The Class of… 2019
We take a look back at some previous courses, we remember the candidates, events from the year and bring together some personal memories from the most exceptional experience offered in Wine Education.
With the course suspended this year due to COVID-19, our thoughts are with the group of candidates who were due to become our Class of 2020 and will have to wait another 12 months to create their own memories.
So we spoke to the most recent cohort to graduate to the Champagne Academy. A studious group, they were met at St. Pancras with a Champagne send-off by past-Chairman Marcus Little before enjoying the highlights of the course that, as with most years, include special meals together in some incredible locations.
Alice Archer took the reins of the committee in February 2019 with Champagne Ruinart, celebrated for its venerable use of Chardonnay, as the annual Presidential House. Caroline Fiot represented Ruinart superbly and was present at all events working closely alongside Alice as they hosted some fantastic dinners, including our flagship London event held at the impressive Bvlgari Hotel in Knightsbridge.
The Champagne Academy Gazette is published annually as a review of the previous year and it is sent to all of our subscribers. In the 2019 Gazette, Frederic Panaiotis of Champagne Ruinart reflected on the year describing the course as “intense as always, under the sign of passion, discovery, learning and sharing.”
The vintage report for 2019 declared “an exceptionally great vintage.” Following a scalding heatwave in the summer that, unusually, cost Champagne almost 11% of the harvest potential, perfect conditions greeted harvest-time. A noticeable element of 2019 is the shortening of the time between flowering and the harvest, which was around 81 days. Substantially shorter than the 92 days on average over the past decade.
Julie Dupouy from Chapter One Dublin - Winner of the Golden Magnum
Tim Triptree MW
Alice Archer was Chair of the Academy in 2019
Tim Triptree MW
The Champagne Academy 2019 was incredible with so many highlights it is difficult to select a few. From meeting the fellow Academicians at Kings Cross Champagne bar for the Eurostar, to arriving in Champagne at the stunning Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa for the first evenings reception on the terrace overlooking the vineyards and Epernay in glorious sunshine, up to the final lunch at L’Assiette Champenoise on another warm sunny day in the hotel’s garden and an incredible Michelin starred meal matched with superlative Champagnes including Cristal 2008, Comtes de Champagne Rose 2007 and Dom Ruinart BdB 200. Each visit was fantastic; lunch at the historic and beautiful Trianon with Moet and tasting MCIII, tasting at Laurent Perrier including Grand Siecle No.24, dinner at Pol Roger with Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 2008, dinner at the Moulin de Verzenay with Mumm, drinking Cuvee R. Lalou 1999 and practicing sabrage with a stunning sunset overlooking the vineyards. Dinner at Veuve Clicquot and playing babyfoot after dinner, a fantastic tasting at Charles Heidsieck back to 1989 from jeroboam with Stephen Leroux, and tasting a superlative 1979 with Herve Dantan at Lanson, lunch at Pommery with Les Clos Pompadour 2004, lunch at Perrier Jouet drinking vintages of Belle Epoque, dinner at Bollinger including R.D. 2004, tasting Krug 2004, Grand Cuvee 160 & 167th editions with Olivier Krug and lunch and listening to music in a dark room drinking Krug, a dinner at Ruinart with Dom Ruinart Rose 2004, visit and tasting at Piper Heidsieck, including Rare 2002, lunch with Taittinger drinking Comtes 2007, visit and tasting at Louis Roederer – I am salivating reminiscing about the delicious meals and outstanding champagnes we had……. We had a lot of fun and I met some great people on the course, especially in the Glue Pot late at night! Ruinart the Presidential House took amazing care of us, and special thanks to Frederic Panaiotis, Caroline Fiot and the team at Ruinart and of course to all the Houses that made this trip so memorable. The only thing is that I wish I could repeat the whole week over again!
Being invited to attend to the Champagne Academy week was not only an incredible experience but also a wonderful opportunity to get to understand better the DNA of each House, their histories, their styles, their personalities. I have never tasted that many different Champagne wines in such a short amount of time before and I think this will probably never happen again. The problem with Champagne is that it is a dangerous and expensive hobby - the more you taste it, the more you love it and you could easily get used to drinking a glass of Champagne every day!
Apart from the tastings, the classes and presentations given each morning by the different houses were super - in depth explanations of what makes Champagne what it is, from the terroir, the grapes, winemaking, bottling, marketing, etc. There is a lot to learn during the week, but it is really worth it!
