46 Top Rated Champagne and Sparkling Wines
If there is one time in the year when bubbly is a must, it is the holiday season. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah or even just a few days off work, ’tis the season to pop a cork… or two or three.
That’s why every December, the Buying Guide focuses on sparkling wines from around the world, with reviews of more than 200 bubbly beauties in this issue. We cover the tried-and-true classics, but also some outside-the-box options—like French crémant and California sparklers—that won’t break the bank.
For Champagne, we take a look at the latest releases of both vintage and nonvintage selections. The iconic Salon Champagne house earned a perfect score with its 2002 Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut, only the second Champagne to be awarded 100 points by Wine Enthusiast (Krug’s 1998 Clos du Mesnil was the first, and at almost four times the price of the Salon). But you needn’t exclusively look to vintage Champagnes for high quality—of the 70 nonvintage Champagnes reviewed for this issue, more than half scored 90 points or more. And they’re reasonably priced, as well, with options starting at $35.
Italian Editor Kerin O’Keefe assesses the latest metodo classico sparklers from Italy. From stunning Franciacortas to Trento bubblies and trendy Prosecco Col Fondo, we’ve got you covered with diverse Italian options.
In the New World, our California tasting team focuses on domestic bubblies worth checking out, as well as Pinot Noirs to complement this month’s feature on the variety. Reviews from Germany, Portugal, Spain, Argentina and Oregon round the issue out.
—Lauren Buzzeo and the Editors of Wine Enthusiast
100 Salon 2002 Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne).
The 35th and most recent vintage of Salon since the house was founded in 1905 is memorable and magnificent. Made only from Chardonnay grown in the Grand Cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, it combines intense minerality, a crisp textured core and the beginnings of maturity. The depths of this wine, with its layers of fruit and steeliness, are superb. Even after 12 years, it still needs to age further. Drink from 2018. Vineyard Brands. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $480
96 Pol Roger 2000 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut (Champagne).
Dedicated to the memory of the British wartime Prime Minister, who regularly drank Pol Roger, this is always a superlative Champagne. This 2000, at 14 years old, has developed a pale gold color and toastiness. That intensifies the mature flavors and rich texture, while allowing the tight mousse and acidity to keep a sense of structure. It will age much further, although it is perfectly ready to drink now. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $305
95 Charles Heidsieck 2005 Brut Millésimé (Champagne).
Still very young, this holds great potential. Rich, full-bodied and densely structured, it is a wine first, sparkling second. Ripe apple and peach flavors partner with a strongly mineral texture. It needs to age more in bottle, so drink from 2016. Remy Cointreau USA. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $125
95 Laurent-Perrier 2004 Cuvée Alexandra Grande Cuvée Rosé (Champagne).
First produced in the 1987 vintage to celebrate the marriage of owner Bernard de Nonancourt’s eldest daughter, this bottling is now mature. Ripe, it still retains plenty of red fruits while also allowing the toasty character to show through. It’s a rosé that calls for food, a rich and balanced wine that is just perfect to drink now. Laurent-Perrier US. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $350
95 Louis Roederer 2008 Vintage Brut (Champagne).
A deliciously ripe wine, full of fruit as well as a great mineral texture. It completely expresses the exceptional 2008 with all its structure. Still young, it’s all fruit and freshness that promise serious bottle aging. Drink this complex, serious wine from 2017. Maisons Marques & Domaines USA. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $80
95 Moët & Chandon 2006 Grand Vintage Brut (Champagne).
This offers great balance between the freshest fruit and toasty maturity. That poise gives this impressive Champagne a tension, a high wire act that works superbly. It is rich, full of fruit but also with great depth. It will certainly age, so drink now or hold through 2019. Moët Hennessy USA. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $60
95 Pommery 2002 Cuvée Louise Brut (Champagne).
This well-aged wine from a top Champagne vintage is just now ready to drink after 12 years. It has a touch of toast, but it’s the rich, complex texture and fine structure that set it apart. It’s not a dry wine, it feels soft. It is so well integrated, elegant with hints of apples, a layer of minerality and still-fresh final acidity. Vranken Pommery America. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $150
94 Bruno Paillard 1999 N.P.U. Brut (Champagne).
N.P.U., Neo Plus Ultra, the summit of Paillard’s range, is a blend from four Grands Crus vineyards. Half-and-half Pinot Noir and Chardonnay give a wonderfully rounded, mature wine that is at its pinnacle for drinking now. It is rich, full in the mouth, mingling toast with ripe grapefruit and quince fruits. Martin Scott Wines. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $185
