Blue Pyrenees crowned champion sparkling of Australia

Aussie wines did well in the inaugural Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championship, winning 10 gold medals. The tally was third only to France and England (yes, England!).

The somewhat unexpected winner of champion wine of Australia was 2010 Blue Pyrenees Midnight Cuvée Blanc de Blancs (tasting), a $35 wine from the Pyrenees region in Victoria. This was something of a boilover, as it beat nine other Australian gold medallists, beating such decorated wines as 2004 House of Arras Grand Vintage (tasting) and 2002 House of Arras E.J. Carr Late Disgorged (tasting), as well as 2001 Clover Hill Cuvée Prestige Blanc de Blancs and 2010 Coldstream Hills Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay.

A bigger boilover was a £24.99 supermarket Champagne that scooped one of the major prizes at the CSWWC: the champion vintage blend. The wine was 2004 Champagne Les Pionniers Brut, which is sold by an English co-operative supermarket, The Co-operative Food (www.co-operativefood.co.uk/), and is produced by Piper-Heidsieck (tastings). It won three trophies: best supermarket Champagne, best vintage blend and best value Champagne. In the vintage blend category, it was competing with vintages (but not prestige cuvées) produced by many of the great Champagne houses. The victory is another feather in the already very feathery cap of Piper’s chef de cave, Regis Camus.

The competition is, at least in theory, potentially the most significant sparkling wine competition in the world, as it pits sparkling wines from the entire globe against each other and is judged by three renowned experts: English writer Tom Stevenson (who conceived the competition), Australian Dr Tony Jordan, who helped set up Domaine Chandon Australia (tastings) and is a former chief executive of LVMH’s sparkling wine ventures in Australasia and the Americas, now a consultant; and Finland’s Essi Avellan MW, a wine writer and Champagne specialist who edits FINE Champagne magazine.

Blue Pyrenees winemaker Andrew Koerner said “We were overwhelmed when we heard the news. Making great sparkling is a long-term endeavour and we have the greatest respect for the winemakers in Australia who make the very best.

“The Midnight Cuvée is a Blanc de Blancs that we made for the first time in 1992. The chardonnay is always sourced from the Blue Pyrenees Estate vineyard with the finest fruit selected on-vine and then harvested at midnight for optimal fruit conditions. The wine spends a minimum of three years on lees, resting in an on-site cave designed by our founders.”

Grant Burge NV Sparkling Shiraz Cabernet won world champion sparkling red, in what I assume was a small class. It’s a gold-medal wine nonetheless.

More than 650 wines from 16 countries were entered with 185 wines winning silver or gold medals. Top wine of the competition, dubbed Supreme World Champion, was 2002 Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé, which also won champion prestige cuvée.

English gold medals included two each to Nyetimber and Plumpton Valley, and English champion wine was 2009 Digby Estate Reserve Brut.

The results were released on September 4 in England. www.champagnesparklingwwc.co.uk/

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