Legend holds that Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon uttered the words “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!” upon discovering how to make Champagne sparkle in 1693; two centuries later, Oscar Wilde wrote, “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” in Lady Windermere’s Fan. The two can be connected.
Regardless of how Champagne first got its sparkle — and whatever your budget — there is a life-affirming joy that arises from sipping wines from the world’s most famous wine region, Champagne. They needn’t be “reassuringly expensive” — though for those closer to the stars than the gutter, below are a few suggestions for expanding any vinous horizons.
Whatever your choice, coax more from your star pour by deploying tulip-shaped white wine glasses which amplify aromas, rather than corseting flutes. À votre santé — et joyeux noël!
Nicolas De Montbart
Gold-hued Champagnes may be made with both white and red grapes — which beyond their skins have clear-coloured flesh. This light-hearted, frothy blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier is a youthful aperitif with a hint of tangerine on the palate, at a price which could make it a daily indulgence.
Champagne Lallier R.018
From the first Italian-owned Champagne house comes cuvée ‘R’. Standing for ‘Réflexions’, this elegant assemblage provides an overview of the 2018 harvest supported with older wines gathered over 50 crus across the vineyards of Champagne. It bears aromas of red apples and the memory of summer berries on the palate.
£40.95, Whisky Exchange
Champagne Jacquart Cuvée Alpha 2012
The result of “a mosaic of chalk, vines and talented winegrowers” according to winemaker Joëlle Weiss, Jacquart’s suavely packaged flagship Cuvée Alpha brings together grapes from half a dozen Grand Cru vineyards. With notes of salted butter then almonds, this is a fizz to slowly savour over dinner.
£110, Great Wine
Blanc de Blancs
Pierre Moncuit, Delos Grand Cru
Champagnes made only with white grapes, typically Chardonnay, are known as Blanc de Blancs and often share facets of citrus. With yuzu, chalk and crushed oyster shell notes, and being great with oysters, this encapsulation of pure Grand Cru Chardonnay is, at the equivalent of £5.60 a glass, remarkable value.
£33.83, Brunswick Fine Wines
A Bergère Blanc De Blancs Solera Brut
A nougat-scented, layered Champagne, somehow simultaneously fresh and mature, with a structural touch of oak. Made at a family-owned Maison based on the famous Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, where they also run a flamboyantly colourful bed and breakfast.
Champagne Taittinger Comtes Blanc de Blancs 2012
From the challenging, though ultimately excellent low-yielding vintage of 2012 comes a composed, vinous Champagne aged in Taittinger’s UNESCO-registered Saint-Nicaise cellars. Notes of gunflint, canelé, golden pear then lemon cream gradually reveal themselves in the glass. Take your time to appreciate every sip.
£194 @ The Finest Bubble
Blanc de Noirs
Devaux Blanc de Noirs Champagne
This is the first of my trio of Blanc de Noirs, a term identifying an often rich white made from the clear juice of red grapes. Devaux’s winemaker, Michel Parisot, previously won Sparkling Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine Challenge, his skill attested to by this intense red fruit-scented, honeyed expression of Pinot Noir.
Palmer & Co Blanc de Noirs
From a recently garlanded house founded after WWII by seven talented winegrowers, Palmer is perhaps best known for its holdings of Chardonnay. However, this red-fruited wine is remarkably deft, being refreshing and generous, with honeysuckle, pomelo and nectarine notes.
£58, The Finest Bubble
Bollinger PN TX17
An exotically-fragranced Champagne uniting flavours of dried apricot, liquorice and starfruit arising from pure Pinot Noir (hence the PN) sourced from the esteemed vineyards of Tauxières (hence the TX), based on the ready-to-drink 2017 (hence the... oh you get it) vintage.
£86, The Finest Bubble
Veuve Monsigny No. III Brut Rosé
Talk of skin contact and Champagne may sound risqué, though it actually describes how bringing a grape’s juice together with its skin brings a flush of colour. This rosé is another competently-made bestseller from Aldi. A lively wine with flavours of redcurrant, strawberry bon-bons and vanilla cream and actually very nice with all manner of battered things, including, but not limited to, onion rings.
A belle endormie (sleeping beauty) of a Maison given the kiss of life by incoming charismatic president, Ludovic du Plessis, who with a little stardust from investor Leonardo di Caprio has repositioned Telmont as the Champagne of Cannes. Under du Plessis’ policy of “In Nomine Terrae” — in the name of Mother Nature — his vineyards are fast becoming organic. Expect morello cherry notes and a rich texture. Bold enough to match with game birds.
Perrier-Jouët Rosé 2013
Séverine Frerson, the first female cellar-master in Perrier-Jouët’s history — quite something for a house founded in 1811 — artfully likens this luxuriant crisp green apple, pear and jasmine-scented rosé to a pale pink ranunculus, saying: “its multi-layered, ruffled petals suggest this cuvée’s surprising combination of richness and delicacy…” Adding to the floral theme, the iconic bottle is gilded with a tea rose — incidentally, an upmarket afternoon tea is where this bottle might excel.
£230, Whisky Exchange