Champagne remains the gold standard for sparkling wines. We’ve written about it extensively over the years, including Report #34 Champagne Revisited, Report #40 Rosé Champagne and Sparkling Wine, and in several iwinereview.com articles. We continue to taste Champagne on a regular basis, and the list of reviews for 17 top producers that follows are some of the best we’ve tasted over the past twelve months.
Albin Martinot NV Cuvée Rollon Champagne 91 Pale straw. This 55/45 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sourced from the Côte des Bars reveals lively, precise aromas of toasty lees and smoky pear. The palate has a strong mineral component along with orchard fruit and hazelnut that linger on a long, fine finish. The base wine is matured six months in old foudres. Perfect to accompany fois gras. RS 7 g/L This Champagne is made by a small grower with just 4 ha of vines, but it’s worth seeking out on your next trip to France.
Besserat Founded in 1843, Besserat is today part of the Lanson-BCC portfolio of Champagnes; Lanson-BCC is headed by Bruno Paillard. The Cuvée des Moines line is done with a reduced dosage, resulting in a crémant style wine with lower bottle pressure, which combined with no malolactic fermentation ensures a soft, creamy texture and a fruit-forward profile. Annual production 40 thousand cases. Importer: Winesellers
Besserat 2006 Besserat de Bellefon Brut Millesime Cuvee des Moines ($80) 93 Amber-flecked straw. Offering mineral accented scents of honeyed pear, melon and toasted nuts. The palate is broad and rich, soft, and balanced, offering a fine mousse and bright acidity. A blend of 54% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir, and 31% Pinot Meunier aged 3 years on the lees. Disgorged October 2015. Besserat NV Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvee des Moines Grand Cru ($70) 91 Vivid yellow. Lemon tart, mature pear, verbena and a light acacia note grace the nose of this recently disgorged Grand Cru. The citrus theme is picked up again on the palate, complemented by shortbread biscuit. A lively, bright Grand Cru. All Chardonnay from Côtes de Blancs villages of Avize, Oger, Mesnil sur Oger, Cramant and Chouilly aged 3 years on the lees.
Boizel Auguste Boizel founded his Champagne house in 1834; in 1994 it became part of the Boizel Chanoine Champagne Group, which in Lanson-BCC group, which in 2006 purchased Champagne Lanson and is now known as the Lanson-BCC group. Christophe Roque makes the wine from fruit sourced from throughout Champagne. A small percentage of Grand Cru wine is matured in oak. US Importer: Palm Bay
Boizel 2007 Grand Vintage Champagne ($100) 92 A delicate mousse with lively aromas redolent of pear tart introduce this top of the line Boizel Champagne. Orchard fruit is complemented by toasty lees and notes of hazelnut and baking spice on a deep, pure palate with brisk acidity. A blend of 50% Chardonnay from Côtes des Blancs, 40% Pinot Noir from Montagne de Reims, and 10% Pinot Menunier from Cumières aged 8 months in barriques; the bottled Champagne is aged a minimum of 8 years on the lees. 6 g/l RS Boizel 2000 Joyau de France ($150) 94 The 2000 Joyau de France is incredibly fresh, especially considering its age. It shows aromas of toasty hazelnuts, stone fruit notes and lemon verbena. It has a silky texture and pure, deep flavors of lemon, stone fruit and orange zest. Finishes very long with rich extract. A blend of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay with 10% of the cuvée matured in oak barrique. Aged 12 years on the lees. 6 g/l RS Boizel NV Rosé ($60) 90 Salmon pink. Showing light red berry aromas complemented by citrus notes, the Boizel Rosé is creamy and fruit rich. The aromas are mirrored on a focused palate with additional cranberry and spicy orange zest notes. Finishes long with an attractive mineral edge. A blend of 50% Pinot Noir (8% red wine), 30% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay aged a minimum of 3 years on the lees. 8 g/l RS.