94 Drappier 2005 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Millesimé Brut (Champagne).
This is just showing hints of maturing. For now, the texture is tangy, zesty with a bite of minerality from the chalk soil of the Chardonnay vineyards. It will develop further in bottle, giving a crisp Champagne with a delicious bite at the end. A. Hardy USA. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $66
94 Mailly Grand Cru 2004 Les Echansons Brut (Champagne).
This is a serious wine, with its tight mousse, signs of toastiness and intense fruit and acidity. It is full of flavor, ripe from a good vintage, packed with apple and citrus fruits along with a nervy steely character from the Chardonnay in the blend. It is ready to drink although it will certainly age for many years. Saranty Imports. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $180
93 Ayala 2005 Cuvée Perle d’Ayala Millesimé Brut (Champagne).
Now reaching its peak, this vintage of Ayala’s top quality prestige cuvée is ripe, full-bodied and rounded. It has the hallmark dryness of the house although it has been softened by aging and given elegance and style. It’s totally ready to drink. Vintus LLC. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $175
93 J. Dumangin Fils 2004 Le Vintage Premier Cru Extra Brut (Champagne).
Ripe lemon and crisp apples give the fruity element to this still young-tasting wine. There are only the slightest hints of a more toasty character, while the texture is tight, impressively full in the mouth. Made from Premier Cru vineyards in Chigny-lès-Roses, this is ready to drink, but will be even better from 2016. Palateur Imports. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $90
93 Pierre Gimonnet et Fils 2008 Oenophile Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut (Champagne).
Extra Brut and the wine is also described as non dosé, meaning no dosage. So it’s as dry as a bone while also being totally crisp, fresh and fruity. It also means that it needs to age in bottle to allow the mouthwatering acidity to soften a little. As it fills out, it will become an impressive wine that has pure fruits to go with the minerality. Keep until 2017. Michael Skurnik Wines. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $80
92 Delamotte 2004 Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne).
This is the best Delamotte vintage since 1996, a ripe and rich wine that brings out the chalky soil character with a strong mineral content. It has weight along with a relatively high dosage that gives softness. It is balanced, fruity and ready to drink. Vineyard Brands. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $112
92 Henri Goutorbe 2005 Spécial Club Grand Cru Brut (Champagne).
Goutorbe is a member of the Spécial Club grouping of grower producers, which tastes and approves each other’s special cuvée. This 2005, with its ripe fruits and the beginnings of bottle age, is a worthy member. It has delicious apple and white peach fruits, lively acidity and a texture that is moving towards toastiness. The wine is ready to drink. Michael Skurnik Wines. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $92
92 Jean Milan 2009 Symphorine Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne).
This is a fresh, still-young wine packed with citrus and white fruits. It has strong layers of acidity, a tight texture and a mineral aftertaste. There is a considerable depth of flavor here, a wine that delves deep into the textured fruitiness. It’s a wine for aging, so wait until 2016 before drinking. Michael Skurnik Wines. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $75
91 Boizel 2000 Joyau de France Brut (Champagne).
The millennium year, 2000, was not the greatest Champagne vintage. However, Boizel has released a prestige cuvée from that year and produced a well matured wine with a dry character and plenty of toasty notes. Dominated by Pinot Noir, it is deliciously rich and totally ready to drink. Vinum Wine Importing and Distributing LLC. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $116
91 Jean-Noël Haton 2009 Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne).
A wonderfully textured and fruity wine that comes from vineyard in Damery on the slopes of the Montagne de Reims. It is steely with a chalky texture that marches with the fresh apple fruits and crisp acidity. Still young, it will be better from 2016. T. Elenteny Imports. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $65
91 Veuve Doussot 2006 Memory Brut (Champagne).
This is an elegant Champagne, with a burgeoning sense of maturity as well as fresh acidity. Flavors of ripe pear are cut with a light touch of lemon while the overall texture is soft and on the sweet side of Brut. It could age a few more years, so drink now and until 2019. Serge Doré Selections. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $90
90 Jacquesson et Fils 2008 Dizy Terres Rouges Extra Brut Rosé (Champagne).
This dark-colored rosé comes from a single vineyard in the village of Dizy. It is certainly dry as its Extra Brut description indicates, but it offers so much ripe red fruitiness that it is also rich and concentrated. There is bright acidity at the end. Drink now. Vintage ’59 Imports. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $200
