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Terre de Vins Announces the Three Winners of the Best Old Vintage Awards Following the Very First International Blind Tasting Composed of Every Single One of the World’s Greatest Champagne Experts


Charles Heidsieck, Perrier-Jouët and Billecart-Salmon take top honours in the first-ever comparative tasting of Vintages 1988, 1989 and 1990 

24th May 2024 – Back on 11th February at Le Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in the heart of France’s Champagne region, France’s leading wine consumer magazine Terre de Vins brought together the world’s leading  champagne experts for a blind tasting of the legendary trilogy of vintages, 1988, 1989, and 1990. Chief judge Tyson Stelzer flew all the way from his home in Brisbane, Australia to spend just 36 hours in Champagne to have the chance to blindly evaluate 40 different wines from the fabled trilogy alongside  Peter Liem from the United States, Essi Avellan MW from Finland, Yuri Shima from Japan, Alberto Lupetti from Italy, Tom Hewson from the United Kingdom, Jeannie Cho Lee MW from Hong Kong, Andreas Larsson from Sweden, David Morin from France, and Terre de Vins editorial director Sylvie Tonnaire and deputy editor Yves Tesson.  

The idea was the brainchild of Xavier Mayran de Chamisso and Yves Tesson from Terre de Vins who worked together to convince 40 of the most prestigious houses and growers to open their cellars to  donate the rare bottles that eventually were evaluated as part of the first edition of Terre de Vins Best Old Vintage Awards. According to Yves Tesson: “In order to judge each one of these bottles fairly and accurately, this tasting had to take place in Champagne with each bottle coming directly from the producers’ cellars. I also knew that I needed to create a panel of the world’s most accomplished champagne experts from 9 different countries. This was the very first time in history that each one of these individuals was in the same place at the same time – and for a truly unique tasting that had never  been organized before.” 

Last night at an opulent gala dinner at The Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris’ 8th arrondissement, the three top winners were revealed: Charles Heidsieck La Collection Crayères 1989 en Jéroboam, Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque 1988 en Magnum, and Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François 1990.  

Essi Avellan MW from Finland says she jumped at the chance to participate in this tasting back in February and is delighted that the results are finally in the public domain: “I loved that Terre de Vins wanted to take an international viewpoint for the Best Old Vintage Awards, gathering this highly compatible group of brilliant champagne and wine experts from around the world. Sparkling wines are a special wine category, for which I consider it important that they are tasted by experts in the field. That’s why I was quick to say yes when I got the invitation! I enjoyed sharing with my esteemed colleagues from different corners of the world and different areas of work. Hardly ever do you get such  a great wealth of champagne expertise in one room!” 

According to Australia’s Tyson Stelzer: “Of the three vintages in this line up, we would have all put money on 1988 going the distance more confidently than 1990 and the warmer 1989 harvest, and we would have all tipped recently disgorged magnums as the standouts. When the results came in after a long day of tasting, the biggest surprise in the trends was that there were no trends! Our group top 20 featured nine wines from 1990, four from 1989 and seven from 1988, nine in bottle, nine in magnum and both of the jeroboams submitted, spanning the full spectrum of disgorgement dates, from as early  as 1994 to as late as January 2024!”  

The UK’s Tom Hewson added: “I think the connection to Champagne is obviously especially strong at Terre de Vins, and the carefully considered approach to celebrate ageing potential, rather than run the tasting like a scored or ranked competition, encouraged a great deal of very rare and treasured entries direct from the maisons. I’m not sure there’s ever been such a gathering – the combined wealth of experience is something truly unique. Despite all the individual experience though, what was most  remarkable is how often we came together on our views on most of the wines.” 

Japan’s leading champagne expert Yuri Shima added: “I was honoured to be included in this truly unique tasting. As the third biggest export market for Champagne, the Japanese market is unique with a focused interest on high-end categories such as prestige cuvees and older vintages. At the same time, the Japanese market is very diverse and it’s incredible to find amazing bottles from small grower producers who produce only tiny quantities!”  

The top 20 winners from the Best Old Vintage Awards competition each donated a selection of bottles to be featured at an auction organized by Hart Davis to raise money for the UNESCO mission in Champagne, specifically to continue to restore the region’s fabled Gallo-Roman chalk cellars (“crayères”) that have existed for more than two-thousand years.  

On Saturday 25th May, Terre de Vins will host the eighth edition of their annual Champagne Tasting at Palais Brongniart in Paris’ 2nd arrondissement. One of the highlights of this year’s event will be a master class led by Tesson on Saturday evening featuring Séverine Frerson from Perrier-Jouët and Mathieu Rolland from Billecart-Salmon as they share glasses of the very top winners of the Best Old Vintage  Awards with a select group of champagne fanatics.