6 Champagnes to Celebrate

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Affordable Luxury: $50 or Less

Champagne is expensive to make. 

The vineyards are among the priciest in the wine world. The local wine syndicate sets a high price for grapes sold to producers. Champagne production involves more stages than still wines, with expensive equipment and high inventory requirements.

So it’s impressive that Champagne can be such good value. The three Champagnes recommended here are all 90-point wines from Wine Enthusiast’s Buying Guide. 

These Champagnes are great for parties or a quiet evening at home. All pair well with food, can be served as an apéritif, or just for a toast.

90 Charles Ellner NV Grande Réserve Brut, $50

This rich wine shows some bottle age. This adds a toasty character to the ripe fruit and lively acidity, resulting in extra complexity. Citrus and apple notes are woven together in a tight, mature structure.

With 123 acres of vineyard, Ellner is a large-scale grower. Its vines yield half the grapes needed to make its Champagnes—the rest are purchased.

What’s attractive about the Ellner style is its bottle age. That brings out the toastiness in this Grand Réserve, a house style that’s consistent from year to year.

This is a fine apéritif wine, rich and not too acidic when enjoyed before a meal. It’s also great with eggs and bacon, or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for a celebratory brunch.

90 Lelarge-Pugeot NV Premier Cru Brut Rosé, $45

Deliciously crisp and dry, this is a forward and fruity rosé made from Pinot Noir, with particularly fine depth of flavor. It has a ripe wild-strawberry character, citrusy freshness and a tight mineral structure.

It can be enjoyed now, but should improve over the next few months.

Established since the 17th century, Lelarge-Pugeot produces some serious vintage Champagnes that are also good value for money.
Since 2010, the 21-acre vineyard has been farmed organically. Dominique Lelarge even uses a horse to plow the soil.

This rosé is made, like most rosé Champagne, by adding still red wine, in this case from the Montagne de Reims, the hill close to Reims.

What stands out is its fruitiness and crispness, which makes it a great wine alongside food. Think shellfish—pink shrimp and pink Champagne are heavenly—or chicken. With its crisp acidity, it will even partner red meat.

90 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin NV Yellow Label Brut, $48

The Yellow Label—actually, an instantly recognizable orange—is a fruity, yet structured wine. It has fresh and fragrant fruit as well as richness, a soft, creamy texture and bright acidity. There is no sense in bottle aging this.

One of the world’s most familiar brands, you can find it virtually everywhere that Champagne is sold.

Yellow Label has always been reliable, but under cellar master Dominique Demarville, in place since 2009, it has gotten even better.

He has kept the natural creaminess of the Veuve Clicquot house style while refining its precision and fruit.

That makes it the perfect apéritif Champagne, rounded, full in the mouth and still crisp. 

Learn all about grower Champagne, also known as "farmer fizz" >>>

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6 Champagnes to Celebrate

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