30 Dec 2016
Champagne Al Fresco
Mr Juhlin is author of seven books, including his most recent, A Scent of Champagne, which provides descriptions and ratings of 8,000 champagnes. Awarded the French Chevalier del Arc in 1997, Mr Juhlin is also a television host and consultant for various Champagne houses and speaks at major events around the world, including at last month’s HKTDC Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair.
Why drink Champagne outdoors?
It’s not about formal or informal tasting, it’s about enjoyment. For me, Champagne is serious, but the reason why it’s serious is because it’s a great wine – not because it is expensive. I have been tasting and drinking Champagne for 30 years and I do tastings all the time. At the same time, when I have enjoyed Champagne the most, it has been on vacation and bringing the perfect bottle to the perfect place. For fun, I started to experiment, for example in France by taking a couple of bottles up into the mountains with friends to see what Champagne tasted like there; those kinds of experiences were so great, combining nature with the Champagne.
Which is the best Champagne you have sampled?
Champagne has a certain chameleon effect compared to other wines. It is so complex. There are so many aromas that can interact with the environment. I have tasted 11,000 Champagnes, and the best bottle ever was a 1928 Pol Roger Grauves. The best over the past two decades was the Krug Clos du Mesnil.
What is your finest blind tasting moment?
I am proud of the famous 2003 tasting in Paris where I pinpointed 43 out of 50 different champagnes, while the runner-up had four correct answers. Blind tasting requires you to select the Champagne’s brand, producer and year. I am asked about the secret of Champagne tasting and I can only say I was born with a “photographic” sense of smell and, of course, hard training, passion and a lot of luck play their part.
How has your previous teaching background and sport help?
I was a physical education teacher and I think I have a huge advantage in being a former sportsman. The ability to be 100 per cent focused and the discipline of training are clear advantages in my work. My physical status is also more like a 38-year-old than the 54-year-old guy I actually am. Having been a teacher I think is also an asset when I conduct my lessons and speeches on so many different levels of wine education. I have received many awards but the most prestigious are my four “golds” for best wine book in the world – and of course my Legion of Honour order from the French president.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am now working on my eighth book and that is the best and most joyful to write. Again, it has to do with ambience because everybody knows ambience affects wine, so that no wine tastes the same outdoors and indoors, for example. This is a forgotten science and I have challenged myself on this. At the same time I travel to the best 100 places in the world to taste the best 100 Champagnes – so it’s a real labour of love. Incidentally, the concept of “champagne hiking’” is very much a contemporary trend. It’s a lot about travelling in a “nature-friendly” way, a sort of eco-tourism. Experiencing as much as possible in a certain setting is enhanced by the Champagne. Meanwhile, your sense of the Champagne is also much deeper than sitting in a tasting room where you have 10 different Champagnes in front of you.
What are your impressions of your time at the Hong Kong Wine and Spirits Fair?
The same theme of experimentation is also true at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair. I see people searching for new ideas. It’s in the air. When I come to Hong Kong – once or twice a year – I see that the education level on wine is really moving fast. Hong Kong’s market is large and connected to the rest of Asia, maximising demand for different tastes, and the 2016 Wine & Spirits Fair had over 1,060 exhibitors from 37 countries and regions.
“Champagne has the biggest potential market in Asia through Hong Kong, given its development as a regional “connector,” especially at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair.
Will Champagne be a new trend for Asia?
Champagne has the biggest potential market in Asia through Hong Kong, given its development as a regional “connector,” especially at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair. So, for example, Japanese food is the best in the world when taken with Champagne, while Cantonese cuisine is the best from China when enhanced with Champagne. I do see Champagne as the next big wave for wine purchases across East Asia – and the trend has already started. When Champagne is increasingly marketed through fairs such as the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair, there will be an explosion in demand.