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Simply the best

by Tom Stevenson, 06/04

When this was originally published in Harper's Wine and Spirits Champagne Supplement in March 2004, I was fairly pleased with the past, present and future coverage of Champagne's winemakers, many of whom are completely unknown to members of the wine trade. However, I quickly turned a deep shade of purple when Dee Blackstock MW (Waitrose) casually mentioned at the Annual Champagne Tasting that she was surprised not to see Daniel Thibault mentioned in my article.

Dee knew only too well how greatly I had respected him, and I must have sounded like Victor Meldrew because I simply could not believe it! When I was first asked to write this piece, Neil Beckett, the supplement's editor, asked me for a list of winemakers for Jon Wyand to photograph, and so much was Daniel Thibault an integral part of my plans for this article that I wrote "As for pix, one he cannot take is Daniel Thibault, but I cannot write this piece without mentioning the maestro blender. No doubt Charles Heidsieck can provide one. I will meander in and out of the 'all-time greats', mentioning successors and predecessors, thus for Thibault, I will be mentioning Régis Camus, who made the extraordinarily good 1987 when he was at Jacquart."

As paradoxical as it may sound, I think it was because I assumed from the very start that he would feature, that I never thought about him when I was trying to work out who to include. Suffice to say that Daniel Thibault demonstrated a greater consistency of house style through his Mis en Cave than any other chef de cave I know. The consistency from year to year is uncanny, not just when they are released, but in the way they evolve. All of them. The same. It's remarkable. Régis Camus is without doubt a very good winemaker, but he will have his job cut out following him. Frankly, I don't think anyone will be able to repeat the feat, but I shall be very happy if Régis does.

In the meantime, my humblest apologies to Champagne Charles Heidsieck for missing out one of the 'all-time greats'. I hope this clarifies the situation for Dee Blackstock and anyone else who might have been as puzzled when this article was first published, and I hope that through wine-pages a wider audience will enjoy discovering a few of Champagne's hidden secrets.

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