Bollinger NV Special Cuvée Brut Champagne 92 Aromas of baked pear and bread dough provide a graceful introduction to this easy to enjoy Brut. The palate is exceptionally creamy with good depth and precision and incisive flavors of tart cooked apple, lemon zest, shortbread and chalky minerals. A blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier. 8 g/l RS
Bruno Paillard Bruno Paillard started out as a broker in Reims in 1975. Today he owns one of Champagne’s best houses and also presides over the Lanson Boizel Chanoine Champagne group that includes Lanson, Boizel, Besserat and Philipponnat. He own 32 ha of organically farmed, mostly Grand Cru vineyards, which provide half his production needs. Bruno Paillard wines are unfailingly well-balanced and low in dosage, offering elegant wines that improve with time in the bottle after disgorgement. Maison Bruno Paillard is one of Champagne’s Grand Marques. Importer: Vintus Wines
Bruno Paillard NV Extra Brut Premiere Cuvee ($50) 92 Redolent of pear, citrus, and shortbread with a nuance of dried cherry on a refined and delicate nose, the Extra Brut shows superb textural finesse on a precise palate, finishing with dry minerals. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, and 22% Pinot Meunier from 32 different vintages, all vinified separately, with a high percentage of reserve wines. 6 g/l RS.
Charles Heidsieck In 1851 Charles-Camille Heidsieck founded his Champagne house, which stayed in the family until 2011 when the Descours family purchased it. Today, Cyril Brun is the cellarmaster. Charles Heidsieck owns 60 ha of vineyards and also purchases fruit from long term contract growers and cooperatives. It’s especially famed for its extensive collection (over 250) reserve wines with particularly long aging periods. US Importer: Folio Fine Wine Partners
Charles Heidsieck 2005 Millésime Vintage Brut ($125) 93 Disgorged in 2015, the 2005 Vintage Brut is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. This is an elegant offering with a creamy texture and complex, rich aromas and flavors of orchard fruit, marzipan, and roasted nuts. Chef de Cave Régis Camus made this outstanding Champagne. Charles Heidsieck 2006 Millésime Vintage Rosé ($150) 93 Copper salmon. The Pinot character comes through on this very appealing vintage Champagne sourced from the Montagne de Reims with a small amount from Les Riceys in the Aube. Lively, incisive aromas of cherry skin and red berries provide an energetic introduction to this high toned palate with a cherry-accented, inner mouth perfume. The 2006 is the first Millésime Rosé since 1999.
De Saint Gall 2004 Orpale Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Millesime (€75) 93 Sourced entirely from the Côte des Blancs, this is a Champagne of real textural finesse. Disgorged just 6 months ago, it’s superbly fresh and energetic but still delicate, showing notes of toasted grain, almonds and short bread. Made by the large Union Champagne cooperative. If you’re going to London or Paris, seek this out; it’s readily available at reasonable prices. Not yet imported to the US. Cédric Jacopin is the cellar master.
Duval Leroy Champagne Duval-Leroy was founded in 1859 in Vertus. Today, it is managed by Carole Duval-Leroy, and it has over 200 hectares of vineyards scattered throughout the Côte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reim. It produces over 5 million bottles of Champagne annually. Duval-Leroy’s Chef de Caves is Sandrine Logette-Jardin. The Champagnes are easy drinking and fairly priced. US Importer: Terlato
Duval Leroy NV Rose Prestige Premier Cru ($80) 91 Pale salmon. A lively, fragrant bouquet of fresh red berries and currants. The palate is light and vibrant with delicate bubbles and flavorful notes of strawberries and cream accented by citrus zest. A blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir. 10 g/L RS Duval Leroy 2006 Blanc de Blancs Millesime Prestige Brut Grand Cru ($99) 92 The all Chardonnay 2006 Blanc de Blancs offers dusty minerals, toasted grain, baked pear, and fennel on a precise, firmly structured palate with impressive mid-palate depth. It has a lively bead and a complicating citrus element on the mid-palate. Sourced from six Grand Crus in the Côte des Blancs. Duval Leroy 2000 Femme de Champagne Brut ($220) 94 Gold straw. Big and bold, this is a substantial Champagne that’s as complex as it is flavorful. The bouquet reveals ripe orchard fruits with yeasty, bread dough nuances. The creamy palate picks up on the bouquet with additional nuances of lemon citrus and freshly baked baguette. Finishes exceptionally long with lingering flinty mineral and autolytic notes. A blend of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Noir. Made only in special years, this is just the 4th vintage of Femme de Champagne since it was introduced in 1990.
J-M Sélèque NV Solessense Brut Champagne ($50) 91 The Solessense Brut offers fragrances of white flowers and unbaked bread. The wine is crisp and fresh in the mouth with light orchard fruit, minerals and engaging purity. A blend of 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Meunier, and 5% Pinot Noir. 7 g/l RS.
