A Hundred Years of Champagne at the Nobel Banquet

One of the biggest events of the year (in Sweden), the Nobel prize ceremony took place in Stockholm this week. It is always held on the 10th of December at the Blue Room in the City Hall. I am not all that interested in who gets the prizes (not more than other world news in general), however, it is fun to read up on what wines and food were served at the banquet. While browsing this years menu, I noticed that the Nobe Prizel-website has listed the banquet menus all the way from the first event in 1901. That’s over a hundred years of wine-history right there if one just has the energy to browse through. Off course I was so curious (crazy) that I did it. Talk about too much information. However I still used an hour to read through and list all of the champagnes in an excel-table. So here is a what I discovered – a short history of champagne at the Nobels:

Stadshuset
The City Hall in Stockholm is the venue for the Nobel ceremony. Picture: Michael Caven, michaelcavenphoto.com
Year 1901, the first Nobel banquet ever was held at the Grand Hotel of Stockholm  (which is still there) and the champagne served was Creme de Bouzy Doux et Extra Dry. A short google did not reveal what is the fate of this champagne today. If anyone knows, please share! This was followed by several years years of Mumm de Cramant. Not surprising as the 100% Chardonnay from Mumm is their best (at least to my opinion). Must have been somewhat sweeter at that time. After the Mumm-boom followed Louis Roederer and Chares Heidsieck until the war began in 1914 and the banquet was suspended for several years.

Throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century Champagne was generally much sweeter than it is today. The champagne served in the 20’s and 30’s were mainly cuvées described as Américain (“American taste”) or Sec, and contained from 110 to 165 grams of sugar per liter. Seriously, I prefer my bubbly less than 3 grams. It is amazing how sweet these were. I know it was the taste of that time, however I wonder if one really could taste the difference between good and poor quality grapes with that much added “dosage”.

In the 40’s there was several years of Nobel-silence due to the second World War (1939-1944). And after that champagne was not on the menu before 1950. Bordeaux reds seemed to be the trend accompanied by Port wine. The 50’s were nice and varied, the champagne changing every year. There were Deutz, Heidsieck, Eugene Barbier as well as Lanson champagnes on the menu. The trend seemed to turn towards dry (although who knows what Brut meant at that time).

In the 60’s someone clearly was fond of Pommery, as it was served every year until 1969 when someone had the sense to change to Krug. The early 70’s were a golden age of non-vintage Krug Private Cuvée (today known as Grande Cuvée). The Pommery-mania came back in the late 70’s followed by the early 80’s dominated by Mumm Gordon Rouge. In 1984 Möet & Chandon took over for all of nine (9) years.

In the mid-90’s another trend started – the trend of serving vintage champagnes. Mostly dominated (again) by Pommery, the Nobel-guests drank vintages from the 80’s until 2010. This is a slightly surprising turn as the beginning of the 90’s was a hard time for Sweden with a lot of people declaring personal bankruptcy, sky high unemploymemt and bank crisis. Good times followed after the Millenium for the economy as well as the Nobel champagne, Dom Perignon stepped in with vintages from the early 90’s (-92,-93 and -95).

In 2011 the Nobel champagne went entry-level again. However they have made some nice choices: Vve. Forny, Gaston Chiquet as well as the last two years: Tattinger. This year, however, the champagne of choice was again a vintage. A nice one as a matter of fact: Brut Milléssimé 2008 (wonderful year).

There, my short history of champagne at the Nobels. I must say it is not very exciting is it? Rather main stream I would say. It would be fun to hear who has been the one to select the wines. Does the selection mirror the preferences of the organizers, tastes of the Swedish Royals or perhaps just what is trendy at that time. It is of course possible that a company (importer perhaps) either pays or gives the champagnes for free. That would be quite cheap marketing as the Nobel champagne receives some media attention.  Whoever it is, they seem to be very fond of Pommery..

xx Soile

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