You can spend a lot of damn money Champagne. Many times, it’s worth it. Or, there’s at least enough triumphant context that you can overlook what you spent. Other times, it’s a head-scratcher, not to mention a bit of a letdown.
We can all agree that the most famous bubbly on the planet is meant for celebration. The best bottles are popped when there’s an engagement, an anniversary, a birth, a death, a promotion, or a vacation underway. The occasion of occasions, the one that calls for a classic French sparkler the most, may just be New Year’s.
Not only is the wine inherently festive, it’s downright fun to drink. It’s entertaining to open, with often comical results. Hell, you can even saber the stuff. The carbonation is cheerful and the layers of flavor that tend to unfold as a good bottle wakes up from its chilled slumber is a joy to experience.
We’re not going to stop you from bidding on a 1959 Dom Perignon (just make sure you have at least $40K at your disposal). Just know that there are some great Champagne options out there that you can acquire for less than $100. They’re sure to please, regardless of how much loot your guests or party-mates believe you threw at the wine.
When you’re shopping around, there are a few terms worth acknowledging. Champagne can come in a variety of forms, like a red fruit-driven Rose. Other common options include the Blanc de Blancs, made entirely of Chardonnay, and Blanc de Noirs, made with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or some combo of the two. Meanwhile, “brut” refers to an especially dry sparkling wine.
With the distinct possibility of severe tariffs in place on many European goods, including Champagne, we’ve got you covered. The highly-recommended list below includes a few American versions, in the event the newest chapter of the ongoing trade wars means a two-fold increase in consumer cost.
Laurent Perrier Brut – $45
What is essentially Laurent-Perrier’s house Champagne is crisp and vivacious. Many of the flavors resemble the wine’s golden color, like baked apple and Asian pear. This is the greatest value of the label but if you want to impress with some tasty pink bubbles in a vintage bottle, here’s another option.
Palmer & Co. Blanc De Noirs – $85
Four years of time spent on the lees spells extra detail in this deftly-constructed wine. It offers some wonderful doughy, yeasty qualities, with enough fruit and structure to balance the flavor scales.
Roederer Brut Premiere – $50
Roederer is one of the most-respected producers in the bubbles game, not to mention an innovative and environmentally-conscious one. I’ve yet to taste a sparkling from the outfit that’s not, at the very least, quite good. This one comes across as both youthful and mature, bright and balanced, respectively.
Delamotte Brut Rosé – $70
Mostly Pinot Noir with a bit of Chardonnay, this wine is nice and round. It shows a lot of Pinot’s signature flavors, like cherry and strawberry. There’s a creaminess to this well-made wine along with an acidity that keeps you on your toes.
Billecart Salmon Brut Rosé – $80
Almost persimmon in color, this Champagne is easy on the eyes. It’s also got sea-like depth and wild berry flavors for days. The blend incorporates more Pinot Meunier than what is typical, allowing the third wheel of the famous trio (the two stars typically being Pinor Noir and Chardonnay) to shine some.
ROCO RMS 2015 Brut – $65*
ROCO is the work of Oregon sparkling wine legend Rollin Soles, who spent many years at Argyle prior to launching this label. This brut shows lovely fruit and acid but also lets the yeast come forward, the hallmark of a fine sparkler. Try it with some truffle popcorn, per the winery’s suggestion.
JK Carriere 2011 Blanc de Noir – $75*
I’m amazed this Willamette Valley wine still exists. It’s now got a few years under its belt, giving you a taste of how wonderfully sparkling can cellar. It’s got all the winter citrus flavors, along with some sweeter pastry notes and a silky mouthfeel. It’s made entirely from Pinot Noir and fermented with native yeast.
*Not Champagne, as it’s crafted in America, but the quality is certainly on par, so drink up.
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