When you think of Champagne you often dream of black-tie affairs, ballroom dresses, and caviar pairings associated with this luxurious wine category. But the reality is that more and more people are embracing Champagne as an everyday wine to enjoy, given that its versatility and complexity lends itself to so many situations.
True, Champagne is often very expensive, so a bottle might be something you want to save for a special occasion. But there are some excellent options that are more affordable (or go ahead and open that $300 vintage on a Tuesday evening). Champagne is most commonly made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier grapes (often a combination of two or three), and is blended, fermented, and aged in its namesake region of France. Serve your Champagne cold but not frigid, and consider trying a glass with a more open shape instead of the traditional flute to really let the nose and palate expand as you sip. Here are five top-shelf champagnes to try now, in a variety of styles and vintages.
Champagne Henriot L’Inattendue
This is the newest release from Champagne Henriot, the storied house that is over two centuries old. L’Inattendue (French for “the unexpected”) is a 2016 vintage made from grapes from the Grand Cru Chardonnay Avize in the Côte des Blancs (100 percent Chardonnay, 100 percent Grand Cru). This champagne was aged for a minimum of four years, and there are just 810 bottles available. The palate is chalky with notes of citrus and a minerality throughout.
Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2008
This wine, a 2008 vintage rosé made from Pinot Noir grapes, was matured for well over a decade in the cellars before its release. According to the chef de cave notes, the spring and summer of that year were overcast before the sun finally came out to provide warmth and light in the fall, leading to a special harvest. The nose is redolent with berries and flowers mixed with some greener notes, followed by a palate with an acidic base that builds upon layers of fruit, botanicals, and some white pepper. Save this one for a special occasion to enjoy, or just open it when the mood strikes you.
Price: $329, Reservebar.com
Champagne Lanson Le Black Label Brut
There are some more affordable Champagnes that don’t lack in quality, and this one from the Lanson house fits nicely into that category. This is a blend made up of 100 Crus in Champagne (50% of which are Grand and Premier), and the components are 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier. A solid base of reserve wines are incorporated into the blend as well for complexity and heft. Look for notes of pear, apple, and some fresh pastry on the nose, and bright lemon, plum, and some brioche on the palate. Suggested food pairings include mushroom ravioli or salmon with sweet potato fries.
Price: $50, Wine.com
Champagne Bollinger R.D. 2007
The “R.D.” in the name of this Bollinger champagne stands for “recently disgorged,” a reference to the bottles that champagne houses would keep to share with family and friends, disgorging them just before tasting. This new wine is 70 percent Pinot Noir, 30 percent Chardonnay sourced from 14 crus altogether of which over 90 percent are Grand Cru. It was aged for 14 years on the lees after a second fermentation, and has a palate full of baking spices, stone fruit, hazelnut, and a bright freshness throughout. Check out the label to see the actual disgorgement date for the champagne.
Price: $300, Wine.com
Champagne Ayala N° 14 Rose
This is the third release in the Collection Ayala, a 2014 vintage that is a blend of 60 percent Chardonnay and 40 percent Pinot Noir. The champagne was aged for six years on the lees after disgorgement, and was produced under the direction of winemaker Caroline Latrive with a dosage of just over five grams per liter. This is a lovely rose with notes of cherry, red currant, and tropical fruits on the palate, with a bright floral quality to it and hints of fresh lime.
Price: $130, Total Wine