It has long been associated with luxury and special occasions, such as weddings, as well as rites of passage, dating back to the days of French royalty when royals were anointed with Champagne. There is a difference between a champagne and a bottle of sparkling stuff. The Champagne region in France is the only location in the world where sparkling wine is made exclusively from Pinot noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier grapes. Champagne is a word that is used primarily in nations where sparkling wines are produced. There are many styles and price points of champagne available for nightly consumption. Whether it’s to celebrate, celebrate special occasions, or just because, Champagne is the drink of choice. Despite its food-friendly nature and ease of drinking, champagne does indeed make for a perfect everyday drink.
Krug Grande Cuvée Brut
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Champagne Krug is undoubtedly the Holy Grail of champagnes. A bottle from the venerable 1843-founded house contains 250 different vineyard plots and as many as 150 different reserve wines, spanning 12 different vintages over the years. Champagne is the quintessence of complexity and a rich breadth of flavors, including apples, pears, peach pie, baked spices and a chalky minerality. In each sip, you’ll also find polish, poise, and refinement, and the glass beads and creamy texture make it a masterpiece.
Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve
Duval-Leroy is a midsize Champagne producer with the quality of a larger label, without the quantity constraints. Its price can be economical for thrifty customers without compromising quality. The producers’ Brut Reserve, for example, features a greater percentage of reserve wines (vintages kept from previous years and blended into the current year to achieve consistency and depth) than more expensive wines. Pear, berries, and chalky earth flavors are present in this affordable entry from Duval-Leroy, which holds the distinction of producing the first certified organic brut Champagne and achieving France’s High Environmental Value certification.
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs
Champagne Brut is a bubbly wine that is moistureless, with either no unused sugar or up to 15 grams per liter. In this category, the Delamotte blockbuster from 2012 is among the very best. Champagne such as this is rich, decadent, and long-lived if properly stored. The grapes for this 100% Chardonnay come from Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, and Oger, showing the concentrated power of the low-yielding vintage. A lively and fresh scent of Meyer lemon, sweet-tart candy, kiwi and wildflowers accompanies the exquisite beading. An enticing-yet-relaxing entry is balanced by a deeply delicious acidity and a lingering finish punctuated by the unforgiving wow factor.
Laurent-Perrier Harmony Demi-Sec
Based solely on its quality wines and values as a company, Laurent-Perrier has emerged as one of the world’s leading Champagne houses. Laurent-Perrier is a family-owned business and produces only champagne. A hallmark of the house is quality and consistency, a result of only three chefs de cave since 1949. Sweet champagne that tastes like lemon meringue pie, strawberry tart, and chocolate mousse combined. The demi-sec wine, or a sparkling wine that has some sweetness yet isn’t purely dry (not brut), is produced by Laurent-Perrier. The combination of candied apricots, apple pie spices, toasted almonds, roasted hazelnuts and honeycomb gives this beverage a rich, full and creamy taste. This is great with your favorite dessert after a meal.
Ruinart Brut Rose
In the 18th century, historians credit Ruinart rosé for being the first ever rosé champagne. Even though Ruinart rosé champagne was first made over 250 years ago, its excellent quality remains one of the wine’s most distinctive characteristics. Ruinart’s iconic grape variety, chardonnay, is blended with pinot noir as a red wine to create this exceptional wine. The freshness and fullness of Chardonnay are enhanced by the Pinot Noir’s character. The nose of this wine is subtle and fresh, with berry aromas (raspberries, cherries, and wild strawberries) and tropical fruits (guava and lychee). Freshly picked berries smell delicious. The balance features mint and pink grapefruit for a delightful freshness and a voluptuous body.
Paul Bara Bouzy Brut Rosé Grand Cru
The NV Rosé Brut Grand Cru is Paul Bara’s stunning sparkling wine. Brut Rosé is a wine that offers elegance, richness, and resonant flavor. This wine is one of the most versatile and enjoyable aperitifs or dinner wine choices available. Composed of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay (including 12% still Pinot). Despite the high dosage of 8 grams of sugar per liter, this is a delightful Champagne. With its delicate balance of rose petals and fine, white foam, this brut rosé makes a wonderful summertime drink. Pinot Noir’s fragrance features wild strawberries, cherries, and hints of pepper, in keeping with its Pinot Noir heritage. As the session concludes, notes of cocoa and baked pastry combine with notes of strawberries and raspberries.
Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition
Francis Egly is well known for his richness, depth, and vinous expressions in champagne. The majority of Francis’s grapes come from the Ambonnay Brut Grand Cru area, so he is able to produce a rich and powerful champagne. His vineyards are located in some of the best villages within Champagne. While the region’s oak is mostly new, 15% of the base wine’s oak is seasoned. A typical producer would overpower the fruit with new wood, but Egly creates a balance by blending very ripe fruit with oak at the same time. The style of Domaine Poulsen has always been to leave the wines on lees for an extended period of time, as seen in The Brut Grand Cru, which is aged for 48 months, as opposed to the average period of 18 months in the area. The modern legend of Champagne offers a complex expression that goes way beyond bubbles, offering a powerful yet balanced expression. In non-vintage Champagnes, grapes from the most recent harvest are blended with older wines that have been kept in reserve.
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque
Unlike non-vintage Champagnes, vintage Champagnes are produced from a single year’s harvest rather than many years’ harvest. There are five crus in this Champagne — Cramant, Avize, Ay, Mailly, and Dizzy — making it one of the more elegant Champagnes of the 2012 vintage. The semi-translucent golden hue and emerald highlights in this Belle Epoque Champagne complement notes of white flowers, stone fruits, and lemon zest, while the creamy texture and mineral finish balance its sweetness. Gold-etched Japanese anemone flowers adorn the bottle, echoing the highly stylized, ornamental Art Nouveau fashion of the late 1890s and early 1900s.
Champagnes like these are characterized by long, expansive finishes. This pale gold has an apple green tint and a clear appearance. Lemon notes and white flowers combine with notes of white peaches, crisp pears, and crisp pears. An uplifting symphony results from the freshness.
Pierre Gimonnet Fleuron Blanc de Blancs Brut
Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Fleuron is the champagne to choose if you are looking for acidity and crispness. Chardonnay is featured in this wine, which lets its natural acidity and round green apple flavors shine through. The bright, bold character of Chardonnay is particularly apparent in the 2014 vintage, which is complemented by flavors of white pepper, fresh flowers, and warm sourdough that will reward patient consumers for a decade to come.
Taittinger Brut La Francaise
The blend is created by combining 30 vineyards of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, 40% and 60% respectively, harvested during several perfectly ripened harvests. Among the last estates that remain family-run is Champagne Taittinger. A winery owned by this company owns 34 vineyards covering 752 acres of prime land. The cellar of Taittinger’s Brut La Francaise is a minimum of three years, which makes the wine a bit lighter and brighter than Taittinger’s non-vintage brut. This chardonnay blend has notes of yellow peach, milk chocolate, acacia flowers, and Madagascar vanilla bean. Additionally, it has ripe stone fruit notes, brioche and a honeycomb finish on the palate.
Pol Roger Brut Réserve
The Pol Roger house, founded in 1849, is one of the few Grande Marque Champagne houses still owned and operated by its original owner. To add complexity and fine bubbles, each bottle of Champagne is aged longer than required by law. Historically one of the oldest and most distinguished champagne houses, this champagne is rich and dry. Pol Roger Brut is an excellent wine for both formal and informal occasions. One of Pol Roger’s most popular champagnes is Brut Réserve NV “White Foil”.
As with Meghan and Harry’s wedding, Kate and William’s wedding, and Eugenie and Jack’s wedding, champagne is served at all Royal Weddings. Pol Roger was Sir Winston Churchill’s favorite champagne before that. They even named their top wine after him, the tête de cuvée.
Pol Roger is dedicated to quality in all its aspects, from the cultivation of the finest fruit to the blending and the aging process. It was produced with grapes sourced from top vineyards in Reims (Pinot Noir), Vallée de la Marne and Petite Valle de Pernay (Pinot Meunier) and the Côte des Blancs (Chardonnay). These factors, in conjunction with the deep and cool cellars, ensure that all their Champagnes are complex with the best “prize de mousse.
Louis Roederer Vintage Brut
The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Montagne de Reims are used by Louis Roederer to create his Cuvée Vintage Champagne. Having tasted many different varieties of Pinot noir from Champagne, he is fascinated. Vine maturation is slower in the north-east than in the south. Retreading and aging this great wine enriches its characteristics, and their intensity increases. Pinot noir comprises 70% of the blend, and Chardonnay 30%, with 30% of the wine matured in oak.
