the course of a single day on 17 August at Les 110 de Taillevent in London. Among the judges were Antony Moss MW (left) and Anthony Foster MW

While the Champagne Masters are focused entirely on Champagne, one can’t help but consider the quality and style of sparkling wine from elsewhere when tasting this fine French fizz. And had we been conducting this tasting more than a decade ago, Champagne’s competition would have been fewer in number and weaker in threat.

But today that competition is many and strong, with, notably, new quality entrants from places such as coastal Chile, Central Otago, Franciacorta, Trento, and England. Good fizz from Spain, California and Australia was already on the international stage 10 years ago.

With that in mind, today Champagne must be not only good, but clearly the best to remain the benchmark, particularly as its prices creep upwards, most notably among the famous Brut non-vintage brands.

With the Champagne Masters including the main producers, and, significantly, the 10 best-selling grandes marques, this blind-tasting competition acts as a health check on the region. It identifies the base level of quality and the stylistic trends, as well as the strengths and the weaknesses.

Importantly, the people doing this are experts in their field (see above), and are attuned to the developments in the wider sparkling wine business.

Although the Champenois should resist any temptation to give way to complacency, the standard of fizz in this year’s competition was high. Indeed, it would be hard to think of another sparkling-wine region where the base level was as consistently impressive.

Those wines in Champagne’s non-vintage category may not be cheap, but almost all of this year’s entries gained a Silver medal or above, which is no easy task – not only are the judges exacting, but the entries are being judged relative to other Champagnes, and good ones at that.

As we have reported in the past, the major maisons have been improving their big-selling blends – and this has in part been achieved by the use of better-quality grapes and a higher proportion of first pressings, but more obviously from extending the time the Champagne spends in contact with its lees after the second fermentation in bottle, as well as increasing the quantity and age of reserve wines, which provide added depth and complexity to the Champagnes.

Less sugar
A touch more precision has also been observed in this sub-category, which stems from the decision across the board to lower the amount of sugar added to the wines at disgorgement. Other tweaks are also contributing to quality enhancements, though less uniform, and these range from the use of state-of-the-art winery equipment, the addition of large oak vats for fermentation and ageing, along with (particularly important for consistency) the installation of the so-called ‘jetting’ system during disgorgement, which reduces the risk of excessive oxygen ingress when the cork is applied.

Summarising his thoughts on the Brut NV part of the Champagne business, which accounts for as much as 90% of the volume production, wine writer, sparkling wine-specialist and Champagne Masters judge Michael Edwards said: “I genuinely think that this was one of the most rewarding Masters that I have attended in recent years. What really impressed me was the very high standard of the bread-and-butter non-vintage sector: in a challenging, fairly quiet market, the Champenois have played to their forte, focusing most effort into raising their game in Brut sans année.”

He added: “This has been applied across the community – in maisons such as Taittinger and Henriot, co-ops like Palmer and Chassenay d’Arce, and bijou houses like Lallier.”

Judges Clive Barlow MW (left) and Clement Robert MS

Price and quality
While the quality across the board was high, some brands did stand taller than others, in particular the more expensive marques, proving that there is a strong relationship between price and quality in Champagne. Among these was perennial top performer Charles Heidsieck, which manages to deliver a brut NV with ripe fruit, a creamy texture, but also a smoky ‘reductive’ note, and plenty of freshness – a result of skilful blending from a vast palette of well-stored reserve wines.

Also, for those who are convinced that the lower the level of sugar in a Champagne, the better it must be, Charles Heidsieck has achieved its award-winning style with a more ‘traditional’ level of 11g/l for its brut NV – when the majority of brands are now at levels of around 9g/l. This relatively generous dosage adds to the richness of the Champagne, but no one could accuse Charles Heidsieck’s Brut NV of tasting sweet, or being unbalanced.

A mention in this category should also go to Taittinger, a house that is making wonderful non-vintage Champagnes both at the entry level and further up the price ladder with its Prelude Grand Cru. These are wines that benefit from a high proportion of first-rate Chardonnay, as well as the know-how of Loïc Dupont, who has worked at Taittinger for more than 30 years.

At slightly lower prices, it was also pleasing to see the big-volume producers on song, with Moët, Veuve Cliquot, Nicolas Feuillatte and Lanson all gaining Silvers, proving that high production levels need not be a barrier to quality in brut NV Champagne.

Beyond the brut NV Champagnes, this year’s Masters highlighted the positive impact of first-rate weather conditions as well as rigorous grape selection. The vintage and prestige cuvée categories attracted a raft of Master medals, which are awarded only to outstanding wines.

To deal with the impact of weather first, it was perhaps not surprising to see vintage and prestige cuvée Champagnes from the 2008 and 2002 harvests gaining Masters – both being brilliant vintages, and the two standout years of the noughties, thanks to wonderful climatic conditions throughout the growing season.

On the market
With the majority of the 2002s from the famous maisons released some time ago, and sold out, it was good to find some Master-winning examples still on the market – Piper with its Rare 2002, and Comtes de Dampierre with its top-of-the-range expression from this vintage. Piper also picked up a Master for its vintage 2008, as did Champagne Mumm – the latter offering a chance to sample this great year at a relatively affordable price.

