Champagne is a sparkling wine made using the traditional method—meaning a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle to create the carbonation. It is widely considered the highest echelon of sparkling wines and, in turn, fetches a higher price than its counterparts. Rigorous laws and requirements are set by the Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC) to ensure consistent quality. The three main grape varieties in the region are Chardonnay—which provides acidity and structure—and Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier—which provide depth and richness.
These grapes are typically blended together to provide overall balance, however some producers choose to highlight the attributes of white and red grapes separately in blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs bottlings. Vintage Champagne, or a wine made exclusively from grapes grown in a particular season, is only produced in the best years. Nonvintage bottlings are more common and accessibly priced. These are made in the “house style” from a blend of vintages and are generally consistent in profile from bottling to bottling. Held in high regard for its elegance and complexity, Champagne is the drink of choice for ceremony and festivity. Here are some examples that have us raising our glasses in celebration.
Pol Roger 2008 Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Brut (Champagne); $293, 100 points. One of the great Champagnes both for its richness and its longevity, this latest incarnation is superb. The wine’s richness is linked to the ripe fruit and the dominance of Pinot Noir in the blend. It also shines in the perfect balance between the texture, the minerality and the integration of the fruit. It can be enjoyed now, but it will be better from 2020 and then for many years to come. Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd. Cellar Selection. —Roger Voss
Salon 2007 Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne); $672, 99 points. This legendary Champagne, only produced in exceptional years, comes from the village of Le Mesnil in the Côte des Blancs. It is made from 100% Chardonnay and aged for many years before release. Its minerality, concentration and beautiful fruit are still astonishingly young and deserve further aging. Drink from 2020. Vineyard Brands. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
Louis Roederer 1995 Cristal Vinothèque Brut (Champagne); $1,200, 98 points. This amazing wine is timeless. Just hinting a golden hue, the nose offers layers of toastiness balanced by an impressive amount of fruit and freshness. At 23 years old, it still has some life in it, showing bright citrus and minerality. Let it breathe before drinking to bring out all the subtleties. Maisons Marques & Domaines USA. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
Laurent-Perrier NV Grand Siècle Brut (Champagne); $150, 97 points. Laurent-Perrier has always preferred to keep its prestige cuvée as a nonvintage blend. With eight years aging after bottling and with plenty of reserve wines in the blend, it is a mature wine, yeasty and toasty in character. To go with that, there is great fruit from the blend that only comes from Grand Cru vineyards. It’s ready to drink. Laurent-Perrier US. —R.V.
Lanson 2007 Clos Lanson Brut (Champagne); $200, 97 points. Produced from a small walled vineyard close to the Lanson winery in Reims, this is a splendid wine. Its richness is balanced by the intense freshness and minerality of the Chardonnay, with apple and citrus flavors that still in the background. Now mature, this wine is ready to drink. Lanson International Americas Ltd. Editors’ Choice. —R.V.
Henriot 2006 Millésime Brut (Champagne); $99, 96 points. Now mature, this wine is rich and stylish. As it matures, it has developed a ripe yeast and toast character along with a beautiful patina of intense spice, and minerality along with great complexity. The wine is fully ready, a great experience to drink now. Maisons and Domaines Henriot. —R.V.
Krug NV Grande Cuvée 166eme Edition (Champagne); $175, 95 points. This is the latest incarnation of Grande Cuvée, now in its 166th edition. Toasty aromas signal an enticingly mature wine, rich with intense secondary flavors. It preserves the wonderful richness and the style of this producer. The wine is ready to drink now, but it will be also enjoyable for many more years. Moët Hennessy USA. Cellar Selection. —R.V.
A.R. Lenoble NV Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Mag 14 Brut (Champagne); $54, 94 points. This is one of a pair of wines in which this producer ages a significant amount of reserve wine in bottle before blending. The result is a concentrated wine, superrich while never losing sight of the strong minerality that comes from top Chardonnay on the Côte des Blancs. Drink this bottling from 2019. Lauber Imports. Editors’ Choice. —R.V.
Lallier NV Les Sous Sélection Parcellaire Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut (Champagne); $100, 93 points. Made with ripe Pinot Noir from Aÿ on the southern slopes of the Montagne de Reims, this is full of warm apple and pear flavors, cut with generous acidity, finishing with a mineral tautness. The wine is ready to drink. Massanois Imports. Editors’ Choice. —R.V.
Delamotte NV Blanc de Blancs Brut (Champagne); $84, 92 points. Based in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the heart of the Côte des Blancs, this producer knows a thing or two about Chardonnay Champagnes. The proof is in this intense, mineral and citrus-driven wine. It has depth of flavor giving concentration as well as richness. Drink this bottling from 2019. Vineyard Brands. —R.V