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Winner Details

Champagne: NV

2014: Gold: 4; Silver: 11; Bronze: 10; Commended: 9
2013: Gold: 5; Silver: 10; Bronze: 6
Must-list index: 100%
Overall performance SWA 2014: B

The past couple of years have seen a strong performance from non-vintage Champers, and 2014 carried on the trend. The high proportion of Silver medals tells you that this is a category where our judges were struggling to limit the number of wines that they wanted to reward, and were choosing from a position of real strength in depth. And certainly, this is a category where it could well pay to sample some of the non-Gold medals, particularly if you’re on a budget.

Wines that were entered and failed to medal were usually deemed to be those where the dosage was a little clumsy – and rather too evidently covering up holes in the fruit quality. But after a string of naturally ripe vintages these were relatively rare – and certainly rarer than five years ago.

‘It was a very strong flight, allowing us to give Golds to different styles, ranging from lighter, aperitif styles, to richer, toastier wines,’ explained Fifteen Cornwall’s Gordon Lawrence. ‘It’s useful on the list to have at least a couple of NV styles, the lighter styles allowing people to carry through from more delicate aperitif to light starters such as salads and simple fish dishes, while richer styles work well with food, opening up a range of pairing possibilities.’

The search for a range of wines resulted in a good spread of prices for the Gold List, from a snip over £20 to £35, and in a spread of styles from classic NVs like the Devaux and the Heidsieck (a Gold-Lister last year too) through Drappier’s Zéro Dosage to Taittinger’s single vineyard cuvée, Folies de la Marquetterie. For the latter, it was sweet vindication of its quality, having been a strong Silver in SWA 2013.

Star performer

Taittinger, repeating its impressive 2013 performance of a Gold and two Silvers  – but with different wines. Terrific consistency.

From the Tasting Teams

‘Some of them had a bit too much dosage – they felt almost sweet. But mainly there was good intensity, fruit and flowery notes.’ Andrea Briccarello, Galvin Restaurants

‘The price was what it was – this is Champagne, after all.’ Luigi Buonanno, Etrusca Restaurants

‘The value here would mean we could afford to have different styles by the glass – but you have to get the staff behind this to ensure that the wines sell.’ Victor Amaro, Hotel du Vin Tonbridge Wells

‘It’s good to have NV Champagnes with good texture and the balance so they can work well with food and be flexible wines for the sommelier.’ Nicolas Clerc MS, consultant sommelier