Champagnes on Parade – the biennial CIC Trade Tasting August 2009
Once every two years around the end of Winter, Sydney springs back to life in a sea of shimmering bubbles as the team at the Champagne Information Centre (the CIVC’s official representative in Australia) pull together a comprehensive trade day event across our gateway cities to showcase the current range of Champagne cuvees available on the Australian market.
As the importers and distributors of France’s finest fizz polish their shoes and smooth down their suit jackets to take up position in a 5 star ballroom devoid of any of the sparkly merchandise or social niceties usually associated with a Champagne experience (30 Houses from the grandest to the smallest are arranged cheek by jowl
around the space in alphabetical order) a steady stream of journalists, sommeliers, educators and retailers line up in an orderly fashion to sip and spit their way through a selection of 3 wines maximum per house over the course of an 8 hour tasting marathon.
It really is quite a spectacle to behold because what Champagne lover in their right mind would ever want to spit out 90 of the world’s best sparkling wines in quick succession – many attendees obviously feel its a criminal waste of great wine – so no wonder they feel obliged to swallow rather than spit.
Champagne really does have an amazing effect on the most sober personalities. Despite the best intentions over the years – even when I start before lunch and spit all the way – I have yet to manage to get around more than 75% of the Champagne houses in the room in one session. The heady fumes of all this fabulous fizz is enough to make me giddy with excitement. Under this ecstatic influence, at the end of a long afternoon of spitting, I always wish that it were possible to split this mammoth gustative event into 3 more manageable mini tasting sessions – non-vintage, vintage and rose – I’m sure we would all be able to much better appreciate the nuances of each individual Champagne.
Not that I’m complaining about this magnificent Champagne challenge -after all its my favourite event in the trade calendar. I thoroughly enjoy the flamboyant styles of the grand houses and admire their consistency of flavour and texture year in and year out (my favourites in no particular order are Louis Roederer, Gosset, Bruno Paillard, Charles Heidsieck, Lanson and of course Taittinger – recently voted Australia’s best sparkling in an expert blind tasting by Drinks Magazine) but my personal highlights from the 2009 tasting tend more towards celebrating the hard work of the smaller producers who have to rely on basic wine quality rather than branding and image quotient.