Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships: Gold & Silver Medals

At the end of May, three of the best palates in the industry began the daunting task of tasting the many thousands of entries to the 2017 Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships. The brainchild of Champagne veteran Tom Stevenson, the CSWWC has been an annual feature in the wine competition calendar since 2014. Whereas other competitions involve as many as 240 judges (leaving the performance of each wine dependent upon just one palate), the CSWWC is unique in that every single wine is assessed under blind conditions by the same three judges – guaranteeing equal and objective evaluation across the board. What’s more, these three specialist judges are Tom Stevenson himself, Essi Avellan MW and Dr Tony Jordan – three of the most experienced and technically astute Champagne tasters on the planet. With the backing of such sparkling wine knowledge, it is no surprise that the CSWWC expands year upon year and boasts a breadth and quality of entries that other competitions could only dream of attracting.

With quality-control mechanisms (such as the protection of clear-glass bottles by black plastic bags and a check for bottle-variation by an experienced Tasting Quality Control Director), a six-stage totally blind judging process and medals only awarded with wholehearted agreement from the entire panel, the CSWWC is also one of the most innovative and equitable competitions around. And this years event was no exception, receiving entries from a record twenty-nine countries.

Tasting commenced on 29th May and lasted two weeks, giving the panel enough time to unanimously agree on the Awarding Medals. Once completed, the panel then re-tastes the highest performing sparkling wines in order to decide upon the Best in Class, Regional Champions, National Champions, World Champions (by style) and finally the Supreme World Champion. A lengthy and no doubt arduous task, but one that most would struggle not to call a privilege.

Whilst we will have to wait until the CSWWC Awards Dinner (buy tickets here) in mid-September for the special trophy announcements, the Gold and Silver medal results for the 2017 CSWWC were revealed last week. An astonishing 127 Gold and 167 Silver Medals (which constitutes just 10-15% of the total number of entries) were awarded in 2017, a testament to both the growing quality of global sparkling wine and the sheer number of champagnes and sparkling wines the panel tasted!

Champagne received a whopping 91 Gold and Silver medals at this years competition, over 30% of the total number awarded. Below, we discuss some of the noteworthy Champagne winners. The full list of award winners can be viewed here.

Champagne Awards – Gold

Worth mentioning first is the overall incredible performance from the region as a whole. Champagne claimed 51 Gold medals at the 2017 CSWWC – over 40% of the total awarded. Although much has been written about the rising quality of other sparkling wines, Champagne is still without question the best of the bunch and the results here prove it. Interestingly, this year also saw an increased number of entries from magnum – which constitute 32 of the medals awarded to Champagne. Of these 32 magnum applicants, two-thirds were awarded Gold. Need we say more?

Of note were the contestants from Dom Pérignon this year. They elected to enter their stunning Vintage 2002 from both bottle and magnum… perhaps as an in-house experiment on their subtle ageing differences? Regardless, they were both unsurprisingly awarded Gold medals. It is likely the tasting notes from the panel will reveal more, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait until November for the publication of Tom Stevenson’s Champagne and Sparkling Wine Guide 2018 to find out. The House also entered the new release Vintage 2009 (available for purchase in September), which was awarded a deserved Gold medal.

But perhaps most exciting from Dom Pérignon was their entry of yet-to-be-released P2 2002. The competition has a Special Class for ‘Future Releases’ and the CSWWC website states that to be entered into this class, a wine must “not yet be available but due to be released before June of the following year.” If this is to be believed, then we can expect P2 2002 to arrive within the next 11 months. Judging by the flawless ageing and development of the standard 2002 vintage release, P2 2002 promises to be one of the champagnes of the decade. The CSWWC panel awarded it a unanimous Gold medal.

Another House that love the CSWWC competition are Louis Roederer. They are frequently one of the best performing producers and this was as true in 2017 as ever, with the House receiving an outstanding 10 Gold medals and one Silver. Interestingly, they chose to enter four magnums this year, including their Brut Premier NV – one of the few House non-vintages to be awarded Gold. Their (long) list of Gold medal recipients also includes Brut Vintage 2009 (from magnum), Blanc de Blancs 2010Cristal 2009 and Cristal Rosé 2009, all available on our website. Again our attention however is naturally turned to the Future Release entries. Roederer put forward two expressions from one of the most anticipated vintages of recent years; their Brut Vintage 2012 and their Brut Rosé Millésime 2012. Much has been said about the quality of this vintage (read more) and the two Gold medals awarded to these champagnes will only exacerbate the excitement surrounding it.

   Strong performances from these vintage 2008s

Speaking of emerging vintages, there were also a few entries from the incredible 2008 that received a Gold medal. Of note, were Piper-Heidseick Vintage Brut 2008 and Veuve Clicquot Vintage Brut 2008. We tasted both of these in our blind tasting of 2008s and whilst the Piper performed much higher in our comparison, it’s good too see the Clicquot receiving commendation. More evidence of the prowess of this up and coming vintage.

