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Champagne faces off against sparkling Riesling

Published:  07 May, 2024

Champagne’s supremacy was put through its paces last week when it went head to head with a ‘lost and forgotten world-class category’ of sparkling wines in a blind tasting.

Champagne’s challenger was the Mosel-based sparkling Rieslings of Dr. Enno Lippold, with 30 April’s Glass of Bubbly Show playing host to the session.

According to Lippold, Sparkling Hock and Sparkling Moselle was a leading category on a par with Champagne during Victorian and Edwardian times.

“Sparkling Rieslings were known to have widely triumphed at the world exhibitions in Philadelphia (1876), Melbourne (1880) and Paris (1900),” he said.

The masterclass, chaired by Christopher Burr MW, comprised a blind tasting of four sparkling wines. These were later revealed to be two Champagnes and two sparkling Rieslings from Lippold’s Ürzig Würzgarten estate: the Sparkling Moselle Riesling Brut 2019 and Crémant de Moselle Brut 2017, which faced off against a Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut NV and Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Brut 2014.

In an audience straw poll, the of Judgement of Paris style tasting concluded in an almost equal number of votes.

Very much in the Riesling camp, Matthew Whale DipWSET of London Wine Tasting said: “For me, these wines overshadowed the Champagne Ruinart NV Blanc de Blancs and Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs 2014, clearly demonstrating that Riesling-based sparkling wines… can not only compete with but surpass some of the greatest sparkling wines of the world.”

Praised for their minerality, elegance and balance, the modern wines of the Mosel hark back to a time when the style was at the height of its popularity fizz, hosts said.

For example, the 1901 wine list of The Savoy Hotel in London regularly featured Sparkling Hocks and Moselles priced equally with Champagnes including Charles Heidsieck, Roederer, Ruinart and Bollinger. Queen Mary’s own personal favourite tipple was the Deinhard Sparkling Moselle Green Foil, which she was known to have enjoyed regularly until her death in 1953.

Today, Riesling is a much harder sell. Beloved by the trade, consumers routinely sit somewhere between indifference and ignorance when it comes to discovering Riesling’s charms, with industry endorsements never quite helping the style to make the leap into the mainstream.

Nevertheless, Riesling remains highly regarded among leading critics including Oz Clarke OBE and Anne Krebiehl MW for its fresh acidity and finesse, which makes it suited to producing sparkling wines.