17 Bottles to Toast the Golden Age of Champagne

Golden Age of Champagne

Champagne has had a series of golden harvests since the turn of the century: 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and now 2015. Warm, dry summers mean growers in Champagne can harvest ripe grapes. In a region that was more used to green, underripe harvests in cold, wet conditions, this is a big change.

Riper grapes create richer base wines, which are then blended into a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. These allow for great vintage Champagnes and better cuvées of the widely available nonvintage wines.

Since ripe grapes create broad, fruit-forward wines, the dosage—the amount of sugar added before the cork and cage are affixed—can be reduced. This has spawned an increase in brut nature and brut zéro wines—Champagnes with no dosage at all.

In the past, these would have been unbearably raw and acidic. Today, these have a clean, crisp character that balances ripe-fruit tones with acidity. For best results, these sparklers should be aged for a few months after purchase to allow the acidity to soften even more.

In fact, in an ideal world, many nonvintage Champagnes should be aged for a few months. That’s tough, of course, as most bubbles are bought with the intention of immediate consumption. So buy two bottles—drink one immediately and keep one for later. Within a few months you’ll notice the ripe fruit will broaden and the acidity will mellow.

Moët & Chandon 2004 Dom Pérignon Brut Rosé; $320, 95 points. This is a very fine wine with considerable bottle age. From its orange-pink color to its mature toast and almond flavors, this complex wine is much more than the fruit that has merged with the secondary flavors. Light tannins and a crisp texture are balanced by the softness that comes from the relatively high dosage. The wine, beautifully mature, is ready to drink. Moët Hennessy USA.

Taittinger NV Prélude Grands Crus Brut; $95, 94 points. Made from only Grand Cru vineyards, this ripe, full and wonderfully textured wine is rich and complex. It brings out tangy orange and lemon zest, a tightly mineral texture, fragrant fruit and acidity. Dense and concentrated, the wine would benefit from some bottle age to bring out all its flavors. Kobrand.

Pol Roger 2008 Blanc de Blancs Brut; $140, 94 points. Crisply fresh, this full-bodied wine has citrus fruitiness that is followed by hints of toast and honey that are just developing. Well balanced, it’s very textured while also fruity, and will develop well in bottle. Drink from 2017 for the more mature flavors to bring their own character to the wine. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd.

A.R. Lenoble  2008 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly Brut; $63, 93 points. This is a fine wine from a great vintage. Still young, it is already showing great swathes of apple and tight citrus fruit cut with lemon zest. It has a crisp character, packed with acidity that will soften while always there. Drink this wine from 2018. Cognac One, LLC. Editors’ Choice.

G. H. Mumm NV Mumm de Cramant Blanc de Blancs Brut; $75, 93 points. There is an attractive hint of toastiness here, since the bottle was disgorged in February 2014. That brings a roundness and a complexity to this classic Blanc de Blancs. As its name indicates the grapes come from the village of Cramant on the Côte des Blancs, and there are suggestions of the chalk terroir in the tight minerality and crisp apple that come through in the aftertaste. Pernod Ricard.

Lanson NV Extra Age Blanc de Blancs Brut; $125, 93 points. Aged for at least five years in the Lanson cellars before disgorgement, this is a blend of Grand Cru wines from the Côte des Blancs. It has signs of maturity in the hints of toast and almonds while showing a crisp, tightly mineral texture. It’s a great food wine, very fresh with good depth of flavor. The acidity at the end is bright and refreshing. Lanson International Americas Ltd.

46 Top Rated Champagne and Sparkling Wines

Mailly Grand Cru NV Blanc de Noirs Brut; $50, 92 points. Pure Pinot Noir, an unusual style, gives a powerful rich character to a wine. This ripe, dense and full-bodied Champagne is full of apricot, pear and green plum flavors that are linked with the tight, lightly tannic texture. It is a well-balanced wine, ready to drink. Saranty Imports.

Chanoine 2009 Tsarine Millésime Brut; $60, 92 points. This wine is still young, very fresh in its crisp acidity and lemon and grapefruit flavors. It has the potential to age well, with an underlay of tension between fruit and mineral texture. It is complex, structured and needs to mature further. Drink from 2018. Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits. Editors’ Choice.

J. M. Gobillard et Fils 2010 Cuvée Prestige Rosé Brut; $62, 91 points. Still young and fruity, this wine is totally integrated, harmoniously blending the red fruits with a tight texture and fresh acidity. Although it is drinkable now, it will benefit from bottle age, so best drink from 2017. Wine Wine Situation LLC.

Henriet-Bazin NV Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut; $73, 91 points. Produced from Grand Cru vineyards on the Montagne de Reims, this wine is rich, dry and tightly structured. A mineral texture gives a steely edge that is balanced by perfumed fruit with apple and creamed pear flavors. Bonhomie Wine Imports.

Billecart-Salmon NV Brut Rosé; $80, 91 points. While this wine is rich, it is also well balanced with perfumed acidity and a tight, mineral edge. Ripe with red berry fruits, it is dry and full in the mouth. Both fresh and rich at the same time, it will be better with food. Billecart Salmon USA. 

Jacquart 2008 Vintage Brut; $60, 91 points. Produced from Grand and Premier cru vineyards, this ripe wine is from a good, not great, year in Champagne. It has good structure and a tense texture that shows that it is still maturing. With crisp acidity and layers of complex fruit and structure, it could still age further. Drink from 2017. JAD Imports.

Jean Laurent 2003 Blanc de Noirs Millésime Brut; $100, 91 points. With the dominance of Pinot Noir in the Aube region, it is no surprise to find a vintage Champagne that is 100% from that grape. With a round character from the Pinot, as well as a hot vintage, this is a full-bodied wine with vibrant fruit and lively acidity. Drink now. Hand Picked Selections.

Boizel NV Ultime Extra Brut; $58, 90 points. Like so many bone-dry Champagnes, this wine needs some bottle aging to soften the brutal acidity. It offers a tight mineral texture and crisp lemon and grapefruit acidity. Drink from 2017. Vinum Wine Importing and Distributing LLC.

Mailly Grand Cru NV Extra Brut; $47, 90 points. Some attractive bottle age to this bone-dry wine gives a touch of toast over the fresh apple fruit. It is crisp and ripe, with a hint of austere, structured minerality. The bottle is ready to drink. Saranty Imports.

Gosset NV Grand Rosé Brut; $85, 89 points. Light in color, this crisp and fruity wine has a balance between its red fruit flavors and the tight, bright acidity. It is softer and fruitier than some of the Gosset wines, making it immediately accessible and a fine apéritif style. Wilson Daniels Ltd.

J. Dumangin Fils NV Le Rosé Premier Cru Brut; $65, 89 points. The 47% of Chardonnay in the blend gives this crisp rosé tight texture. Although there are great red currant and berry fruits, a mineral character adds to the wine’s complexity. It is the style of rosé that will be best with food. Wine Symphony, Inc.

Published on December 29, 2015
Topics: ChampagneWine Recommendations