Another high performing House this year was Ruinart. Still a name known mainly to the trade, their 4 Gold medals in 2017 – awarded to both non-vintages, Rosé NV and Blanc de Blancs NV and their exciting future vintage releases – prove what the consumer is missing out on. Other Gold medal champagnes worth highlighting include Laurent-Perrier’s brand new signature blend, La Cuvée NV (replacing their Brut NV). Piper-Heidsieck also entered two vintages of their prestige cuvée, Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002 and Piper Heidsieck Rare 1998 (from magnum). Both absolutely stunning, their Gold medals are a mere formality. We have recently listed them on our website and we encourage everyone to test their worth – you won’t be disappointed.

Predictably, Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2002 and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2006 were also amongst the Gold medal winners. We reported back in February that Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2002 is likely the last prestige cuvée release from this legendary vintage to hit the market; it has previously ranked ninth out of fifteen in our blind tasting of 2002s and is incredibly rare, currently only available from The Finest Bubble. Comtes de Champagne 2006 is a cuvée that needs no introduction and its latest success includes a top five ranking in our Blanc vs Rosé tasting, receiving an incredible 19.5/20 from Essi Avellan MW.

Lastly, Moët & Chandon have once again entered their ultra-prestige cuvée, MCIII. We first tasted this masterpiece earlier in the year at the House in Épernay and were utterly blown away (read our notes). At last year’s CSWWC it was a huge hit and received the Chairman’s Trophy, however this year Moët have entered it from magnum, suggesting they are aiming higher. It will be interesting to see how its performance compares, especially now with three years bottle age (assuming they have entered the first batch, ‘001.14’ – disgorged in 2014). Please get in touch if you are interested in purchasing Moët & Chandon MCIII.

Champagne Awards – Silver

Again dominating here, Champagne claimed 40 Silver medals – nearly a quarter of the total 167 Silver medals awarded. Many of these were presented to lesser known Houses outside of the Grandes Marques clique, which is good news for both those individual growers and the region as a whole. Below we have focused on some of the more unexpected Silver medal awards.

Somewhat surprisingly, Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime 2005 fell into this category, whereas the House non-vintages – Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV and Rosé Réserve NV – were both awarded Gold. Also unanticipated were Silver medals for two vintage 2008s: Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2008 and Veuve Clicquot Vintage Rosé 2008 (from magnum). Although we haven’t yet tasted the Clicquot Rosé 2008, the Blanc expression is already highly regarded and we might have expected a better result from what is fast becoming a favourite or ours, Moët 2008. That said, Silver medals at the CSWWC are not to be scoffed at.

Another Silver worth mentioning is Taittinger Brut Vintage 2012. With still quite some time before we can expect them to hit the market, these strong early performances from this remarkable vintage leave us wishing we had a time machine. The signs are all there for this to be a record-breaking harvest.

A note on English Sparkling Wine: Although prestige Champagne is our passion and primary focus here at The Finest Bubble, we also list some English Sparkling Wines. An appellation that is continuing to impress on the sparkling wine circuit, the 2017 CSWWC saw its best performance yet with 12 Gold and 14 Silver medals. Of those receiving acclaim, it was good to see two of our favourite producers on the winner’s list: two Golds and a Silver for both Hattingley Valley and Nyetimber. Well done to all.

And so the waiting game begins for the CSWWC Awards Dinner where the trophy winners will be announced. Thus far, a Louis Roederer Cristal has won Supreme World Champion in all three years since the competition began. Can anyone end this unblemished record and knock Cristal off the top spot? We’ll have the full report here in mid-September.

Consistent High Performers

The table below shows some of the most consistently high performing Champagnes. These are wines that have been awarded at least Gold or Silver medals at the 2017 Champagne & Sparking Wine World Championship and have scored well at The Finest Bubble tasting events in the past.

High Performing Champagnes CSWWC 2017 Medal Awarded
Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime 2005 Silver
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV Gold
Dom Pérignon Brut Vintage 2002 Gold
Dom Pérignon P2 1998 Gold
Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2002 Gold
Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2010 Gold
Louis Roederer Brut Nature 2009 Silver
Louis Roederer Brut Vintage 2009 Gold
Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 Gold
Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2009 Gold
Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2008 Silver
Moët & Chandon MCIII Gold
Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002 Gold
Piper Heidsieck Rare 1998 Gold
Piper-Heidseick Vintage Brut 2008 Gold
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV Gold
Taittinger Brut Réserve NV Silver
Taittinger Brut Vintage 2009 Silver
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2006 Gold
Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label NV Gold
Veuve Clicquot Vintage Brut 2008 Gold