The success and credibility of any wine competition lies in the quality of the judges and how the wines are assessed. The Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships might only have three judges, but they are each at the very top of the game. We have heard previously from awards founder, Tom Stevenson and fellow judge Essi Avellan MW on judging Champagne and sparkling wines and now Dr Tony Jordan shares his insights on how the world of fizz has changed in his professional lifetime.
Dr Tony Jordan has enjoyed an illustrious career at the top of the sparkling wine world with his various roles with Moëtt Hennessey, Domaine Chandon, Cape Mentelle and Cloudy Bay. Years of experience that makes him one third of the judging team behind the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships.
How did you all know each other?
I met Tom many years ago in 1988, when he was on his first around the world trip (33 flights!). Tom had visited Chandon and I invited him to my home for dinner. He left my house at 1am very refreshed! I met Essi judging at the Decanter awards in London.
What do you think you can do that other competitions can’t?
This is the first exclusively sparkling wine international competition. Sparkling wine is often tacked onto the large number of still wine classes in wine shows and therefore doesn’t get the attention it deserves. By judging the CSWWC by country and/or region means the individuality of different sparkling styles of particular regions can be recognised and their excellence rewarded and applauded through the awards.
Unfortunately the wide range of world sparkling styles is not recognised, let alone understood by consumers, and this competition helps to remedy this situation.
This is not just another wine competition, is has a unique sparkling wine focus and aims, through its awards, to promote better understanding and appreciation of the world’s sparkling wine styles.
What for you stands out as an award winning Champagne or sparkling wine?
We judge by country and/or region and then by sub-category, be it varietal or within varietals or blends by style such as Blanc de Blancs, and then by Vintage or NV.
So within a category we are looking for appropriate fruit aroma and flavour modified and complexed by the winemaking and ageing process. We then look at how these characters transfer onto the palate, through the wine’s structure, its mid palate weight, length and overall balance.
How did you decide on the categories and the judging process?
First and importantly we judge each country or regions separately. This acknowledges the differences of style in different origins. Sparkling is anything but one thing. After that the determination of categories is fairly conventional. By varietal, by blend and then in varietal/ blend by accepted styles.
Wines can be entered both as 750ml bottles or as Magnums. We are not told which is which. But it makes for fascinating results with the Magnums normally doing better as they have more opportunity to develop.
Judging is totally masked and we have no information apart from the class description. It is conducted in silence and each judge tastes all the wines. Once we are all finished, points are called and then discussion starts. If there is disagreement wines can then be re-tasted. We then decide which wines deserve a medal and then, if needed, golds are determined by tasting again.
That is also what makes CSWWC different is that there is only one panel, so the judges taste all the wines entered.
What do you see as the most important opportunities and challenges for Champagne and sparkling wine?
The biggest challenge is education. Educating the wine drinking world that sparkling (all types) are not what you buy when you can’t afford Champagne. Within each origin there is real excellence that deserves to be appreciated the same way the same consumer appreciates the distinct differences between Bordeaux Cabernets and Napa Cabernets.
The biggest opportunity? Meeting that challenge.
Which countries do you think are doing the most exciting things with sparkling wine now and in to the future?
Now. Italy. The future. Many countries have great potential including Australia, New Zealand, USA, Italy, Spain and South Africa. In fact, almost any country with terroir suitable for fine wine.
What are your thoughts on the Prosecco phenomenon and its overall impact on sparkling wine?
Prosecco is fresh easy drinking sparkling style that should be appreciated for its varietal and regional origin. However consumers get into drinking sparkling wine and appreciating them is good for the overall category. Prosecco is helping to draw more consumers in to the category.
Prosecco consumers will go on to explore other origins of sparkling and will therefore help the growth of the whole category.
What are your personal favourite styles of Champagne or sparkling wine?
A Pinot Noir led Pinot Noir/ Chardonnay Brut blend with both yeast age complexity and finesse that carries very long and lingers on the palate
Favourite bar to enjoy a glass of fizz?
City Wine Shop ( yes it has a fizz bar) Spring St, Melbourne, Australia.
Favourite company to enjoy a glass of fizz with. Pick three people from the trade or famous/ influential people.
My wife Michele who knows her Champagnes. (The late) John Avery who was a great friend and fun to enjoy a glass with. My friend and colleague Richard Geoffroy who has such wild views on sparkling characters and structure that we have endless discussion when tasting together. Of course, Tom and Essi – when we taste together we inevitably revive the style debates of our judging.
Favourite Champagne and sparkling wine and food match?
A crisp, long, full flavoured Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Brut blend with Parmigiano-Reggiano ( or any somewhat salty hard cheese). Brut bubbles also go well with salty crisps!
- The entry process for the 2017 awards has now closed. Medal winners will be published by The Buyer in July with the Trophy and Best in Class winners announced at the annual CSWWC awards dinner in London on September 14, followed by a full report with The Buyer.
- Dr Tony Jordan’s career has seen him become managing director and winemaker for Moet Hennessy’s Domaine Chandon in the Yarra Valley in 1987, a role that soon expanded to include consulting to the Chandon wineries worldwide. He was appointed chief executive of Domaine Chandon, Cape Mentelle and Cloudy Bay NZ in 2003. In 2008 he ‘retired’ and established his consultancy business, Oenotec Pty Ltd. He now consults on red and white still and sparkling wine production across Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Asia.