I am a bit late to the party here, but better late than never. Grand Champagne, my favorite wine event of the year is coming, and it is time to book tickets – at least for the amazing Master Class tastings, held by some of the greatest winemakers in the region. The event is held in the center of Helsinki, from the 19th to the 21st of April, and is one of the biggest gatherings of Champagne houses in Europe. I would say that only events held in the French wine region its self can compare.
Just a few details of the basics: an entry tickets to the event costs 18€ in advance and 20€ from the door. To enjoy the champagnes you need to buy vouchers 2.5€ a piece. Different champagnes, depending on quality and producer, cost a different number of vouchers. A basic cuvee might be from one to two vouchers, and a nice vintage from 10 to 15. The event is held at the old Student house, smack in the center of the city. Its a really nice space for the event, but gets quite crowded during the busiest hours from 5 to 7 pm.
The list of producers attending the event is impressive. Fifty different champagne houses, and many of the very well known: from the biggest of all Möet & Chandon, or more precisely their premium brand Dom Perignon, to small artisan producers, the rock stars of Champagne: Jacques Selosse, Egly-Ouriet, Savart and Leclert Briant. Some of last years favorites are there as well: Besserat de Bellefon and De Sousa.
During the event, the visiting producers also hold Master Classes – exclusive wine tastings of the houses range, including some vintages that are hard to come by. Last year we attended Palmer & Co. tasting through of the standard cuvee and three different vintages, my favorite being the 1985 Magnum. We also attended the Heidsieck tasting with five different champagnes, including a 1982 vintage Jeroboam. However, we actually made a bit of a mistake last year, booking the master classes for the same day as the press event, as well as only one hour apart from each other. We left the event somewhat tipsy. You don’t spit out a 1982 Heidsieck even if you are fall over drunk (we weren’t, but it was about the last bit of alcohol I could take).
This years Master Classes still have quite a lot of space. Only the Dom Perignon tasting is fully sold out, so there is still good time to book places. After a quick check of the list of wines featured in the tastings, my favorites are the Pol Roger Master Class with five different vintages of their premium range Winston Churchill: and the Andre Clouet Master class with a non vintage (NV) from 1911. Wow! That bottle is over hundred years old – I wonder how sweet it tastes. The tastings cost from 35 to 130€, depending on the house and which champagnes are included – looking at whats on the menu, the prices are pretty logical.
An addition to this years event is the Grand Champagne dinner, where parties of minimum 8 people, can book a table hosted by one of the cellar masters. I would really like to have dinner with Gilles Descotes from Bollinger. The food will be prepared by the master chef from Savoy.
All in all, Grand Champagne is one of the best bubbly wine events in the world. So even if you don’t take any classes, there is surely some great champagnes there, that cannot be found in any restaurant around – at least not by the glass and not for these prices. Some of the rarest bottles are opened at a specific time, so it is good to be time conscious and look at when they are available. Additionally, I enjoyed chatting with the cellar masters and owners themselves, that were manning their stands at least when the press was there. I saw them hanging around later on as well, so it is a great opportunity to hear their thoughts on wine making – if you are a geek like me. Last year, most of the material was in Finnish, so lets see how it is now. But regardless of these minor flaws, I recommend going.
The event is organized by some of the best known wine personalities in Finland: Master of Wine Essi Avellan, and Taru and Christian From from Ceesta Oy.