Vin de Champagne Reunion

I’ve just spent an amazing week in Champagne with 44 other former winners of the Vin de Champagne Award, on a 40th anniversary reunion trip.

The first-ever award winner, Jack Monti (pictured above singing), a former Sydney-based wine educator and wine judge now in his 80s, who won the professional section in 1974, was there hale and hearty and still with a full head of hair!

I won the professional section a decade later, in 1984. The other ‘laureates’, as the Champenois refer to them, covered just about every year of the competition between then and now, and all three sections: professional, amateur and student (the student no longer exists). We visited eight Champagne houses and the five days of perfect summer weather – warm, dry and sunny – were made to order, ending as rain began to fall at the precise moment the bus was leaving for Paris.

(Me with Daniel Lorson)

The group was thoroughly spoilt by the people at Krug (tastings), Charles Heidsieck (tastings), Louis Roederer (tastings), Pol Roger (tastings), Dom Perignon (tastings), Canard Duchene (tastings), and two new houses (to me at least): Collard-Picard and Maison Comtesse Lafond. And of course by the Comité Champagne itself. The laureates had to get themselves to France but once there, the Comité looked after us for four days. During that time we were given numerous presentations – and usually not the normal tourist spiel.

So I was impressed the day afterwards when I took my partner on her first visit to a Champagne house and to the legendary subterranean chalk pits (crayères) of Reims, to be treated to an outstanding presentation by Veuve Clicquot (tastings) tour guide Vincent (pictured above). His knowledge, of both historical details and production methods, his delivery and good humour were impeccable.

For 35 Euros each we had an hour-long tour of the crayères. Not cheap, but it did conclude in fine style with a generous glass of the smashing 2004 La Grande Dame (tasting).

Entries in the 40th Vin de Champagne Awards are due on July 11.

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