As one of the co-founders and main judges of the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships, Essi Avellan MW is well placed to know the key changes and trends taking place in both the worlds of Champagne and sparkling wines around the globe, as well as share her personal views on what makes a good bottle of fizz and where you should go to drink one.
The judging process of the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships takes place from the end of the month, but what will the judges, including Essi Avellan MW, be looking for in the award winning wines?
How do you all know each other?
I have met both Tom Stevenson and Tony Jordan while judging Champagnes. Tom and I met for the first time when I had freshly passed my Master of Wine examination and he invited me to join the Decanter World Wine Awards Champagne panel based on a suggestion by Anthony Rose. Tony I met in the DWWA Champagne panel the year after. I instantly appreciated tasting with both of them, sharing similar quality parameters and always interesting discussions.
How did the idea of CSWWC come about?
Tom had long thought of establishing a sparkling wine competition but did not while he was involved with Decanter World Wine Awards. Soon after he created CSWWC and immediately asked Tony and me to form the panel with him.
What do you think you can do that other competitions can’t? Why do we need another wine competition?
The greatest asset of CSWWC is our single strong panel. All of us judges are sparkling wine specialists and we taste every single wine together, which does not happen in any other competition. From the very beginning CSWWC has been about excellence in sparkling wine and we are able to attract the finest sparkling wines in the world to the competition. This we believe is extremely valuable both for the consumer and the trade.
What for you stands out as an award winning Champagne/sparkling wine? What are you looking for?
For me, sparkling wines are about purity, elegance and vivacity, lightness yet intensity.
What do you see as the most important opportunities and challenges for
Champagne has to secure its place at the top of the sparkling wine pyramid in the future, too. Its biggest challenge is to improve the quality of its lesser wines.
* Sparkling wine
The world of sparkling wine is expanding rapidly with new regions and styles mushrooming. Sparkling wine consumption is growing world wide and the future looks bubbly indeed. It is exiting to be witnessing and influencing this. For instance we have awarded great sparkling wines from China, Serbia, Hungary and Chile.
Which countries do you think are doing the most exciting things with sparkling wine now and in to the future?
The development in England is fantastic but Italy is another country with great success with its high quality sparkling wines such as Franciacorta and Trentodoc.
What are your thoughts on the Prosecco phenomenon and its overall impact on sparkling wine?
I think the success of Prosecco will do good for the entire sparkling wine category expanding and widening the consumer base. My only concern is for Prosecco itself. I fear that it will become a victim of its own success, its too rapid and vast expansion.
What are your personal favourite styles of Champagne and sparkling wine?
I appreciate a great range of different styles. I am a great fan of blanc de blancs for their racy linearity and vintage rosés for their fine Burgundian tones.
Favourite bar to enjoy a glass of fizz?
Le Wine Bar by Le Vintage in downtown Reims. It is my living room in Champagne.
Pick three people from the trade or famous, influential people to share a glass of fizz with.
I’d love to share a glass of English sparkling wine with Richard Branson, Prince William and Hugh Grant.
Favourite Champagne and food match?
Krug Rosé and grilled veal entrecôte