Champagne is a sparkling white wine, made exclusively in the Champagne region of France. White wine, made from anywhere, outside France cannot be called Champagne, by law. It is made by a second fermentation process, after primary fermentation and bottling. The fame of Champagne is primarily due to its marketing strategies, used throughout history. It was first promoted as a royal beverage, and indeed, it seemed to be a favorite among the titled and nobility. By the 19th century, it was marketed to women and the middle class, as a luxury drink for the masses. Today, it is a compulsory, celebratory drink, with a reputation for being pricey. The best Champagne brands are Bollinger, Perrier Jouët, Dom Perignon, Krug (most expensive Champagne brand) and Cristal to name a few. But wine lovers, do not fear, the best Champagne need not be the most expensive. In this article, we take a look at the different divisions of Champagne, and the best Champagne for any price range.
Types of Champagne
There are 4 primary types of Champagne:
A proprietary blended Champagne, which is the best of a producer's range. The first prestige cuvée was Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon.
Blanc de noirs
The term means "white of blacks" and is used to classify Champagnes made entirely from black grapes. The 2 permitted black grapes used to make this wine are Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These are full-bodied, robust and a deep yellow-gold in color. They go good with heavy, flavored foods including meats and cheeses. This is a rare type of Champagne.
Blanc de blancs
Champagne which is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes, are this type. The term is French for "white of whites". It is the lightest and most refreshing of Champagnes, and are popular accompaniments to light courses like soup. Noted producers are Taittinger and Ruinart.
There are 2 methods to make this type of Champagne. One is to add a small quantity of Pinot Noir wine to the base wine. The other method is skin contact, where the grapes skins are pressed, so they soak into the grape juice. This is done before fermentation. This type of Champagne is a popular romantic wine, due to its pale pink hue.
Vintage and Non Vintage
Champagne can also be judged by whether it is vintage or not. Vintage is used to classify Champagne, in which 85% of grapes used are from a single year. Each house decides whether to produce a vintage Champagne in any given year. Vintage Champagne must be aged for at least 3 years. 85 to 90 percent of Champagnes produced are non vintage, which is less expensive than those produced in a vintage year. Non vintage Champagne is composed of grapes from different harvest, as opposed to vintage, which is from a single harvest.
Best High-end Champagne
The best Champagne in the world, with prices above $200, are listed below.
|Roederer Cristal Brut Rosé||Rosé||2000||$500|
|Krug Clos du Mesnil||Blanc de blancs, vintage||1996||$1,500|
|Perrier-Jouët Fleur de Champagne Rosé||Rosé||2002||$300|
|Henriot Cuvée des Enchanteleurs||Cuvée||1996||$215|
|Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill||Cuvée||1998||$225|
|Krug Clos d'Ambonnay||Cuvée||1996||$2,250|
|Dom Ruinart Champagne||Rosé||1996||$325|
|Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosé||Vintage, Rosé||2003||$350|
|Dom Pérignon Oenotheque||Cuvée||1990||$390|
Great Midrange Champagne
Willing to splurge, but not too much? Here is some of the world's best Champagne, in the $50-$200 range.
|Champagne Delamotte||Rosé||Non vintage||$105|
|Taittinger Comtes de Champagne||Blanc de Blancs||1998||$145|
|Pol Roger Brut Chardonnay Extra Cuvée de Réserve||Blanc de Blancs||1998||$95|
|Bruno Paillard Réserve Privée||Blanc de Blancs||Non vintage||$88|
|Saint-Chamant Millésimé Brut Blanc de Blancs||Blanc de Blancs||1999||$80|
|Ayala Perle D'Ayala Millésimé Brut||Cuvée||2000||$150|
|Gonet Medeville NV Blanc de Noirs||Blanc de Noirs||Non vintage||$60|
|Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvée 225 Millésimé||Cuvée||2003||$96|
Best Budget Champagnes
Cheap Champagne? How is that possible? Not all Champagne brands are for the rich and richer. Here is some of the best Champagne under 50 dollars.
|Leclerc Briant Cuvée Extra Brut||Cuvée||Non vintage||$24|
|Henri Abelé Soirée Parisienne Brut||Mixed||Non vintage||$20|
|Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Blanc de Blancs||Cuvée||2004||$46|
|Collet Brut Rosé||Rosé||Non vintage||$45|
|Alfred Basely Brut||Mixed||Non vintage||$25|
|Nicolas Feuillatte Brut||Rosé||Non vintage||$48|
|Gosset Brut Excellence||Mixed||Non vintage||$44|
Don't dismiss Champagne as a celebratory drink. Like any wine, it makes a wonderful companion to food, by enhancing flavors and tastes. It is good for company (a bottle of bubbly can impress even the most snobby) and solitary introspection. It has a reputation for making one very tipsy, very fast. But carbonated alcohol does have that effect, and it can be said of any sparkling wine. So for the next occasion, or simply a quiet evening at home, break out your Champagne bottle and let the bubbles work their magic. Cheers!