Best Champagne: 30 Bottles We’ve LOVED in 2018 (so far)
It’s hard to write an article called Best Champagne anything. The truth is to write an article on the best champagnes would probably involve travelling to Reims and somehow getting access to super rare vintages to be able to taste them. Sadly, we’ve yet to get that opportunity. However, it doesn’t mean we’ve not been busy. Tastings, parties, merchants – have all given us access to an abundance of incredible wine and champagne so far this year (2018). SO without much ado, below are some of the best champagnes that we’ve tried SO FAR this year. As you can imagine, writing this piece was truly an epic experience. And remember, if you’ve yet to learn why we celebrate with champagne, read this and impress your friends.
Best Champagnes We’ve Tried So Far This Year
Moët & Chandon – Best Moet Champagnes
This Champagne house is perhaps the best known, and now part of the group Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH) group. Steeped in history since founder Claude Moët founded it in 1743, it was Claude’s grandson Jean-Rémy Moët, who seized the opportunities, ensured the success of Champagne as a prestigious wine and that the family name would always be associated as the number one brand in what is arguably the most famous wine region in the world.
Its various cuvees are made from grapes grown on the most extensive estate in the region; of their 1,150 hectares, 50% are grands crus and 25% are premiers crus. The cellars dug into the rich chalk soil where the wines mature, are the largest within the Champagne region. These cellars are totalling just over 17 miles. Given its reputation, it will come as little surprise that Moët & Chandon holds a royal warrant as supplier of champagne to Queen Elizabeth II. One useful bit of information: you do pronounce the “t” in Moët(“mo-ette“).
One of the newest cuvee’s from Moët, this dry rose has a delightfully savoury red fruit nose, mirrored by the pallet with its blend of raspberry fool, strawberry compote, refreshing hints of pomegranates.
Bright red fruit notes and an orange tint to its light rose colour.
Fresh, crisp red fruit flavours of red currant, cherry and strawberries with a little toast on the finish.
The House’s 40th vintage rosé is a blend of 32% Chardonnay, 46% Pinot Noir, 22% Pinot Meunier. A deep colour belies its vintage character. Rich flavours of stonefruits such as peaches and nectarines, and a precise balance between savoury fruit and a pink grapefruit citrus finish.
Lanson Champagne – Best Lanson Champagnes
The House of Lanson was founded in 1760 by François Delamotte, and joint owner, alongside his wife, of vineyards in Cumières and Ay. In 1798, Nicolas-Louis Delamotte, his younger son, took over from his father. Having been admitted as a knight of the Order of Malta, he decided to use the Maltese Cross as the House’s emblem. Now revised, the Lanson cross has become the icon of the company.
Jean-Baptiste Lanson, a long-standing friend began to play an increasingly important role in the management of the House. After an agreement, he succeeded Nicolas-Louis Delamotte on the latter’s death and renamed the business Maison J-B Lanson et Compagnie.
In 1928 Victor Lanson then took the helm and in 1937, astute businessman that he was, he named the blend Black Label in honour of the House’s biggest market, Great Britain, aiming to promote sales of non-vintage dry wine. He was also one of the first to develop rosé champagne.
Lanson are of the few producers to prevent malolactic fermentation, keeping their wines crisp and refreshing. The wine then has extended ageing in the historical wine cellars to mature and soften.
Rich fruit, honey and pleasing cinnamon nose. Full bodied and rich, it still displays finesse as well. Ripe flavours and a natural sweetness. Perfect for afternoon tea.
Light gold in colour; gentle yeasty bready nose. A soft mousse with a toast and honey palate backed up by green apple and citrus fruits. Has medium length on the finish.
Gentle pink colour derived from a small amount of red wine made solely from Pinot Noir; rose petals and red currants and raspberries on the nose. The palate is beautifully balanced between freshness and roundness with gentle red berry fruit.
G H Mumm – Best Mumms Champagne
Originally hailing from Cologne, the Mumm family recognised the sales potential of the outstanding sparkling wines produced in the Champagne. As Germany and France enjoyed good relations at the time, the Mumm brothers decided to grow. They established a new branch of the family company in the Champagne region.
These days Maison Mumm has nearly 218 hectares of vineyards. These are mainly sited in the eight most renowned Grands Crus in Champagne: Aÿ, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Verzy, Verzenay, Avize, Cramant and Mailly-Champagne. These holdings cover 25% of Mumm’s needs. The remaining 75% comes from independent growers.
Blended from 77 different crus from the best areas of Champagne. This benchmark cuvee is made up of 45% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier and 30% Chardonnay. The Pinots provide the structure, elegance and finesse.
A subtle caramel and fresh fruit nose of peaches and apricots, mirrored on the palate which is smooth and balanced.
