Woman on Wine with Amy Reiley
In my house, the bubbles flow this time of year. That’s because I’m fortunate enough to be in charge of Gayot.com’s Best Champagne lists. We not only recommend the best vintage Champagnes but categorize France’s finest sparkling wines into five additional categories. It’s a truly comprehensive guide to the best of bubbly.
I love the liquid perks of working on it. And so I think it’s fair to say that I have some expertise in recommending Champagnes.
What are the best Champagnes for Christmas and beyond?
If you really want to geek out on the bubbly stuff, go check out all of my Gayot lists of best Champagnes. However, I’ll be the first to admit that six lists of wine recommendations to sift through gets overwhelming. So what if you just want to know what are the best Champagne to make your holidays merrier? (That’s easy, all of them!) But seriously, like all other wines, every Champagne puts its own signature on the sparkling wine style. So I’ve put together my recommendations in each of the most popular sparkling wine categories.
Looking beyond popular Champagne
Do you want an affordable Champagne? (Yes, you can get value for money, even from the Champagne region. You just might have to look at something beyond the top Champagne houses.) Is pink your preference? If you want a wine to knock your socks off, just follow my recommendation. What about a natural wine? And if you’re ready to mortgage the farm in order to mark a birth, engagement, anniversary, graduation or even divorce, I know the wine to make your investment worth your while.
An affordable Champagne alternative
Just for fun, I threw in two Crémant d’Alsace, which represent even greater affordability. These Champagne alternatives are the kinds of wine you might choose for a holiday party or a quiet Christmas Eve on a budget. So I thought they made a good fit in an article aimed at anyone looking to buy the best Champagnes for the holidays.
The Crémants are made in the Champagne style. But the grapes were grown in the Alsace region. The grapes used are often different than those used in Champagne, although you will still find Alsatian sparkling wines made with Chardonnay and, more rarely, Pinot Noir. However they may also include grapes like Pinot Blanc, Riesling or Auxerrois.
The Best Champagne Value
This might be my new favorite across the board value wine. It normally sells for about $45, but you can sometimes find a bottle sold for less than $35. And for that price, it drinks like something easily twice the price. It’s a floral wine with stone fruit flavors and a hint of minerality.
Best Rosé Champagne
2008 Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé
I do not want to love this wine as much as I do. I wanted to find a great, undiscovered Rosé Champagne to blow the competition away. But this vintage Rosé from one of the most famous Champagne brands is the one that blows all other Rosés out of the competition. It’s everything you want from pink bubbly. It is bold yet reasonably restrained with generous strawberry and cherry flavors balanced by a jolt of lemon acidity. For Rosé lovers, this really is one of the best Champagnes around.
Best Champagne for a Mega Splurge
If you’ve followed my column over the years, you’re probably wondering if I recently wandered face first into a glass wall. No, I haven’t suffered head trauma. Like my last recommendation, this one comes as a surprise even to me. But find me a wine critic who will deny the splendor of this 2008 and I’ll show you an oenophile with head trauma! This prestige cuvée is sensual, balanced, feminine without being “pretty.” It was bottle aged for 10 years before release. A harmonious blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, it offers notes of minerality, of spice, stone fruits and citrus. This wine is not only the best Champagne for a splurge, it might be the best Champagne in the world from its vintage. It is truly that good.
Best No Dosage Wine
NV Champagne Drapier Brut Nature
Extra Brut and Brut Nature, or zero dosage wines, are having a moment. To be honest, I find a lot of wines in this category about as approachable as a glass of apple cider vinegar. Extra Brut Champagnes, wines made with little to no residual sugar, can be austere, with biting acidity. But Drapier’s version of a no dosage Champagne is rich and weighty with a nice blend of fruity and toasty notes.
French Sparkling Wines
NV Ruhlmann Harmonie de Rosé Crémant d’Alsace
At under $25, this is one of the best rosé sparkling wines coming out of France. It’s a gentle style of rosé with lush strawberry and dried apricot aromas. Ripe fruit flavors include white peach and yellow nectarine. It lingers fairly long with a pleasing, roasted nut flavor at the back of the palate.
2016 Albert Mann Extra Brut Crémant d’Alsace
If you’re riding the wave of dry sparkling wines, then this is an Extra Brut you’re going to want to try. “Bright” and “fresh” are generic terms often tossed around to describe white wines but in the case of this bubbly, there truly is no better word choice. It offers bracing lemon acidity, sweet-tart grapefruit and a thread of minerality. It would make a great palate cleanser or brunch wine.
Want more wine recommendations? Check out all of my Woman on Wine selections.
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