97 Laurent-Perrier NV Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée Brut (Champagne).
Laurent-Perrier’s prestige cuvée has always been nonvintage, a blending of top wines from top years. It remains an exceptional wine, not quite dry and with a tinge of softness, but so elegant and balanced. This bottling has just the right amount of maturity, hinting at toast while guarding every iota of fruitiness. Laurent-Perrier US. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $130
95 Jacquesson et Fils NV Cuvée No 733 Dégorgement Tardive Extra Brut (Champagne).
By leaving the Champagne on its lees for an extended period, this wine from the 2005 vintage and disgorged in 2013, has balanced out the totally crisp character of Extra Brut. It’s become rich and rounded, with equal amounts of Chardonnay and the two Pinots, Noir and Meunier. It’s an impressive, powerful wine to drink now. Vintage ’59 Imports. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $171
94 Pierre Gimonnet et Fils NV Sélection Belles Années Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne).
A blend of wines from six different villages across five vintages goes into this supreme example of a Blanc de Blancs. It is so crisp, so mineral and textured. At the same time, it is elegant, fresh and lively. Although it is nonvintage, it will benefit from some more time in bottle, so drink from summer 2015. Michael Skurnik Wines. Editors’ Choice. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $46
93 Charles Heidsieck NV Brut Réserve (Champagne).
Fresh and fruity while also rich and full in the mouth, this is a superbly balanced nonvintage selection. It is not quite dry with its apple and citrus fruits both given some softness. Disgorged in 2012, it already has two years bottle age that has rounded out the wine. Drink now. Remy Cointreau USA. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $60
93 Jean Milan NV Duo 150 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne).
To celebrate the family’s 150th anniversary (founded in 1864), the Milans have released two Champagnes, half fermented in wood the other half in tank. The result for this Blanc de Blancs is a full wine, with a future that will bring out richness as well as a tight, mineral structure with just a hint of toast. Michael Skurnik Wines. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $124
93 Lelarge-Pugeot NV Les Meuniers de Clémence Vrigny Premier Cru Extra Brut (Champagne).
This beautifully balanced wine has dryness compensated by the intense fruitiness, the crisp mineral texture and a creamy mousse character. It is ripe, full of both apple fruits and lime juice with a tight aftertaste that will soften in the next months. Terrell Wines. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $50
93 Veuve Doussot NV Cuvée L Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne).
Produced from 50-year-old Chardonnay vines, this rich Champagne has full apple and crisp citrus flavors that are filled out with toasty bottle age and great depth of flavor. It’s mouth-filling and sophisticated. The oval (as distinct from round) bottle is a work of art. Serge Doré Selections. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $105
92 Besserat de Bellefon NV Cuvée B de B Brut (Champagne).
To celebrate its 1843 origins, Besserat de Bellefon has released this limited-edition wood-fermented wine. It is a classic yet exceptional blend of Chardonnay/Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier from eight cru vineyards. The taste is ripe and rich, with the wood treatment reducing the acidity while filling out the fruit. A complex wine, it will repay further bottle aging. Winesellers Ltd. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $100
92 Mailly Grand Cru NV Brut Rosé (Champagne).
This is a fruity, fragrant wine with light fruitiness and deliciously crisp acidity. Red berry flavors are lined with red apple acidity and a texture that shows a touch of minerality from the Grand Cru vineyards on the Montagne de Reims. Unusually for a rosé Champagne, this is made principally from Pinot Noir, with color coming from the skins rather than from adding red wine to the blend. Saranty Imports. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $55
92 Pol Roger NV Pure Extra Brut (Champagne).
Almost shockingly dry at first, the wine then develops a more mature character that broadens out the tight acidity and fruit. Previously described as Brut Nature, it’s now designated as Extra Brut, allowing more dosage. It also has depth of flavor, complexity from the fruits, the hint of toast from bottle age. The wine finishes crisply with a fine mineral shot at the end. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $84
91 Ruinart NV Brut Rosé (Champagne).
Pale in color, this is dominated by its taut, nervy structure. Crisp red currant and red apple flavors give the fruitiness. A ripe, full-bodied mouthfeel brings out a softer, riper aftertaste. Moët Hennessy USA. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $90