Now, obviously the lunches, dinners and visits were incredibly special too. For me one of the funniest moments of the trip was when some of us were offered to learn how to sabrage a champagne bottle - one of the options offered as an alternative to a blade being a mini ski!! Some of the visits were magical - Getting to see one of the plots of the Vieilles Vignes Francaises by Bollinger was one of them. The art museum within the Pommery cellars was really impressive too and felt very privileged to get to a drink glass of Krug Rose surrounded by some music in a yurt!
I wish you I could join you every year! Thank you so much again, it was a fabulous week.
It was one of the best educational trips of my life, it still gives me happy thoughts, especially now, during this grey time of the lock-down.
We were a group of young, dynamic people with a big thirst for knowledge. I felt the pressure of the competition but the best way to give thanks to the Academy for the amazing hospitality we received in each and every Champagne House was just to learn as much as possible.
From the surreal cellar of Pommery to the music experience in Krug, the lightshow in Reims and the sneaky bottle of champagne in The Glue Pot, I enjoyed every single moment.
We had the most amazing food and with us was one of the best piano players I’ve ever met, Daniel, who played and added to the amazing atmosphere in Möet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot during our meals, it was amazing!!!
Big thanks once again to our fantastic host Caroline Fiot and all the Champagne House teams behind the experience.
As far as a few words go about the course; I honestly struggle to pinpoint any highs or lows, the entire week was a spectacular experience. I feel so incredibly fortunate that I joined a group of such fantastic individuals; I think we were a great balance of fun and studious! If I had to pick a top 5 of experiences from the week (in no particular order) they would be; our morning lecture and tasting at Charles Heidsieck, drinking Krug Rosé 23eme Édition in a yurt after a wonderful lunch, the most beautiful cellars and dinner at Ruinart, our evening spent at Hotel du Marc drinking Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée Rosé 1989 vintage and playing table football, and then finally the dinner at Moulin de Verzenay with Mumm where we learnt the art of sabrage and watched the sunset before heading to the Reims Cathedral light show.
The exquisite food, Champagne and attention to detail were remarkable throughout the week. Everything was so expertly planned by the team at Ruinart, and it was so refreshing to see all of the Houses working together! It is bittersweet to reminisce on such an amazing week; it was one of the best I have experienced however it is heart breaking to know it is never to be repeated! I will always cherish the memories of that week and the lasting friendships and connections that I have made and consider myself so lucky to be a part of the Champagne Academy.
Alice Archer – Chairman 2019
The team at Ruinart did an outstanding job organising the 2019 course, in particular Caroline
Fiot and Alice Brunet, making it exciting, different, and relevant. I joined the group on Friday
morning at Lanson, and all were full of praise for the experiences they had had so far.
Having seen the number of photographs pinging around on the houses and candidates
Whatsapp group I felt like I’d been with them the whole way! After Lanson, we moved on to
lunch at Taittinger where I got to know the candidates better, then a tour and tasting at
Louis Roederer (the size and intricacy of those barrels always amazes me!), and finally on to
GH Mumm. Lunch at Mumm’s Moulin de Verzenay had been one of the highlights when I
was on the course, so it was wonderful to return there in the evening with the new cohort.
The views truly are spectacular, and there was a great novelty when all were invited out to
the balcony to have a group photograph taken by drone.
From the moment I arrived I had been bombarded with questions about the exams – where
was everyone on the leader board, what was the final tasting exam like, and most
importantly would they pass? Someone had clearly put the fear of God into the 2019
candidates and they had all heard the story of the standout candidate from my own vintage
who was to be found in the karaoke bar in Reims in the early hours of Saturday morning.
This was widely acknowledged as a bad move, and results in those final exams meant the
silver ice bucket was not to be theirs. Sometimes I wonder whether the houses place bets
on which candidate will win – this was a sure case of falling at the final hurdle. Anyhow,
Friday night was consequently a relaxed one with the candidates favouring a few bottles of
top end fizz as a celebratory treat than the customary pints of beer. This was a studious
group, and the calibre of candidates was such that we really did not have any idea who the
Silver Ice Bucket winner would be until the final exam scores were added up and sorted.
There were five candidates within three points of each other, but Julie Dupouy nudged into
the lead on that last day and was lauded as a worthy winner by all.
Lunch at 3 Michelin Starred L’Assiette Champenoise was the perfect way to send the
candidates off and celebrate their successful week of Champagne immersion.
It was brilliant to see so many of them at the 2020 AGM and Vintage Tasting, and I look forward too many more years of involvement from this enthusiastic, Champagne loving bunch.