The Greatest Winemakers

Thursday, 1 November 2012 by Colin Hampden-White

Those customers who have seen the stunning pictures from our recent Bordeaux en primeur trips may recognise the name of our "official cameraman", Colin Hampden-White. We are now delighted to report on his recent success in the Champagne Louis Roederer International Wine Writers competition...

You may be aware that with the enormous help of Farr vintners and my "partner in wine", Henry Matson, I have been slaving away at the greatest Châteaux, Domaines and Champagne houses to capture on camera a series of fine art portraits titled “The Greatest Winemakers”.

Having completed the three most prestigious appellations in France, I decided it was time to see what the critics thought and enquired about entering the Champagne Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Artistry Award.

The first challenge was to choose just four pictures to submit to the competition. Having taken 41 portraits, this was going to be a tough job. As the Bordeaux series was completed at the end of 2010 they were deemed to be taken too early to be submitted, so that whittled it down to those taken last year in Burgundy and Champagne.

Swirling and sipping a glass of something fun, I finally decided on the following portraits:

  • Lalou Bize-Leroy - Domaine Leroy
  • Aubert Villaine - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
  • Richard Geoffroy - Dom Pérignon
  • Didier Depond - Salon

August brought the happy news that we had, at least, reached the shortlist of 5 artists and would be invited to the awards evening at the Four Seasons Park Lane on the 17th of September. Even if we didn’t win, I knew at least I could drink my fair share of the Cristal 2004 that they would be serving at the awards ceremony!

Cristal 2004

The awards evening arrived. The great and the good of the wine writing world assembled (slightly nervously), tasting the full range of Roederer champagnes, and my goodness the 2004 Cristal is a delight, but drinking it did feel like infanticide, it was so youthful, and it should be incredible in the years to come.

Olly Smith and Tim Atkin

The lucky winners would receive a magnum as part of their prize. Up to that point, I was simply delighted to have been nominated, especially given the quality of the competition which included legendry rock photographer Mick Rock and Charles O’Rear who had created the beautiful vineyard photograph in the Californian sun for Microsoft's XP desktop. It was my first time as a finalist, but with a magnum of ‘04 to be had, I wanted to win.

The Artistry award was the first to be presented, so at least my nerves didn't have to suffer for very long. After speeches from Michel Janneau of Louis Roederer and Charles Metcalfe, the first of the gold envelopes was slipped open, and out was read my name.

Having not expected to win, I was overjoyed. My first feeling was of relief that all the hard work that had been put into the project by many people, most notably Henry Matson had finally been rewarded Thanks and recognition also has to go to my ever-patient wife, who as the only French speaker in our household, spent much of out recent summer holidays organising all the visits..

Colin collects the award from Michel Janneau

Added to this triumph, the series was about to be exhibited a week later at the Marylebone Hotel. Following the award we had an especially busy opening night with some very kind recognition from Jancis Robinson on www.jancisrobinson.com

The happy couple

So with a rather large brass statue, some great press and some super parties, September turned out to be a rather good month. The Magnum is yet to arrive but I’m assured it’s on its way. As long as it gets here within the next 20 years, when it will be ready to drink, then that’s ok with me!

The whole series can be viewed at www.greatestwinemakers.com



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