If you’re all about the $100+ champagne here is what you should be drinking. And the good news isn’t that if you have expensive tastes prices are holding steady at where they have been in the past few years.
WSJ: The Dow Jones Prestige Champagne Index
In a blind tasting of the more widely available prestige Champagnes — the special and expensive wines that are showcases for Champagne houses — these were our favourites. In each case, we tasted either the newest release or the release that is most widely available. All of these are Brut, which means they are dry (the Bollinger is Extra Brut). The prices listed here are generally representative, but prices on these vary tremendously. It’s worth shopping around.
‘Blanc des Millénaires Blanc de Blancs’ 1995
Delicious. Best of tasting and best value. A significant wine, with gravitas, like a big upright bass, humming soulfully down deep but making you want to swing at the same time. Good bubbles and a ripe acidity that add life and lift. Great fruit, mushrooms and a long, yeasty finish. Serious wine at a seriously good price.
Bollinger R.D. 1996
Very Good/Delicious. Dark, rich, golden colour, with languid bubbles — and that’s how it tastes, too. Classy wine, big yet filled with life. We love R.D., but be prepared: This is not a light-hearted wine, but a thoughtful one, the kind of wine with which to reflect on the past year.
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
La Grande Dame 1998
Very Good/Delicious. Classy and elegant. Brioche, honey, great acidity and ripe fruit, all in proportion, with a clean, fresh finish and particularly lovely bubbles. A lovely lightness about it. Clearly a wine of terrific pedigree. In our blind tastings over more than a decade, this is the only top Champagne that has been among our favourites every time. It’s a can’t-miss wine.
Blanc de Blancs 1998
Very Good/Delicious. Toast, roasted almonds and plenty of lemon, with a touch of oily weight yet clean and crisp. A complete wine. Very interesting and different, with a nice balance of yeast and liveliness. You could drink it all night, both with and without food. It would make any dish sing — as well as any guest. We also liked Grande Cuvée Brut 1996 ($249.99).
G.H. Mumm Cuvée R.
Very Good. Mumm’s new entry into this category — replacing René Lalou, last made in the 1985 vintage — is celebratory and fun, with bracing acidity and a particularly lovely, long finish. Not as elegant as some; the bubbles are a bit aggressive at first, but then they calm down and deliver a real crowd-pleaser. Everyone would like this and it would be drunk lustily.
Krug Grande Cuvée Brut
Very Good. Rich and authentic, very much the real thing, with some mushrooms, a hint of lemon curd and a thought-provoking depth from age. It’s a bit somber, but beautifully made. This has been a favourite of connoisseurs — and other winemakers — for many years because it gets everything right but isn’t showy.
Palmes d’Or 1997
Very Good. We disagree about this just about every year and, once again, Dottie found it sober, relaxed, elegant and wise, while John found it somewhat clumsy, with tutti-frutti overtones. In any event, it’s clearly a wine of some weight and presence.
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1998
Very Good. A longtime favourite. Rich and round, with great acidity and some floral notes, Well-balanced and satisfying. Serious wine that demands attention. A Champagne for Champagne lovers.
Drink up! It may be the last Champagne you can afford so go out in style.
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