The product of a centuries-old champagne-making tradition, Demi-Sec reflected the tastes of 19th-century consumers who enjoyed very sweet wine and has now been adapted to suit modern palates. Honey and stonefruit compote nose. A rich honey and candied fruit palate, with hints of dried fruit.
Taittinger – Best Taittinger Champagne
Founded in 1734, the company once again belongs to the Taittinger family, making it one of the few remaining champagne houses run by people who bear its name. Unsurprisingly, quality and a respect for tradition are therefore constant priorities at Taittinger.
In 1932, Pierre Taittinger bought the Château de la Marquetterie from the wine house of Forest-Fourneaux. The vineyards of the château had been planted with Chardonnay and Pinot noir since the 18th Century. This property had been developed by Brother Jean Oudart, a Benedictine monk, one of the founding fathers of champagne wine.
From 1945 to 1960 the business was run by Pierre’s third son François. Under his direction, the Taittinger cellars were established in the Abbey of Saint-Nicaise. It was built in the thirteenth century in Gallo-Roman chalk pits dating from the fourth century. After François’ death in an accident, his brother Claude took over and then in turn succeeded by his nephew Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger.
The House owns a total of 288 hectares of vineyards, across 34 crus. The hallmark of their Champagnes is the high proportion of Chardonnay used which is key, in the Champagne region, for producing wines of great elegance and finesse.
The signature cuvée of the house, Taittinger Brut Réserve sees between three and four years ageing in the cellar before release. Golden colour. Soft, fine mousse. Fresh fruit and white flower nose. Lively and fresh.
Much of the fruit comes from Taittinger’s own estates including some from their Château de la Marquetterie. The 17.5g/l dosage gives you an idea of the level of sweetness. A mixture of spiced dried fruit and peach compote. Long, creamy, lush finish.
50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir from mainly Grand Cru villages and aged 5 years on the lees. Gentle yellow colour with fine bubbles. Floral and a slightly herbal nose. White fruit with hints of tropical fruit on the palate and a toast and biscuit finish.
Bollinger – Best Bollinger Champagne
Ever since Bollinger was founded in 1829 in the village of Aÿ, six generations of the Bollinger family have maintained the trademark style of their Champagne, including Lily Bollinger. Lily expanded production through the purchase of more vineyards, but also travelled the world to promote the house and left the Champagne world with some fine quotes:
“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it—unless I’m thirsty.”
Now led by Jerome Philipon, the first non-Bollinger chairman, the house goes from strength to strength and recently announced plans to expand their existing vineyards by purchasing new ones.
The Bollinger vineyards currently covers 170 hectares, most of which are classified Grand or Premier cru. Pinot Noir predominates, which forms the backbone of the Bollinger style.
Twice As Long
Every harvest, Bollinger saves some wines from the grand crus and premier crus for reserve wines. The reserves are in magnums with cork, and aged for five to fifteen years. Bollinger maintains a large library of more than 750.000 magnums, saved cru by cru, year by year. Bollinger’s reserve wine system is unique in Champagne, and the house believes it contributes to the style of the Special Cuvée. In addition the House lets its wines mature for twice as long as the appellation requirement.
This leading house blend uses grapes from a single vintage with some added reserve wines of up to 15 years old. Pinot Noir dominated (60%). It is full-bodied with a plentiful fruit character of apples and pears, a gentle mousse and a rich creamy toasty finish.
This limited edition vintage was released to celebrate the longstanding relationship with James Bond and Bollinger. Produced solely for this release, the 2009 has elderflower and white flower notes; a distinct lemon and lime palate, but with some delicate ripe orchard fruit hints. It’s maturation of 6 years before release is most noticeable in its rich golden colour, and biscuit and toasty finish.
The latest addition to the Bollinger range is this full-bodied, vibrant rose Champagne. Brioche and red fruit on the nose, carries through on the palate. Distinct cherries, ripe raspberries and strawberries. Crisp acidity throughout, as well as the classic Bollinger complexity.
Laurent Perrier – Best Laurent Perrier Champagne
Laurent-Perrier’s story started in 1812 when Alphonse Pierlot purchased two parcels of land named “Plaisances” and “La Tour Glorieux” in Tours-sur-Marne. Pierlot left his company to his cellar master, Eugene Laurent, who ran it with his wife, Mathilde Emilie Perrier. After her husband passed away Mathilde took control and attached her name to the company, changing it to Veuve Laurent-Perrier.
However, the house’s most recent history began in 1948 when upon his return from WW2, the former French Resistance fighter named Bernard de Nonacourt took over running the struggling champagne house that had been bought purchased by his mother Madame Louise Lanson de Nonanacourt in 1939.
it was Bernard de Nonancourt who introduced the iconic Cuvée Rosé in 1968. This was at a time when the non-vintage rosé champagne was rare and to this day remains the Champagne that Laurent-Perrier is best known for.
A very approachable light and delicate house Champagne. Subtle toasty notes, lemon pith; fresh white peaches and fresh finish.
100% Pinot Noir. Delicate pink with orange tints. A very precise fresh noses with a variety of red fruit. Crisp acidity and fresh red berries and cherries on the palate. Refreshing and lively.
Grand Siécle is a prestige cuvée that does not use a single vintage but instead uses 3 vintages, with at least 8 years of ageing before release. The blend is generally 55% Chardonnay and 45%
Pinot Noir 45%. Elegant and complex throughout; the nose shows notes of candied fruits, sweet pastries and sweet spices. Full-bodied with rounded acidity, the palate has real depth and shows flavours of lemon zest, subtle minerality, hints of honeysuckle and other blossom.
Louis Roederer – Best Louis Roederer
Founded as Dubois Père & Fils in 1776, it was inherited and renamed by Louis Roederer in 1833. In 1845, Louis acquired 15 hectares in the Grand Cru vineyards of Verzenay. The idea (rare at the time) was to become a wine grower in order to master the entire process of creating his vintage wines. Ever since, every Louis Roederer vintage originates exclusively from their own vines, which seldom occurs in the Champagne region.
Louis, who like many of his contemporaries, set out to establish his Champagne in foreign markets and it was his son Louis Roederer II who created the first so-called Prestige Cuvée Champagne in 1876 to satisfy the demanding tastes of Tsar Alexander II. The Tsar had pointed out to his sommelier that the design of a standard champagne bottle made the beautiful colour and effervescence invisible to the eye. He therefore requested of Roederer that his personal cuvée be served in bottles made of transparent crystal glass with a flat bottom (allegedly to foil the insertion of explosives in the indentation by would-be assassins). It was called ‘Cristal’, referring to the aspect of the bottle.
The Louis Roederer House has remained an independent, family-owned company and is now managed by Frédéric Rouzaud. He represents the seventh generation of the family. Over 3.5 million bottles of Louis Roederer champagne are shipped each year to more than 100 countries. By 2013, Louis Roederer’s vineyards stretched across 240 hectares and included 410 parcels.
Intense, citrus flowers and vanilla notes. Fresh stones fruits, honeysuckle and a wonderfully smooth mousse. The acidity is delicately poised; refreshing yet provides plenty of ageing potential. Fantastically long intense finish.
Louis Roederer is one of the few Houses to use skin maceration for its Pinot Noir to extract more fruit and colour. The blend is 62% Pinot noir and 38% Chardonnay. Delicate salmon pink colour; the redcurrants and raspberries are not overly ripe, and show a subtle spiced character. Full-bodied finish.
Louis Roederer’s demi-sec offering; 40% Pinot noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier; honeyed notes, apple strudel, caramelised fruit, creamy with balancing acidity.
Perrier Jouet – Best Perrier Jouet
Produced in the Epernay region of Champagne, and dating back to 1811, the house was founded shortly after the marriage between cork supplier Pierre Nicolas Perrier and Adèle Jouët, the daughter of a Calvados producer. The newly-wed couple began producing champagne under the name Perrier-Jouët with Adèle focused on vineyards and winemaking, and Pierre Nicolas focused on the sales and marketing of their wines.
Now under ownership of Pernod-Ricard, Perrier-Jouët vineyards throughout the Champagne region, including 65 hectares. They ranked at 99.2% on the scale of grands crus, and 5 of the most important wines Cramant and Avize (Côte des Blancs), Mailly (Montagne de Reims), Aÿ and Dizy (Vallée de la Marne).
Both wines show the characteristic Belle Epoque fresh expressive finesse nature with blossom aromas and a white fruit palate with hints of citrus. However, who better to provide the distinctive tasting notes for these two vintages than the Cellar Master himself, Hervé Deschamps:
“Belle Epoque 2008 is a wonderfully vibrant vintage that presents crisp freshness with good length on the palate – the ideal balance of delicacy and structure.”
“Belle Epoque 2007 is a crystalline vintage whose subtlety and generosity highlight the precision of the Perrier-Jouët style. It is an epicurean wine.”
The Blason Rosé is the house cuvée with the greatest proportion of Pinot (50% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier). The nose has gentle rose petals and strawberries. A ripe and rounded red berry fruit palate, fresh and sweet, which then moves to brioche and biscuit flavours on the finish.
Blended from Chardonnays from across the region and a light dosage, this Blanc de Blancs has elegance, finesse and a lightness of touch. Subtle elderflower aroma, with plenty of lemon zest and minerality on the palate.
Veuve Clicquot – Best Veuve Clicquot
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin was founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron; it was his son Francois who married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1798 and died in 1805, leaving his widow (veuve in French) in control of a company variously involved in banking, wool trading, and Champagne production.
