While a great many sparkling wines can tantalize the palate, only those sourced from the eponymous region in France can wear the Champagne label. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all Champagnes are precisely alike. In fact, they are usually unique blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier or Pinot Noir, come from different vineyards and are sourced over different years. How do you find the best Champagne? While not every bottle will appeal to every person, oenophiles have weighed in their favorite, most expensive and most surprising Champagnes.
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut
Food & Wine exclaims that “[w]ithout question, the greatest icon and most recognizable Champagne bottle is that of the hallowed yellow Veuve Clicquot label. The Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut often makes the list of the best Champagnes, but it is not the most expensive or most sought-after vintage. That honor belongs to one of the rate bottles that spent more than 170 years on the floor of the Baltic Sea. Dive teams recently rescued treasure from the ship, including 47 rare bottles of Veuve Clicquot. Most were museum-bound, but the ones put up for auction fetched over $37,000 per bottle.
Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs
Jonathan Cristaldi at Food & Wine makes a case for Salon Cuvee ‘S’ Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs being present on any list of the best Champagnes. He reasons that “[O]nly in exceptional years when grapes achieve a perfect balance between sugar ripeness and acidity does Chef de Caves Michel Fauconnet (who is also the cellarmaster at Laurent-Perrier), declare a vintage and produce a wine.” Why should you try it? If you love Champagne with floral, citrus and “toasty brioche” notes, this could be your perfect sparkling libation. Start your searching now – only 40 vintages have come out of Salon since they began releasing them in 1905.
Krug Grande Cuvée
It comes as no surprise that the Krug remains a time-honored favorite. As far back as 1840, Joseph Krug created a revolutionary process of blending “older vintages of reserve wines as a way to overcome any curve-balls mother nature could throw in a growing season,” according to the experts at Food & Wine. This results in truly distinct vintages, as every one is its own unique creation. The Krug Rosé is a slightly more expensive option, but for fans of strawberry forward Champagnes, it is worth the splurge.
Bollinger Les Vieilles Vignes Francaises
If you love super-concentrated, full-flavored Champagnes, add Bollinger Les Vieilles to your wish list. It’s a Blanc de Noir that is painstakingly produced. As the editors at Food & Wine explain, “grapes for this wine [come] from ungrafted vines grown on three tiny, exceptional sites.” This is not a mass-produced sparkling. The yields are tiny, making this Bollinger a delightful, yet rare find.
Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut, “Harmony” Demi-Sec and La Cuvée Grand Siecle
With Laurent-Perrier it is difficult to choose just one Champagne, so we suggest that you sample at least these three. The Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut offers the bright red berry notes that you would expect from this stunning rosé, but while that option is for brut fans, those who have palates that run toward demi-sec options will want to liberally sample “Harmony.” Food & Wine reports that this vintage is “utterly brilliant, boasting a rich mouthfeel, spiced-apple, honeysuckle and toasted hazelnuts.” Of course, when perusing the prestige market for the best champagnes, you don’t want to skip the light-bodied, refined option of La Cuvée Grand Siecle.
Tattinger Comtes De Champage Blanc de Blancs
Critic Tom Stevenson at Food & Wine makes a case for Taittinger Comte De Champage Blanc De Blancs Why? He explains “[a]lthough the Taittinger style is light, fruity and abobe all, elegant, there is nothing light about its prestige cuvée ….” The elegance of this Champagne, made from Chardonnay grapes, continues to please the tongue as it ages with notes of apricot, apple and smoking minerals. It loses nothing of its charms over time if you can resist popping the cork immediately (which is no easy feat).
Dom Perignon Brut
Contrary to popular lore, Perignon did not invent Champagne, but he did create an extraordinary blending process that has produced some magnificent vintages. Bottles are still held six to seven years before they are released, and the Champages continues to feature a blend of older vintages. Why should you savor the 2009 Dom Perignon Brut? If you are a fan of complex citrus notes, toasty brioche and baking spice, it is well-worth a sip or two (or more).
Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque
Not surprisingly, the Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque tantalizes with notes of candied citrus and white-floral (thus the design on its now famous label). Food & Wine reveals, “Chardonnay from the grand cru vineyards of Cramant makes up a minor part of this cuvee.” As the Brut ages, the color deepens, while the taste remains wonderfully toasty and floral, earning it a spot on the critics’ list of best Champagnes.
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé
Often considered the quintessential Champagne rosé, Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé presents with a silky texture and ripe red-berry flavor. Referred to as a complex and rich wine, the Billecart reveals layers of fruit in each sip. Fans are also raving about the Billecart-Salmon’s Grande Cuvée.
Gout de Diamants Champagne
At one time the Gout de Diamants Champagne was considered the most expensive Champagne ever sold. Why? First, the Chapuy family of growers handpick the grapes from only the most prestigious vineyards. Second, the bottle itself that was a match hfor the Champagne as the logo of the bottle was encrusted with a 19-carat diamond and then set against an 18-carat gold plate. The diamond replaces the usual Swarovski crystal. This particular bottle was made for a private client at the staggering cost of roughly $1.9 million. While this exact bottle may not be easy to obtain, the company is open to creating a one-of-a-kind luxury bottle of bubbly just for you.
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