Lamiable Lamiable is a small grower family Champagne house established in 1960. It is located in the Grand Cru Champagne village of Tours-sur-Marne. Jean-Pierre Lamiable, a physician, and his daughter Orianne produce the wine. The family owns six hectares, of which 4.5 is devoted to Pinot Noir and 1.5 to Chardonnay. The vines are planted on limestone and chalk soils. The Champagnes are ripe and fresh-tasting. Importer: Robert Kacher Selections/Domaine Select
Lamiable 2007 Cuvée Phéérie Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru ($85) 91 Lemon curd, dusty minerals, buttery croissant and a hint of thyme provide a graceful introduction to this flavorful Blanc de Blancs from Tours-sur-Marne. The palate is fresh and intensely flavored with lemon tart and orchard fruit flavors complemented by lingering mineral notes. 100% Chardonnay and 4 g/l RS Lamiable 2000 Cuvee Les Meslaines Blanc de Noirs Brut Grand Cru ($80) 91 Light onion skin color. On the nose, the Grand Cru Cuvée Les Meslaines offers notes of toasted brioche, roasted nuts and red currants complemented by spice notes, all of which are mirrored on a creamy palate with the addition of minerals and citrus zest. Made from old vine Pinot Noir planted in 1953 by Pierre Lamiable in the Meslaines lieu-dit. Aged on the lees in bottle for a minimum of 5 years. 7 g/l RS Lamiable 2009 Cuvée Héliades Millesime Grand Cru ($120) 92 The Cuvée Héliades offers overall finesse beginning with the first whiff and persisting through the long, mineral infused finish. It shows incisive notes of apple and lemon citrus on a fresh palate that’s surprisingly light on its feet for the ripeness of the vintage. An 80/20 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir aged on the lees for a minimum of 3 years.
Laurent-Perrier The House of Laurent-Perrier was established in 1812 and is located in the heart of the Champagne region at Tours-sur-Marne. Owned by the Nonancourt family since 1939, it remains the largest independent “Grande Marque” Champagne House. Laurent-Perrier Champagnes are of outstanding quality and produced by a team under the direction of Michel Fauconnet, chef de cave. Importer: Laurent-Perrier U.S.
Laurent-Perrier NV La Cuvée Brut ($50) 91 This is Laurent-Perrier’s reinvention of its perennially popular Brut with more Chardonnay from the Côte de Blancs, 6 months longer aging on the lees, and lower RS. It shows citrus and orchard aromatics and a broad, rich creamy palate of stone fruit with lemony acidity complicated by light yeasty notes, finishing on a firm mineral edge. A blend of 55% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 10% Meunier; about 30% is reserve wine. Aged a minimum of 4 years on the lees. 9 g/l RS. Pairs superbly with fresh, briny oysters. Laurent-Perrier NV Cuvée Rosé Brut Champagne ($100) 91 Copper-tinged pink. Raspberry tinged with anise and garden herbs provide a graceful introduction to this very flavorful, vinous rosé Champagne. Pure, fresh red berry and cherry show up front on a lively palate, finishing with good persistence. 100% saignée Pinot Noir.
Piper-Heidsieck One of Champagne’s older wine houses, Piper Heidsieck has in recent years been bought by Rémy Cointreau and then sold again to a private holding company of luxury brands. It owns no vineyards of its own and instead sources grapes from 60 different vineyards for its annually production of 5 million bottles. US Importer: Terlato
Piper-Heidsieck NV Rose Sauvage ($60) 91 This blend of Pinot Noir, Meunier, and Chardonnay opens with richly fruited red berry scents. It’s juicy and full on a very dry, structured palate with slightly tart, red plum and black cherry notes. A high proportion (25%) of red wine gives this rosé a substantial, vinous quality that allows it to be paired with meaty faire. Piper-Heidsieck 2006 Vintage Brut ($45) 92 An effusive citrus-floral bouquet gives way to a creamy mousse and intricate flavors of pear tart, lemon pith, and a hint of candied ginger. Finishes long with spicy notes. A blend of 51% Chardonnay and 49% Pinot Noir from 17 Premier and Grand Cru villages. Piper Heidsieck 2002 Rare Millesime Brut ($180) 94 Starbright straw gold. Lively aromas of toasted grain, poached pear and lemon pith. Shows overall balance and finesse with touches of spicy orchard fruit, tropical citrus and flint-like minerals and a lingering, bright, gingery finish. A blend of 70/30 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir fruit from 17 crus in the Montagne de Reims region. Aged 7+ years on the lees. Made only in exceptional vintages. Regis Camus made this outstanding Champagne, his first year as cellarmaster at Piper Heidsieck. A spectacular tête-de-cuvée.
