Bubbles in his head
Surdoué du champagne, Richard Juhlin sait en reconnaître tous les arômes. (en anglais)
Richard Juhlin is a gifted man: his ability to remember each and every specific scent in champagnes is truly exceptional. And he has tasted more bubblies than anyone could dream of. His career in tasting is rather unusual: he was first a sport teacher in Sweden, his homeland. But ever since champagne took the major part of his life in the 1990s he has published several books about it, including ‘The Champagne Guide’ in 2008, and ‘The Scent of Champagne‘ in 2012.
Such is his passion that he designed his own champagne glass, to improve the release of the aromas and to let the bubbles show their best qualities. And he was lucky enough to taste bottles of 1840s champagne found in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea in July 2010. Over a chilled glass of champagne, he discusses his love for bubbles.
Pluris – Sweden has long been famous for its tough state monopoly on alcohol sales – not exactly the place to become the world’s foremost champagne connoisseur! How did you happen to be interested in champagne?Richard Juhlin – When I was a kid travelling with my father he taught me a lot about the qualities of German wines. I understood at an early age I had a special gift for distinguishing good wines from others, as if I was born with some kind of topographic sense of smelling memory, and a special feeling for blind tasting. I tasted my first champagne when I was 7 or 8: I loved its bubbles and the feeling they gave. Years later with a friend we planned to bring a bottle of champagne to a party. Drinking it was almost a religious experience, I said to myself ‘I want to know everything about this’, and I did not even go to the party! Instead I went to Champagne, bought up a few bottles, and read every book about them. It all started from that.
How many champagnes have you tasted to date?8,200, the last 200 since July 1st! I soon started to write small poems about every wine I tasted. Later on I published books, the latest one ‘The Scent of Champagne’ containing tasting notes of all 8,000 I have sipped. I was really eager to taste the 8000th to get the book done, and I did it both at home and at dinners with great chefs. I keep updating my website with my newest tastings.
What remarkable pairings of champagne and food have you experienced ?There are so many great combinations that work well with champagne through the course of a dinner! Due to its acidity and its wide spectrum of taste champagne is often the perfect choice for pairing. A dark powerful one, for instance, is a perfect companion for main creamy dishes, whereas aperitif-style bubbles pair with light starters. Chardonnay-based youthful champagnes with higher acidity combine perfectly with shellfish and caviar, but also with asparagus, supposedly unfit for wine. Oak barrelled pinot noirs are incredible with cheese. And Asian cuisine, Japanese but also Chinese, offers fabulous opportunities for pairing. Just one rule to remember: the stronger the flavours, the less chance the pairing will work.
You tasted 1840s champagne found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. How did you feel ?The Aland Islands Government asked me how to treat the bottles. Later on I could taste it and I was charmed by its very powerful bouquet and mature aroma, almost of cow cheese, Brie or Vacherin, combined with a liqueur-like sweetness. The most striking thing was the astonishing freshness of the wine, which compares favorably to some of the best champagnes today. It was incredibly moving.
Tasting notes about champagneChampagne Club
Crédits photo : Droits réservés, Christian Liliendahl
Article paru dans le numéro #26 FACETTES
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