The global pandemic prevented many things from happening this year, but one event it could not seem to halt was the seventh edition of the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships (CSWWC).
Having been delayed from their usual May/June judging schedule for the obvious reason, the world’s foremost fizz competition saw expert judges Tom Stevenson, Essi Avellan MW and Simon Stockton assemble at the end of October to take on the daunting task of tasting and judging more than one thousand sparkling wines from around the world.
To ensure the safety of everyone involved, the CSWWC team (including Sensible Wine Service, their logistics partner) all went through three Covid tests to form a secure bubble. If anyone wanted to leave, they could, but would not be allowed back in. To make their lives a little more bearable, the team had their own live-in Michelin chef and a private pub. Unsurprisingly, as head judge Tom Stevenson noted, “No one wanted to leave!”
And thank goodness, as they had their work cut out in what was another record-breaking year for the competition. Having seen the number of entries plateau for the first five years, last year’s significant increase in the number of wines submitted for judgement was replicated once more, with a total of 1,073 entries in 2020. Entries came in from over 30 different countries, with no less than 180 sparkling wines being entered from magnum.
This year, a total of 128 Gold and 237 Silver medals were awarded to 19 different countries. For the first time in the competition’s history, France and Italy went toe-to-toe, winning 47 Gold medals each! Italy once again doubled their entries this year, so were also able to take home a whopping 111 Silver medals, compared to France’s 42 Silver medals.
A solid performance from the English sparkling wine entrants saw the region finish third once again in the national leaderboard. However, Spain significantly stepped up its game this year, grabbing no less than 9 Golds and 22 Silver medals, demonstrating the exciting Cava and Corpinnat wines that are being produced today. And while France and Italy continue to dominate in terms of the number of their entries, the diversity of entries the CSWWC now receives from countries and regions around the world is second to none.
Tom Stevenson, Founder and Chairman of the CSWWC, commented: “This year was always going to be memorable for obvious reasons, yet, despite the global pandemic, we attracted a record-breaking number of entries. For the first 5 years of the CSWWC’s existence, it cruised along at approximately 650 entries per year. This was fine by me, as we encouraged producers to focus their entries, thus although we expanded in terms of producers entering, the number of wines being submitted stood still. In 2019 the number of entries increased by more than 30% to 850, while in 2020 it shot up further to 1,073 entries, including no less than 180 in magnum.”
“So this year of all years, we had to cope with an unprecedented volume of wines to process and judge, but CSWWC became the competition that Covid could not stop. To ensure the safety of the entire team, including Sensible Wine Service, our logistics partner, we all went through three Covid tests to form a secure bubble. If anyone wanted to leave, they knew they would not be allowed back in. Had BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing Covid regimen been as thorough as ours, it would have been impossible for Katya and Nicola to test positive. We even had our own live-in Michelin chef and a private pub. No one wanted to leave!”
Although the Best in Class, National Champions and World Champions by Style will not be revealed until this year’s CSWWC Virtual Awards Week on 7th-11th December, the Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year Trophy is awarded strictly according to the highest number of Gold medals won, so has already been announced. Every year sees Trentodoc’s Ferrari and Champagne’s Louis Roederer battle it out and this year it was Louis Roederer’s turn to snatch the award back from Ferrari with 11 Gold medals (vs Ferrari’s 9 Gold medals).
Below, we highlight some of the noteworthy Champagne winners. The full list of award winners can be viewed here.
Recent and Future Releases
A number of recently released and yet-to-be-released champagnes were amongst the medal winners this year, including Bollinger PN VZ15. The recently released first wine in a new series from Bollinger, which will highlight the distinctive terroir and taste of a different cru each year, picked up a Silver medal.
Future releases that were decorated with awards this year, include Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime 2012 (Silver), Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2013 (Gold), Palmer & Co Vintage 2012 (Silver), and Rare 2008 (Gold).
Notably absent from this year’s competition were older vintage champagnes. The following wines were the only vintages pre-2006 that picked up medals, all of which were entries from magnums and won Gold medals: Louis Roederer Cristal 2004, Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2004, Pommery Grand Cru Brut Vintage 2004, Pommery Clos Pompadour Brut Vintage 2004, Rare 1998, and Dom Ruinart Rosé 2004.
The CSWWC 2020 once again demonstrated the strength of the larger format. No less than 39 of Champagne’s 89 Gold and Silver medal winners were magnums, a whopping 44% of the total. Some producers even elected to enter magnums only, including Moët & Chandon (two Golds and two Silvers), Pommery (four Golds), and Ruinart (three Golds).
All three of Palmer & Co’s Gold medal winners were also magnums, including Palmer & Co Vintage 2008, as were seven of Louis Roederer’s eleven Gold medals, including the 2018 Supreme World Champion wine Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV.