There’s a pretty basic reason why “Champagne” is often used as a catch-all term for sparkling wines (much to the chagrin of wine nerds the world over): The differences between one bottle of bubbly and another generally prove tougher to spot than the flavor variations found in still wines. The fizz factor plays a major role here, distracting from taste-related subtleties and making it easy for casual imbibers to think of all dry sparklers as part of the same category.
Of course, any sommelier or enthusiastic wine drinker will tell you that different regions, grape types, and winemaking processes yield a diverse range of sparkling vinos, and there’s one in particular that we’d like to celebrate here: Blanc de Blancs, a massively on-trend style well worth your attention.
Blanc de Blancs got its start, of course, in the golden region of sparkling wine: Champagne, France. Literally translating to “white of whites,” the term traditionally refers to Champagnes made exclusively from white grapes (while most Champagnes include both white grapes and red grapes without their skins). Specifically, Blanc de Blancs made in Champagne come from the area’s most popular white grape, Chardonnay. Nowadays, however, Blanc de Blancs has expanded its reach as a wine designation, and it can be applied to sparkling wines from any region that includes 100% white grapes.
So what can you expect from Blanc de Blancs in terms of taste? This will vary depending on terroir and particular grape inclusions, but in general, Blanc de Blancs are characterized by clean and crisp flavors, appealingly acidic notes, subtle minerality, and, in some cases, a bready and yeasty backbone developed through fermentation, which grounds and anchors the wine.
If you’d like to add a fantastic Blanc de Blancs to your wine shopping list, try one of these 10 bottles, all recommended by professional wine directors, wine writers, and sommeliers.
When asked to name her favorite Blanc de Blancs, wine director Rachael Lowe of Spiaggia in Chicago chose a version hailing from the Les Mesnil-sur-Oger commune in Champagne. “[Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs] is a really beautiful wine, made by a small grower-producer family in the heart of the Côtes de Blancs in Champagne. Consistently highlighting the Chardonnay grape, this wine is 100% Chardonnay and is aged entirely in stainless steel. It is a racy style of [bubbly], with bright acidity and aromas of green apple, Bosc pear, lemon pith, and almond [which] pairs well with a multitude of foods or simply by itself,” Lowe tells us.
Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs typically retails for $35-50 in the United States, which Lowe considers “a great value for Champagne, as this region tends to be very pricey.”
“For top quality Blanc de Blancs, I look no further than the Côte des Blancs in Champagne. The eastern-facing slope runs south from the town of Épernay for about 20 kilometers and produces some of the best Chardonnay in the region. While there are many great producers and wines in this area, Champagne Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut delivers on both quality and value. The vines grow on the famous chalk soil which encourages great acidity (a necessity for good sparkling wine) and a textural elegance that is simply unmatched anywhere else in the world. The location is so important, in fact, that the winery took its name from the village, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger,” says sommelier Alex White of Monello in Minneapolis, MN of his favorite Blanc des Blancs, which retails for $35-50 per bottle.
Owner Jill Weber of Sojourn Philly in Philadelphia, also known as the “Wining Archaeologist,” enjoys Blanc de Blancs as an aperitif, explaining that “Blanc de Blanc champagnes are just super elegant, aromatic, and a touch austere. I generally prefer them [as] aperitifs, where one can really play with the acidity and the citrus and saline notes. The very French-named Serge Gallois Blanc de Blancs has a lighter feel with fine bubbles and great lemon [notes], and [it] would be perfect with oysters and buttered bread.”
Champagne Serge Gallois Blanc de Blancs goes for an average price of $45 per bottle in the U.S.
Founder and proprietor Ariel Arce of the buzzy Air’s Champagne Parlor in NYC definitely knows a thing or two about sparkling wines, and her Blanc de Blancs of choice is “Dhondt-Grellet Cramant, a single-village Grand Cru Champagne taking on a terroir that was never really individually represented [before], as [grapes from this area were] always used for blending. The winemaker finds the delicacy in the minerality and applies a more Burgundian technique of neutral barrel to the wine, making it balanced while maintaining the integrity of the terroir.”
A bit of a splurge, Dhondt-Grellet Cramant Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut can be found in wine shops selling for $60-85 per bottle.
A non-vintage Champagne produced by a heritage house dating back to the mid-18th century, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is a favorite of director Didier Penine of Say It With Champers, who says that “Ruinart is the oldest Champagne house in the world; [it’s] steeped in history and known for its quality, and this bubbly is no different. It has a lemony, lean bite to it and is smooth and creamy. It has a full body with a great balance of acidity and power. The bottle itself looks stunning and overall, for me, [Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV] is the best complete package of quality, looks, and value.”
This classic Champagne can be purchased for $65-75 in the United States.
If you’re looking for a special-occasion-worthy Blanc de Blancs, you’ll experience an ideal rendition of the style in Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV, which founder Erik Segelbaum of wine consulting company SOMLYAY describes as “a Champagne made with all the same love and attention as the Belle Epoque [Perrier-Jouët’s pricier flagship Blanc de Blancs], [but it] provides consumers with a glimpse into the Perrier-Jouët style focused on the Chardonnay grape at a much more approachable price point.” The Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs retails for approximately $150 per bottle, while a bottle of the non-vintage Blanc de Blancs can be purchased for about $80.
If you’re eager to pick up a delicious Blanc de Blancs without dropping a ton of cash, bottles made outside of the Champagne region will often do you right. Wine operations director and sommelier Shawn Paul of Foxcroft Wine Co. in North and South Carolina agrees, telling The Manual that “it’s exciting to see a whole range of wines produced from 100% Chardonnay from areas outside Champagne, wines that capture the elegance and finesse of this style of Chardonnay sparkling wine without the Champagne price tag.”
As far as specifics go, Paul recommends Domaine Jean-Claude Thevenet Crémant de Bourgogne, “a Chardonnay from the Mâconnais in Southern Burgundy. Young vines on sandy soils in the village of Serrières. About 6,000 bottles are produced annually, a good portion of which come to the USA.”
Domaine Jean-Claude Thevenet Crémant de Bourgogne makes an excellent budget Blanc de Blancs option, typically retailing for under $20 per bottle.
Blanc de Blancs produced in the United States usually sell for gentler prices than their Champagne counterparts without sacrificing flavor and quality. Advanced sommelier and champagne taster Jenny Benzie of Épernay Wine and Spirits in Nantucket, MA gives a particular shout-out to Gruet Sauvage Blanc de Blancs from New Mexico, claiming that “what sets this delicious Blanc de Blancs apart from others produced in the United States (and beyond) is that it is affordable and drinkable upon purchase. This bone-dry sparkler receives no dosage, is aged for 24 months before release, and is the perfect pairing with oysters on the half shell, Nantucket Bay Scallops crudo-style, or eater’s choice of sashimi. The bottle is a cool, contemporary package that would make for a great tablescape as well.”
Wine shoppers can find Gruet Sauvage Blanc de Blancs for about $20 per bottle.
Wine writer Amanda Claire Goodwin of WineTraveler.com and The Real Housewine also enjoys American Blanc de Blancs, especially Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs NV. “Gloria Ferrer is a certified sustainable producer based in Sonoma, California. I love the notes of Granny Smith apple, Meyer lemon, tangerine, and the slightest hint of caramel cream candies. This wine is refreshing and fun. 100% Chardonnay, hand-picked, and [it] spent 18 months on the lees. At only $23 a bottle, this is a real steal,” says Goodwin.
A Napa Valley winery renowned for its sparkling wines (many of which are regularly served at official State dinners, a tradition dating back to the Nixon era), Schramsberg makes an appealing Blanc de Blancs favored by wine director Dan Allen of Panzano in Denver, CO, who tells us that “[Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs] is an affordable sparkling [wine] that drinks like a true Champagne and fits a sophisticated palate. Lots of tiny bubbles, crisp and dry, with notes of citrus — this makes a perfect pairing for aged cheeses, delicate white fish, and oysters.”
Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Sparkling retails for $25-35 per bottle nationwide.
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