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Annual Champagne Tasting re-imagined with new name, venue and format

Published:  06 February, 2017

The event formerly known as the Annual Champagne Tasting is officially returning to London with a new venue and new name.

Following the story broken by Harpers last week and subsequently reported by the trade press that the event would be returning, we can confirm that the annual tasting organised by the UK Champagne Bureau has been rebranded as The Official #Champagne Experience Day and will returning to the capital on March 29.

The new format will set up shop in the famous art and design college Central Saint Martins in King's Cross, moving from its home for the past two years in Westminster's One Great George Street.

The event, which is rapidly approaching, will also introduce masterclasses hosted by experts from the region, the details of which are to follow at a later date.

Speaking to Harpers this morning, director Francoise Peretti said that the new venue did not denote a new direction for Champagne.

Instead, she said the new venue and format reflects the modern needs of the region.

"London has many venues but it doesn't quite have the blank canvas venues that New York has which are large, contemporary with lots of natural light and no pillars. But Central St Martins has all of that so we were very lucky they are able to accommodate us.

"Champagne is modern and at the same time has a tremendous heritage and the new venue meets that criteria."

The re-fresh comes after long deliberations between the Comité Champagne, its UK office, the Champagne Agents' Association (CAA) and members of the trade to reinstate the event, following previous plans to skip 2017: "We've been reviewing the format and the event," Peretti explained, "because after you've done something for 20 years, it's a good idea to stop and reflect.

"We've had very fruitful conversations with the comité and the CAA, and also the reaction from the UK has showed that they love this event. It was a good opportunity to revamp it and to make it more relevant."

The outcry following the announcement that the event would be halted in 2017 was led by Andrew Hawes, chairman of the CAA.

Hawes, who is also managing director of Mentzendorff & Co. welcomed the event's return.

"Following fruitful and constructive discussions with the Comité Champagne, I am very pleased that they have decided to reinstate the Annual Champagne Tasting in London.

"It is extremely important that Champagne remain active in its largest export market, where increasing competition is being seen from alternative sparkling wines, and that the industry benefits from the status of London as a global shop window for 'brand Champagne'," he said.

The new format will keep individual brand tables, which will stand alongside expanded themed central tables reflecting specific styles of interest in the market: vintage, rosé and a third undecided category.

Traditionally, the tasting has featured vintage and non-vintage tables in the centre of the room, but the decision was taken to highlight the importance of three styles having a particular impact on the UK market.

"Vintages are very important for sommeliers and the on-trade, and rosé has definitely become huge market for the UK.

"It was thought that the we shouldn't replicate the non-vintages on the central table with those on the individual tables; on the central table we thought we should highlight the three styles that the market is most intrigued about, even if it's not the most in demand."

The event will take place inside Central St Martins, marking the first time a wine tasting has taken place inside the college.

The location was also partly selected due to its proximity for visitors and exhibitors travelling from Champagne to St Pancras via the Eurostar.