by Alex Fondren
It’s almost hard not to find an evening in December that couldn’t benefit from a little extra vinous sparkle. However, my resulting headaches from a month-long fizz-fest usually are more from wallet angst than alcohol-throb.
This year, I decided to *pop* with more prudence, and—by doing my research ahead of time (hard work, I know)—ensure that my love for spontaneous Champers might also prove financially sustainable for once. Of course, value means different things to different people (yes, former colleague who thinks NV Krug is a ‘value’ – I’m talking to you), so with that in mind, I give you my—admittedly Champagne-heavy—recommendations of bubbles for every budget:
Bubbly Under $50
A very precise, nervy and focused style Champagne. With ample lemon and mineral, this shows markedly vinous qualities, true depth and a consistent character that is usually only reserved for vintage Champagnes. Downright delicious enough to appeal to every drinker, while in sync and elegant enough to appeal to the Champagne lover.
Discovered this producer while in Champagne, France and was thrilled to find availability in the U.S. Vervy and great saline minerality with brisk grapefruit and white florals—an excellent value for ‘the real deal’.
Surprisingly good domestic sparkles for the price. We love Maisons Marques & Domaines at CCA. They were the first sparkling producer in the Anderson Valley. Dry, with nice acidity and an interesting nose of orchard fruit and a touch of honey. Consistent year after year, and you won’t faint when your aunt tries to make a mimosa out of it.
Best bubbly bang for your 10 bucks. Tight bubbles, with just enough hints of citrus, mineral and yeast to keep it fairly interesting.
Bubbly Under $100
Salon’s little sister. This shows the edgy, mineral side that Salon is famous for, and that everlasting, acid-driven finish. 2002 is a heralded Champagne vintage, and Delamotte gets it right. The vintage adds lift and just enough body to the classic citrus fruit profile of this Blanc de Blancs. For under $100, this is a true value in the Champagne world.
Was just reminded of this gem at our company holiday party. Lovely red fruit and blood orange. Always a beautiful rosé.
Enjoyed recently in Paris, this was beautifully round, yeasty, vibrant and generous. Fabulous at 10 years of age (2004 was another great vintage, if not as sensational as the benchmark 2002).
This Champagne calls for food and is an exceptional value for vintage Champagne (especially for the heralded 2002s). Doughy, with lots of apples, stone fruit, toast and full of tertiary yeasty spice character; this is a fun one – made by the ex-winemaker for Krug. Grab it now if you can find it, and ignore any bad scores by foolish critics—they’re wrong.
Bubbly Over $100
Krug Grande Cuvee Brut ($214)
For me, this is better than Krug’s vintage offerings. They like to call it their “multi-vintage blend” in the same light as Vega Sicilia Unico’s multi-vintage bottling. Similarly, the sum of its parts is always more evocative than one vintage on its own (at least when it comes to Krug). This is one of the most complex, layered wines that you will taste, period. Beautiful stone fruit gives way to mild spice and toast on a delicate, but long palate. Yes, it ages well, but I prefer the current release right after disgorgement.
Can you tell I have a thing for the 2002s? If money is no barrier, a bottle of this is a celebration in its own right. Saline mineral, gunflint, white flowers, smoked lemon pith and buttered toast. This still has years to go, and please, invite me over before you pop the cork.
To track down any of these recommended bottles for the holidays, we suggest checking Wine-Searcher.com for locations near you- otherwise JJBuckley.com always has a great selection of bubbles. For Bay Area Champagne lovers, D&M Liquors (on Fillmore Street) has an unparalleled selection and an incredibly knowledgable staff who is always happy to help.
All the Swirl is a collections of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting www.charlescomm.com.