Best Bottle Award: 13 sparkling wines tasted blind in Lech in the Austrian Alps, as hotels in this gastronomic hotspot fight it out

Best Bottle Award: 13 sparkling wines tasted blind in Lech am Arlberg in the Austrian Alps

Lech am Arlberg is a ski resort in the Austrian alps, but it’s also a major gastronomic destination. Considering Lech only has a year-round population of 1500, it has some amazing restaurants with very deep cellars, and one of the most popular genres of wine here is bubbles of all sorts – but especially Champagne.

I’m here as part of the Arlberg Weinberg, a wine festival in the resort (see here). Among the events taking place I was invited to be on the jury of the Best Bottle Awards. Hotels and restaurants submit what they think is perhaps their best or most interesting bottle (or bottles) of fizz, and the field is narrowed down to 13 for the jury to judge. There were 32 of us tasting, including the finalists (whose votes were considered separately). We tasted completely blind, not knowing the identity of the wines and were each asked to give a score out of 100.

Here are my notes exactly as written blind, with the original score, and my ranking, and the overall jury ranking in brackets

Champagne Tarlant Rosé Zero Brut Nature NV France
50% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, 6% Pinot Meunier. Base wine 2013 with 25% reserve wines, disgorged January 2019 after 5 years on lees with no dosage. Pale pink. Has a fine, toasty, linear fruity nose. The palate is taut and intense with fine spiciness. Very lively and precise with a nice dryness and some lovely fine toasty hints. Really serious. 94/100 (my ranking 2=, group ranking 9)

Schloss Gobelsburg Blanc de Blancs Brut NV Kamptal, Austria
This is from mahnum. Chardonnay, Welschriesling and Gruner Veltliner, 3 years on lees. This has an open pear, apple and peach nose with lots of ripe fruit. The palate is dry and taut with lovely pear and citrus fruit. Fruit dominant with keen acidity and quite tart on the finish. 89/100 (my ranking 13, group ranking 12)

Tenuta Corte Pavone Le Perle di Pavone Extra Brut NV Tuscany, Italy
Sangiovese with 47 months on lees, 1 g/l dosage. Has distinctive aromas of wax and hazelnut with pithy citrus fruit. The palate is compact, taut and linear with nice acidity and lovely focus, and a waxy, pithy finish. Very distinctive. 91/100 (my rank 11, group rank 13)

Champagne Bertrand-Delespierre Pinots des Terres Amoureuses 2013 France
70% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir, 7 g/l dosage. Really distinctive nose showing lovely toast, spice and nut aromas. Distinctive with a savoury dimension evident. The palate is overtly toasty and bold with lots of savouriness, showing some development. A distinctive savoury wine with nice brightness and juicy acidity. 92/100 (my rank 8=, group rank 7)

Agrapart & Fils Terroirs Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV France
40% reserve wines, disgorged August 2020 after four years on lees. This has a very fine nose with crystalline citrus and subtle toasty notes. The palate is taut and linear with a little salinity. Lovely focused fruit here, showing freshness and poise. Tastes like a really good Blanc de Blancs. 94/100 (my rank 2=, group rank 8)

Champagne Moët et Chandon Grand Vintage 1995 France
50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Meunier. Very intense lime cordial nose with some bright fruit and also some pithy hints. Very distinctive. The palate shows lime, pear and citrus with a touch of toastiness and even a hint of honey. So distinctive with real intensity, but it’s a very unusual wine. 90/100 (my rank 12, group rank 11)

Champagne De Venoge Princes Bland de Noirs Brut NV France
Pinot Noir, 48 months on lees, dosage 6 g/litre. Very bright and linear with lime and lemon and even some green hints. The palate is bright, pure, zippy and has high acidity. Very focused and linear with a sense of transparency and purity. 92/100 (my rank 8=, group rank 10)

Champagne JM Sélèque Partition 7 Parcelles Extra Brut 2015 France
Fine chiselled citrus nose with some herbal hints, as well as some lime pith. The palate has nice sweet toasty framing to the direct, pure citrus fruit. Bright and intense with real purity, and a taut crystalline quality. 93/100 (my rank 5=, group rank 5)

Champagne Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2008 France
Hazelnut and apple on the nose. Pristine on the palate with some apple crumble character and appealing taut lemony fruit. Nice focus here with a touch of marzipan on the finish. Some cherry too. 93/100 (my ranking 5=, group rank 2)

Champagne Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Millésime Brut 2008 France
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. Apple, marzipan and honey on the nose, showing some richness. The palate is focused and linear with cherry and almond, as well as fine spiciness. Broad and harmonious with apply richness but also lovely balance and acidity. 94/100 (my rank 2=, group ranking 4)

Champagne Ulysse Collin Les Pierrières Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 2017 France
Very fine, forward, appealing with delicate toastiness. Fine citrus fruit with a touch of white peach. The palate is very fine and pure, showing delicate, taut citrus fruit. Juicy and focused with a nice tapering finish. 92/100 (my ranking 8=, group ranking 3)

Champagne La Closerie Les Béguines Extra Brut 2013 France
94% Pinot Meunier with the balance Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Complex with rich apple, hazelnut and spice on the nose as well as a bit of tinned pear. Rich palate with some depth, showing development as well as notes of apple and fine toast. Has a nice evolution with a fresh, dry finish and even a touch of marmalade. 92/100 (my ranking 8=, group rank 6)

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2008 France
10 years on lees. Creamy nose with some subtle baby vomit notes as well as honeycomb and butterscotch. The palate is vivid and crystalline, showing intense sweet fruit and fine toastiness. Showing some development, this is serious with generosity and depth. 95/100 (my rank 1, group rank 1)

The winning hotels were (1) Burg Hotel with their Comtes; (2) Burg Vital Resort with their Winston and (2) Hotel Almhof with their Ulysse Collin.