91 Tendil & Lombardi NV Blanc de Noirs Brut (Champagne).
Blanc de Noirs, white Champagne only from red grapes, produces wines with some weight, as here. It makes for a rich, full-blooded Champagne, packed with red fruits while also cut through with intense acidity. The fruitiness gains shape from a zesty texture. The Barterhouse. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $50
90 Domaine Charles Baur NV Emotion (Crémant d’Alsace).
While this is a nonvintage wine, it is still very young and will benefit from time in bottle. That will allow the rich apple and crisp lemon flavors to round out, calming the intense acidity. The potential of this rich wine is considerable. Grape News Importing. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $30
88 Cave Freudenreich NV Brut (Crémant d’Alsace).
Lively, crisp and fragrant, this offers fresh acidity and a fruit salad of flavors, along with a creamy textured mousse. With its slight spiciness, it’s best as an apéritif. Wine Without Borders. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $19
88 Domaine Ehrhart NV Domaine Saint-Rémy Prestige Brut (Crémant d’Alsace).
Pure Chardonnay, this soft and creamy wine is full of fruit. Apples and crisp pears give a ripe and rounded character that goes with the full mousse. It’s ready to drink. Robert Kacher Selections. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $25
88 Domaine Vincent Stoeffler NV Blanc de Blancs Brut (Crémant d’Alsace).
Fresh and crisp, this is a blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Auxerrois. It has a bright aromatic character, citrus and apple flavors and a fruity aftertaste. Authentique Vin. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $27
88 Wolfberger NV Brut (Crémant d’Alsace).
Pinot Gris makes a Crémant that is not quite dry, with spicy intensity and delicious acidity. It’s rich, with almond and buttery flavors that are followed by a crisp, fragrant aftertaste. Kysela Père et Fils. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $20
87 Domaine Jean-Luc Mader NV Brut (Crémant d’Alsace).
Bright, fruity and deliciously crisp with a creamy mousse, this is a citrus and apple flavored wine. It has a bone-dry character with a mineral and lemon zest texture. It’s ready to drink. Elite Wines Import. —R.V.
abv: 12.5% Price: $23
91 Bailly-Lapierre 2011 Egarade (Crémant de Bourgogne). Already showing some toasty maturity, this blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is delicate, yeasty and rounded. Coming from northern Burgundy, it has a cool climate feel, textured with orange zest and the crispest acidity. It is ready to drink, although another few years in bottle will improve it even more. Wine Warehouse. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $NA
89 Simonnet-Febvre 2008 Cuvée S Brut (Crémant de Bourgogne). This rich, fruity wine is packed with ripe apples and pears, and cut with delicious, full-on acidity. It’s aromatic, with a lively mousse and a sparkling, lifted character. Drink now. Louis Latour Inc. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $20
87 Paul Delane NV Brut Réserve (Crémant de Bourgogne). A light-hearted Crémant from northern Burgundy that has fresh apples and plenty of citrus. It’s crisp and very fruity, lightly textured, the ideal apéritif-style sparkling wine. Drink now. Vitis Imports. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $NA
86 Cave de Bissey NV Blanc de Blancs Brut (Crémant de Bourgogne). The 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Aligoté gives a tangy, zesty lemon-flavored wine. It has a textured character, crisp and full of the freshest acidity. It could benefit from a few months in bottle, so when you buy, wait a little. T. Elenteny Imports. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $29
86 Jaffelin NV Brut (Crémant de Bourgogne). This is an attractive and fruity, creamy wine. Flavors of ripe apples and pear juice are boosted by the nutty suggestion of bottle age and by a tight, crisp acidity at the end. Epic Wines. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $24
88 Château de Montguéret NV Brut (Crémant de Loire). This is a soft, fruity wine with a rounded texture. Creamed apples are given freshness by a citrus shot. Although it is described as Brut, its aftertaste is soft, smooth and with apple juice sweetness. Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $20
87 Domaine du Vieil Orme NV Gabriel Brut (Crémant de Loire). Fresh and creamily fruity, this well-made, balanced wine features a touch of honey and almonds as well as bright, crisp acidity. The 100% Chardonnay in the wine gives a ripe and round aftertaste. T. Elenteny Imports. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $22
87 Marquis de Goulaine NV Brut (Crémant de Loire). This is a crisp, clean and lightly creamy sparkling wine. With its pure apple and light touch of citrus, it offers freshness as an apéritif. Drink now, it needs no bottle age. Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. —R.V.
abv: 12% Price: $20
- 1Vintage Champagne
- 2Nonvintage Champagne
- 3Crémant d’Alsace
- 4Crémant de Bourgogne
- 5Crémant de Loire