Régis Camus is probably the world’s most decorated cellar master, having been named Sparkling Winemaker of the Year eight times since 2004 by the International Wine Challenge. He joined Piper-Heidsieck champagne house in 1994 and became the cellar master in 2002. Since 2018, Camus has solely focused on Piper-Heidsieck’s stand-alone exclusive label, Rare Champagne, until his recent retirement.

Released in 1985, Rare Champagne 1976 was the inaugural vintage, created to celebrate the 200th birthday of Piper-Heidsieck. The bottle, set with diamonds and lapis lazuli, was designed by Van Cleef & Arpels. This extraordinary champagne is only made in the best years, and so far, only 12 vintages have been released.

Camus has long been the face of Rare Champagne. Together with Maud Rabin, Global Brand Director of Rare Champagne, they have travelled the globe to conduct masterclasses on the newly released vintages. True to Rare’s exquisite style, when Camus retired in March this year, he conducted his final e-masterclass at Palais du Tau in Reims, France, a medieval palace of the Archbishop of Reims and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The masterclass was broadcast to Rare’s key markets, and the audience celebrated Camus’ retirement with Rare 2008, the latest released vintage.

Camus also announced the passing of the torch to Piper-Heidsieck’s chief winemaker, Emilien Boutillat, the youngest chief winemaker of the house and also the International Wine Challenge Sparkling Winemaker of the Year 2021.

All Rare Champagne is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. This 2008 vintage was released in 2021 with 10 years ageing on lees. The wine is incredibly fresh and pure, with layers of aromas ranging from white flowers and citrus to stone fruits and nuts. The saline note and silky texture on the palate make it a perfect pairing with both raw seafood and grilled dishes. Drinking pleasantly now, the wine can be aged for another 20 years in order for a more tertiary bouquet to develop.

At the e-masterclass, we in Hong Kong were lucky to also be treated to Rare 2006, released in 2019. It is richer and has a more matured bouquet of cinnamon, honey and pastry that is absolutely a joy to enjoy now.

I also had the privilege to try Rare Rosé 2008, one of only two vintages of rosé champagne (the other is 2007). It’s rounder and more generous and structured, with a mix of yellow, red and black fruits, and it goes well with roasted meat and Indian dishes.

Camus said all good things must stop one day, but Rare Champagne will continue its legacy with Rabin and Boutillat. Because Rare is aged for such a long time before being released, the next few vintages will be a combined effort of Camus and Boutillat (Camus makes the wine and Boutillat finishes it).

Rare is available in Hong Kong from wine’n’things, but stock is limited. However, you can still enjoy other Piper-Heidsieck bubblies made by Boutillat, also available at wine’n’things.

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A marketer turned winemaker, I make, promote, judge, write about and drink wine.

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