Food & Drink
Meet Richard Juhlin – world’s most famous champagne connoisseur
Famous for his outstanding sense of smell and for pushing the boundaries of champagne tasting, Richard Juhlin is regarded as the world’s leading champagne expert.
He is the author of four books about champagne and is currently working on another one about the best champagnes to drink in the 100 most beautiful places in the world. In the book, he explores the reasons behind the fact that some champagnes just taste better in certain locations.
“I have found that temperature is one of the most important aspects,” he says. “Both the temperature of the wine and the temperature in the air around your face when the champagne hits your tongue. Eight to ten degrees Celsius for the champagne and 15 to 24 degrees in the air is optimal. You should also avoid too much light and direct sunshine.
“A warm place works best with a Chardonnay-based champagne – youthful, fresh and light in body,” he adds. “A colder site with high altitude needs a champagne with more power and weight, preferably a Blanc de Noirs.
“And the sum of all the aromas in the place you are also plays a huge part. For example, I had a Dom Pérignon Rosé by the ocean in Big Sur, California. The salty breezes brought out the salty ocean notes in the champagne. But when I drank the same champagne in spring in a park in Stockholm, the ambience brought out the floral notes in the wine instead. All these nuances are there in the champagne, and certain ones are drawn out depending on the surroundings.”
As long as he can remember, Richard Juhlin has experimented with trying to find the best possible circumstances for the best possible champagne experience. But he has never approached this in the same scientific manner as he is doing now.
“It’s really interesting to see what difference altitude makes,” he says. “Above 2,000m, it’s hard to find a champagne that is perfect, and above 3,000m every wine is totally worthless.”
Juhlin is half way through his book, Champagne Hiking, which is due for publication in December 2017. And, in collaboration with SAS, the content of the book will be made into an app that SAS EuroBonus members will be able to use.
“We want to make the content interactive so that you can visit the places I’ve listed, but also create your own spots with your favorite champagnes and discuss and comment on other people’s listings,” Juhlin says. “It’ll be a huge bank of lovely places for great champagne experiences.”
Juhlin’s expertise at sniffing out good wines was first noticed during a trip to Mosel with his parents when he was just eight years old. But it wasn’t until his twenties that he realized that his gift was unique.
‘I perceive details that no one else can detect’
“I was invited to Decanter Magazine for a blind tasting,” he says. “And even though I sat there with some of the best experts in the world, I had by far the best results. To me, it’s always been very easy. It just comes naturally. Part of my talent is that I perceive details that no one else can detect.”
But why champagne when his superhuman sense of smell could be put to use for all kinds of other jobs? “Champagne has more nuances and levels than other wines,” he says. “While other wines can bore me after a while, champagne just keeps on fascinating me.”
Text: Andreas Grube
Published: December 12, 2016