There were a total of 16 gold medals from the recently announced International Wines and Spirits Competition (IWSC) 2021 that judged Champagne. The 2012 vintage, one of the best vintages that champagne producers have seen in the last two decades, was a prominent place among the winners. These sparkling wines have an average of about 90 months of aging of bottles before they are released.
IWSC is the oldest competition for wine and spirits in the world. It is praised both for the quality of its judges; many of which are among the world’s leading authorities, and the extent of its wines and spirits judge.
The winners were an eclectic mix that featured both well-known Champagne houses such as Piper-Heidsieck and Palmer & Co, producer cooperatives and lesser-known and cheaper brands. The results provided convincing evidence that high quality and low price can go hand in hand.
The best rated Champagne was Rare Vintage 2008 Brut, 12% ABV, $ 179, from Piper-Heidsieck. The judging panel described it as:
An expressive smeared brioche nose, reduction of gunpowder smoke, red fruit and roasted almond and pistachio notes. The very precise and elegant Champagne has a penetrating acidity that emphasizes the long finish of lime peel, quince and apple.
Piper-Heidsieck had an impressive display and took 4 out of the 16 gold medals awarded. Also winning a gold medal was Rare Rosé Brut 2008, 12% ABV, $ 450, consisting of a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. The judging panel described it as:
Elegant aromas of toast, nuts and brioche, bright red berries burst into the palate supported by the smoky taste of flint. A long lingering finish and fine, generous mousse provide a superlative gastronomic experience.
En magnum af 1998 Rare gross, $ 221 and Cuvée Brut NV (non-vintage) were the other two gold medals for Piper Heidsieck. At an average price of around $ 45, Cuvée Brut NV is a unique value and among the cheapest of the gold medals in the Champagne category.
Palmer & Co, one of Champagne’s iconic producers, scored two gold medals, one for his Palmer Brut 2012$ 113, and one for its Palmer, Blanc de Blanc Brut, $ 82. Both wines are 12% ABV. The judging panel described Brut 2012 as:
Brilliant indulgence with a pronounced nose of green fruit and freshly baked brioche leading out to a palate filled with tropical fruits, cream and pastry. Full of depth with lively acidity and culminating in a triumphant fruity finale. Sensational.
Jacques Picard, Art de Vigna Extra Brut 2007, was another gold medal. It was described by the judging panel as “very full-bodied, yet with a balanced elegance and a long finish.” This wine is a blend of Chardonnay (60%), Pinot Meunier (20%) and Pinot Noir (20%). It is available in the United States but is generally difficult to find.
Jean Philippe Moulin, Brut 2012, $ 40, is part of the wine list distributed online by Naked Wines. For $ 40 per bottle, this is another unique value among Champagne Gold Medalists.
The official taste notes describe the wine as:
A rich biscuity and abundant nose of apricot, orange, fig, canned lemon, nougat character and balance with a wonderfully long finish.
Duval-Leroy, Gran Cru Blanc de Blanc, Brut NV, 12.5% ABV, $ 41, is another good prize Champagne that won a gold medal. The judging panel described it as:
A true gastronomic delight … showing layers of rich confectionery that is masterfully balanced and seamlessly integrated with light acacia and toasted hazelnut tones. A true crowd pleaser for the discerning and one who has great potential for bottle aging.
Lanson, Le Black Reserve Brut NV, 12.5% ABV, $ 56. Lanson is one of the oldest champagne houses in France, dating back to 1760. This is another non-vintage trade, and can often be found for under $ 40 per bottle. It is remarkable to have 45% a high percentage of reserve wines in the final blend.
The taste note from the judging panel described it as an exhibition:
Strong aromas of red apple tarte tatin, (an apple pie) lemon cheese and freshly baked brioche envelop the senses. Light linear freshness comes through to cleanse the palate with notes of citrus and flint. The toasty oak is well-judged, just glistening through on a salty, chalky finish.
De Saint-Gall Orpale Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut 2008, 12.5% ABV, $ 121, was described by the judging panel as:
An elegant, developed and versatile nose of figs, sour honey, salted almonds, pastry and a citrus undercurrent. The lively and confident palate is complex and focused with an elegant creamy texture with nutty and citrus notes.
Allouchery-Perseval Premier Cru Extra Brut 2012, 12.5%, $ 60. This is another gold medal champagne that can be hard to find in the United States, even if it is available. The judging panel’s official taste note described it as:
An expressive nose combines floral notes with ripe apple and pear fruit and opens out on honey-filled lemon, marzipan, spices and bread dough. A touch of bitter lemon adds depth to the excitement and freshness of the palate.
Maison Mumm RSRV 4.5 Grand Cru Brut NV, 12% ABV, $ 50, is another non-vintage gold medal. This sparkling wine is part of the Maison Mumm series. It’s a blend from the five different regions of Champagne that delivers grapes to Mumm’s sparkling wines. About 70% of the blend consists of grapes from Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards.
The official taste note from the judging panel described it as:
A lively mousse with fresh and fragrant aromas. Hints of sherbet, marshmallow, lemon (and a kind of lemon custard), mango, creamy peaches and ripe orange lead to a complex and accessible palate that has good complexity.
Nicolas Feuillatte, Palme d’Or Brut 2008, 12.5% ABV, $ 164. Nicolas Feuillatte is the brand name of the Champagne brand for one of the largest producer cooperatives. Founded in 1976, it is one of the largest producers of Champagne in France and a consistent medal winner. Over 5,000 growers deliver grapes to the cooperative’s flagship bottles.
The official taste notes described it as:
Fragrant, subtle notes of curry leaf lead on the nose of this fresh, bright Champagne. Cashew, lemon pie and baked apple pie braid together on a fruity and generous palate. Fine balanced, it drinks beautifully.
Co-op Les Pionniers Brut 2012, 12% ABV, is another bottling from a breeding cooperative in Champagne. The sparkling wine is actually produced at the Piper Heidsieck plant in Reims. This is a relatively inexpensive champagne, but it is also hard to find in the United States. In the UK, it generally sells for around $ 35 and is often discounted to under $ 30. It also has an enviable reputation for surpassing many of the best big marque champagnes.
The official taste notes describe it as:
A valid offering, this golden champagne offers layers of balanced flavors with notes of sweet biscuits, crepe pastry, yellow plum and honeydew melon. Hints of toasted brioche and incense provide depth and a defined, triumphant finish.
The last gold medal in the Champagne Duchy in 2021 was Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne NV12.5%. This is a store brand in the Tesco grocery chain. In the UK, it typically sells for around $ 25, but can occasionally be priced below $ 20. Probably the best value in Champagne, which is unfortunately not available in the US. Pity!