As for grape selection, the high number of Gold medals awarded to vintage and vintage-dated prestige cuvée Champagnes across a range of years attests to the quality attainable when the best grapes are singled out for gentle pressing and extended ageing. With more than 33,000 hectares of vineyards in the Champagne region, it’s always possible to isolate sites where the bunches have the right balance of sugar, acid and flavour-giving compounds for making top-end fizz from a single year, and even in vintages where the weather is variable.

Indeed, one of the highest-scoring Champagnes from this year’s competition was from the controversial 2003 vintage – a year of climatic extremes and low yields. This sample, from Champagne Castelnau, was one of the many surprise discoveries from the competition, the sort of wines that our Masters blind-tasting format seeks to identify.

Other interesting finds included the brilliant Blanc de Blancs from Champagne Le Brun de Neuville, Palmer and Delamotte, as well as an outstanding example from Frerejean Frères – a relatively young house, and a name to watch.

Other producers that performed well this year across the categories include Nicolas Feuillatte, which offers great-value Champagne in the vintage category, as well as Henriot – a producer of wonderful pure Chardonnay Champagnes – and Deutz, which gained a Master for one of Champagne’s most underrated prestige cuvées, Amour de Deutz.

In short, the Champagne Masters 2017 showed that Champagne is still the benchmark for traditional-method sparkling, and that consumers of this great fizz will be rewarded by spending more.

Finally, while it confirmed the quality among maisons already renowned for quality, it also drew attention to less famous names from the region – allowing you to try something new safe in the knowledge that it won’t disappoint.

The judges (left to right): Patrick Schmitt MW, Clement Robert MS, Michael Edwards, Anthony Foster MW, Jonathan Pedley MW, Roberto Della Pietra, Antony Moss MW, Clive Barlow MW

Over the following pages are all the medal-winners in 2017’s Champagne Masters. 

Sparkling Masters 2017: results and analysis

While Champagne and Prosecco still rule the roost when it comes to fizz, producers from all over the world are crafting their own exciting styles of sparkling wine, as our blind-tasting competition shows. By Patrick Schmitt MW

The judges: Left to right (standing): Antony Moss MW, Christine Parkinson, Tobias Gorn, Patrick Schmitt MW, Michael Edwards, Clement Robert MS. Left to right (seated): Nicola Thomson, Ana-Emilia Sapungiu MW, Patricia Stefanowicz MW, Lynne Sherriff MW

Which category of drinks has the most sparkle at the moment? Fizz. Not only has this style of booze been the major growth area for the wine business over the past decade, but also, if the forecasts are correct, there’s still mileage in the sector – estimates by the IWSR suggest an 8.6% growth over a five-year period from 2016-2020, taking the total market to almost 2.9 billion bottles. The reason for such an outstanding performance centres on the fact that fizz offers more refreshment than any other drink.

Somehow, something with bubbles does a superior job of cleansing the palate than something without – it’s why Coca Cola, with its carbonated edge, seems to invigorate dry mouths, even though it’s loaded with sugar. But it’s not just refreshment that makes sparkling wine so popular.

It’s the association with good times. OK, so Champagne may be the fizz most closely tied to important moments, from podium wins to major anniversaries, but other sparkling wines still have a celebratory edge, and are connected with fun, sociable occasions – even if they end up being used as an opportunity to mark nothing more than a group getting together for an evening. Of course, one shouldn’t see the category as simply Champagne and sparkling wine, as there is great diversity within both, and an increasing spread of styles and growing number of sources among the latter particularly. Nevertheless, presently, it is viewed as a two-part, or increasingly, three-part sector: Champagne, Prosecco and sparkling wine.

Indeed, Champagne and Prosecco have become the two stand-out successes in sparkling wine that everyone else wants to emulate and benefit from. The former represents the long-time pinnacle in image and quality – but also, with sales of Champagne for 2017 expected to surpass 310 million bottles, a sizeable winemaking machine too.

About the competition

The Sparkling Masters is a competition created and run by the drinks business, and is an extension of its successful Masters series for grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as regions such as Rioja and Chianti. The competition is exclusively for Sparkling and the entries were judged by a selection of highly experienced tasters using Schott Zwiesel Cru Classic glasses supplied by Wine Sorted. The top Sparklings were awarded Gold, Silver or Bronze medals according to their result, and those Sparklings that stood out as being outstanding received the ultimate accolade – the title of Sparkling Master. The Sparklings were tasted over the course of a single day on 8 September at Bumpkin restaurant in London. This report features only the winners of medals.

The latter embodies the fun, easy and affordable side of sparkling wine, and acts as the volume-driver for fizz overall in the past 10 years – the production of Prosecco has risen by around 50m bottles from 2006-2016 to total almost 500m.

As a result, one can split the market into two main areas and a more diverse third. The first concerns Champagne and the relatively pricy traditional-method brut sparklers primarily made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that have been designed to take on the original.

The second comprises cheaper tank-method Prosecco and Prosecco alternatives, which often have reasonably high levels of residual sugar.

As for the third, that is made up of the many other types of fizz produced around the world in a range of styles and sugar levels, sometimes using native grapes, others employing Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Bearing all this in mind, the next question is, can the challengers to these two benchmarks deliver something as good, if not better for the price? And if so, where are they from, and who is behind them? Or, if not, which producers are ensuring that the benchmarks remain their category leaders today?

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