The first woman to take over a Champagne house, under Madame Clicquot’s guidance, the firm focused entirely on the Champagne, to huge success. Madame Clicquot soon demonstrated her innovative streak by creating the first recorded vintage champagne in the region in 1810; this was followed a year later by the remarkable excellence of the so-called 1811 “Comet Vintage.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Madame Clicquot made efforts to establish her wine in royal courts throughout Europe. It also became the habit of the Prussian guards to open bottles of Veuve Cliquot with their swords, so starting the technique of sabring Champagne.
Madame Clicquot also invented the first riddling table in 1816 which enabled the production of a crystal-clear wine, a process that continues to be used today. By the time she died in 1866 Veuve Clicquot had become both a substantial Champagne house and a respected brand, while she had become known to her peers as “La Grande Dame” of Champagne.
After her death, the house continued to innovate by dressing its bottles in a yellow label, an unusual colour for the time. The ‘V.Clicquot P. Werlé’ Yellow label trademark was registered in February 1877 and became one of the main distinguishing features of bottles produced by the House.
The Veuve Clicquot vineyards cover 393 hectares of land belonging to Veuve Clicquot to supply grapes to the House. They spread over the very best Champagne growth areas: 12 of the 17 Grands Crus and 18 of the 44 Premiers Crus. These include Bouzy vineyards that originally belonged to founder Philippe Clicquot. These were gradually built up by subsequent generations, particularly by Madame Clicquot.
Emblematic of the house style since 1772; its complexity from the dominant presence of Pinot Noir, but also the Reserve Wines drawn from 5 to 6 harvests and which can make up between 25 to as much as 40% of the blend. Zesty acidity and noticeably minerality balance superbly by white fruits, citrus fruits and a toasty finish.
Delicate in colour, yet with a rich nose of red berries and forest fruits. Black cherries, a twist of black pepper and a distinct savouriness that belies its ages.
Decanter described it as one that “will compete with the 1961 as the best rosé that Veuve Clicquot has produced since the legendary 1959”
Similarly to other Veuve Clicquot Champagnes, the Demi-Sec is blended mainly from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Depending on the year it is about 25% Chardonnay and 15-25% of reserve wines. Deep yellow, with a gentle smooth mousse. Candied fruits, brioche, rich; but not overly sweet.
The Heidsieck name is a notable one in Champagne, with Charles Heidsieck and Piper-Heidsieck well-known houses, yet Heidsieck & Co was the first house to bear the name. Founded by Florens-Louis Heidsieck, its Monopole brand was a leader at the turn of the 20th century where they were service it at royal courts throughout Europe. Heidsieck was the official supplier to the Emperor of Germany and King Gustaf of Sweden to mention but a few.
The key champagne from this house is an approachable blend of 70% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier. Creamy and buttery on the nose, it has a distinctly citrusy and toasty palate with hints of strawberry and a clean crisp finish.
Dom Pérignon – Best Dom Perignon
Named after the Benedictine monk and cellar master from Hautvillers, who pioneered a number of winemaking methods, most notably those of enhancing the tendency of Champagne wines to retain their natural sugar in order to naturally induce secondary fermentation in the spring, as well as for preventing problems during re-fermentation that commonly broke the bottles.
The name was sold to Moët & Chandon in the 1930s and became the brand name for their prestige cuvee and is only made in the very best years.
Dom Pérignon is only available as a vintage. It is made using a blend of two grape varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, harvested from some of the best vineyards. It’s made using roughly 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, although each the proportions are slightly different for each vintage (shifting up to 10% either way). In 1959 Dom Pérignon began to produce vintage Rosé Champagne as well.
Since 2014 Dom Pérignon has no longer used the term oenothèque for its late-release Champagnes, but the word Plenitude. This style represents Dom Pérignon champagne which ages in a series of stages, producing “windows of opportunity, or plenitudes” when the Champagne can be disgorged and released to bring consumers a different expression of the same vintage.
An acclaimed vintage Champagne from what was a largely a hot and dry year. Aged for 9 years before release. Light, yet distinctly candied fruits mingle with straw and on the nose. Silky. Minerality lurks throughout the peach, brioche and honeyed palate.
Released to much acclaim after cellaring for over 10 years, this is as good as it gets for Rose Champagne. Floral and candied fruit nose. Intense, clear red-fruit flavours, it still shows a great deal of youth. A rounded creamy finish.
Also known as P2, this is a vintage re-release, referring to it being the second “plenitude” of the 1998 vintage. First released in 2005, we could taste citrus, toast, biscuit and brioche. Gentle and unassuming initially, its complexity soon becomes apparent; and the balance between acidity and fruit is as close to perfection as possible. Powerful and intense.
Doesn’t matter how exotic your taste in champagne is, I can assure you that this list is full of gems. Full of bottles of bubbly that can be with you on the very same day. And remember, it’s not just the Champagne that matters, it’s also the champagne glasses.