As one would expect, this was the most satisfying of the sparkling flights, with higher prices, yes, but also better value for money
Perhaps surprisingly, after the cheapest range of wines, this pricier end of the fizz world attracted the most entries, all of which were champagnes – a mixture of good non-vintage and vintage fizz from the competitively priced to the ultra-luxurious. ‘I was pleased to see such a range of styles,’ commented TerraVina’s Laura Rhys.
Moreover, the tasters were generally pretty impressed with what they tasted. With six wines making it onto the Shortlist, and three of those going on to the Gold List, this was far and away the most impressive section of the world of bubbles. Clearly, when it comes to fizz, you get what you pay for – and these days, it doesn’t come cheap.
‘There were some fair champagnes in the first round that didn’t make it through simply because they didn’t represent value for money,’ said consultant Peter McCombie MW.
Congratulations, then, to both Ayala and Lallier, who managed to supply Gold-standard champers at sub-£25 a bottle.
‘The shortlisted wines were mostly a pretty similar price (between £20-30)’ said Tom Forrest of Vinopolis, ‘so our tasters went for the wines on the Gold List that they felt were the best balanced.’
The Taittinger Comtes, meanwhile, was comfortably the most expensive champagne on offer, but was so sublimely elegant and complex (even at this relatively youthful age) that it was a shoo-in for the Gold List more or less from the first time it was tasted. Since the 1998 made it on last year, this marked an impressive one-two for Taitt.
The champagnes in the £20-40 flight were all very, very close. There wasn’t one that really jumped out over the others. Michael Moore, Michael Moore Restaurant
Lallier Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV
£24.30 @ Boutinot Ltd
A sweet, fruit-driven peach and lemon nose backed up by plenty of oak. Finish is crisp, though, with just a whiff of exotic lychee perfume and some more savoury, Marmite characters. ‘Long, lingering and deep,’ mused Roger Jones
Ayala Brut Millesime 1999
£25.63 @ Mentzendorff & Co Ltd
Savoury autolysis character, with some development and a honeyed red apple-skin tone. ‘Baked apples, good balance and a nutty finish,’ said an approving Laura Rhys. Minerally and citrussy, with nice length.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 1999
£83.29 @ Hatch Mansfield
Restrained nose leads on to a palate of elegance and richness that builds beautifully over time. Lemon and yellow stone fruit character, with some brioche and sweet spice. Candied lemon peel finish. ‘Quite vinous, with elegance, intensity and complexity,’ said a delighted Olivier Gasselin.
Taittinger Brut Reserve NV
£20.73 @ Hatch Mansfield
Fresh, citrussy style with subtle red fruits and gentle autolysis. Medium weight, open and attractive. Good fresh, zesty apéritif-style champers.
De Venoge Blanc de Blancs 2000
£24.30 @ Boutinot Ltd
Fairly complex, yeasty style, with plenty of development and a well-integrated palate. ‘Would match well with creamy seafood and paella,’ said Louise Gordon.
Moutard 6 Cepages 2003
£26.65 @ Hallgarten Druitt
Red fruit and floral characters with some orange zest lift behind and a Braeburn apple finish.