Vintage cuvée is usually aged for 4 years and left for at least 6 months after disgorgement (disgorgement). This vintage is typical of Louis Roederer’s vintages: the attack is dense and full, with ample hints of sweetness and acidity to temper the taste of Verzenay Pinot noir grapes. An elegant texture completes the ensemble. Tastes like candied fruits, almond paste, toast, white chocolate, and caramel.
Dom Pérignon Vintage
Dom Pérignon vintage champagne is the only kind. An original, singular work of art, that expresses both the character of the year and the character of Dom Pérignon. Dom Pérignon’s wine is crafted over a period of eight years in the cellars, giving it the Pleénitude of harmony. 2008 was a year marked by gray skies, a break from a decade dominated by sun and sift.
There were grapes that were more ripe than anyone could have ever hoped for, and the result was a wine of exceptional balance. The vines were in perfect health. The 2008 vintage adds depth, density, and complexity to Dom Pérignon’s acidity, concision, and aromatic purity. Light is softer and warmer. With an opening bouquet of white flowers and citrus fruits, this is a luminous, complex scent. Mint and aniseed crushed into the dish add a freshness. Lastly, the wine shows hints of spice, wood, and roast aromas. After a long period of hesitation, a wine opens up now. Aroma and palate are in perfect harmony. Despite its slender, minimalist, pure, toned, athletic appearance, the character is now expressed with warmth as well. The fruit is pronounced and clear. In this vintage, the acidity has been nicely integrated. This persistence is a product of its aroma, which is smoky, intense, and highly promising.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé
The firm Billecart-Salmon, founded in 1818 by Nicolas-François Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon, is now in its sixth generation under the guidance of Antoine Roland-Billecart. It is the Billecart-Salmon House that preserves ancestral traditions while incorporating the best of modern technology guided by nearly two centuries of relentless passion. With this magnificent family estate, whose Champagnes are made only with the finest fruits, a legacy of quality is established. There is an elegant mousse that is as famous as the house in this champagne—crisp, ripe, and delicious. A combination of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay, this wine features notes of red fruit and citrus zest. From seven generations the methods of production and vinification have been secretive to the outside world.
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame
Yayoi Kusama adorns the la Grande Dame 2012 case and bottle with her iconic symbols. Opulent flowers represent life, love, and celebration. In La Grande Dame 2012, Yayoi Kusama reworked her signature polka dot patterns to resemble champagne bubbles. An exceptional vintage. There is balance, precision, and directness in the Grand Dame 2012. Featuring fresh aromas such as acacia, citrus zest, flint, and redcurrant, this wine is a definitive expression of its terroir. The Great Dame to discover.
Champagne lovers know Veuve Clicquot.
Tastes toasty, with notes of crème brûlée and honeycomb and accents of fragrant white flowers and honeysuckle. The mousse is alive and zippy, with a persistent, decadent flavor. An elegant note of stony minerality binds this remarkable Champagne together with a nutty, fruity background.
Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs
Salon 2006 is a wine with an unusually rich nose and taste. This deep and exotic wine exudes richness in all of its dimensions, with a wide range of flavors that fill out its ample, full frame. In spite of its young age, the 2006 is attractive as a Salon of today, although it needs time to shed some of its baby fat. This vintage recalls the 2002 at times, but it has a more robust overall structure and evident phenolic content. With all of its flamboyance and sheer volume, the 2006 retains quite a bit of energy and freshness.
In addition to making vintage-dated Chardonnay, Salon does not blend grapes from any other vineyards. Vintages occur in years with exceptional growing conditions for producing wine. By the end of 2020, only 40 vintages will have been produced since 1905. Vintage 2007 has proved to be an especially dynamic one; minerals, citrus peel, bright yellow apple, and a flinty, toasty finish characterize the aromatics. The Champagne will continue to age if you drink it today.
The world of Champagne is filled with a dizzying variety of styles, and it’s safe to say that there’s truly Champagne for every occasion. In terms of value and excellence, the Pol Roger Brut Réserve is hard to beat, but for those truly special occasions, there’s nothing like the Krug Grande Cuvée Brut or the Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs. For more impressive tastings, spring for a Champagne from a grower like Paul Bara Bouzy Brut Rosé Grand Cru or Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition.
By Rashmi Goel