Roland Champion. This small grower is located in the Grand Cru Village of Chouilly, in the Côte des Blancs. Founded in 1951 by André Champion, his son Roland expanded the company by purchasing some new land, and gave his name to the family house of Champagne. François, the current enologist and manager of the company, is the third generation of the family and continues in his father’s footsteps. He farms their 18 hectares (44.5 acres) vineyard in Chouilly. Importer: Kysela
Roland Champion à Chouilly NV Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru ($54) 92 Mineral accented aromas of pear and quince are mirrored on the palate with additional notes of citrus zest and baking spices. This is a weighty Champagne with good mid-palate depth that would pair well with roast chicken. Roland Champion 2011 Special Club Blanc de Blancs Chouilly Grand Cru ($80) 93 This Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs offers dusty minerals, citrus and complex nutty and pastry notes. Showing excellent mid-palate depth and breadth, this rich, wine-like Champagne is fresh and vibrant, finishing very long with chalky mineral notes. Spends a minimum of 5 years on the lees.
Ruinart Champagne’s oldest sparkling wine house, Ruinart was established in 1729 by the entrepreneur Nicolas Ruinart. Due to its high quality, over the years Ruinart Champagne was sold to royalty all over Europe and in Russia. Today it is one of the most prestigious Champagne houses in France and is one of the Grandes Marques. Ruinart Champagnes are sourced from the finest cru vineyards in and around Reims and are Chardonnay-based. Dom Ruinart is their top-of-the-line prestige cuvee. Importer: Moet Hennessy U.S.A
Ruinart 2006 Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($200) 96 A classy, refined Blanc de Blancs with precise, lively aromas and a fresh, focused palate of striking depth and purity. Reveals subtle aromas and flavors at this early stage of its development with notes of mineral-laced pear and hazelnut shortbread, finishing long with noteworthy clarity.
Serge Mathieu is a small, independent grower-producer (propriétaire-recoltant) of Champagne that follows biodynamic viticultural practices. The Mathieu family has lived in Avirey-Lingey in the Côtes des Bars at the southern extremity of Champagne since at least the 18th century, selling grapes to négociant houses until 1970 when Serge Mathieu produced his first bottled Champagne. Their vineyard is now 11 ha, and they produce over 80 thousand bottles, 60 percent of which is exported. Isabelle and Michel Mathieu-Jacob make the wine. This is excellent Pinot Noir country, as reflected in the Serge Mathieu wines. US Importer: Regal Wine Imports
Serge Mathieu NV Cuvée Prestige Brut Champagne ($55) 92 Light gold straw. Clean, bright nose of fresh bread and ripe pear. Fine mousse on a densely flavored, brisk, bright and optimally balanced palate of lemon and lime with appealing mineral notes Finishes very, very long. 67% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay with 4 years on the lees and a dosage of 8.6 g/l.Serge Mathieu 2015 Tradition Blanc de Noirs Brut Champagne ($50) 90 This is a pleasant vintage Champagne, rich tasting with abundant autolytic notes on the palate. It’s vibrant with oxidative and yeasty nuances and a touch of sweetness on the finish. The richness of the wine calls for having it with food. 100% Pinot Noir with 3 years on the lees and 8.6 g/l RS Serge Mathieu NV Brut Rosé Champagne ($55) 91 Bright salmon pink color. Shows notes of ripe red berries and orange zest with a complicating savory, earth note. Its wine like palate offers concentrated flavors that mirror the bouquet and linger on the finish. Serve this Champagne with rare duck breast. 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay with 3 years on the lees and 9.5 g/l RS.
Taittinger Champagne Taittinger is a family house. It has its cellars in Reims and owns 300 hectares of outstanding Champagne vineyards in the Côtes de Blanc and the Montagne de Reims. It produces some of the finest and most elegant NV and vintage Champagnes of the Grands Marques. The NV Comtes de Champagne is Taittinger’s prestige cuvee and one of Champagne’s finest Blanc de Blancs. Importer: Kobrand
Taittinger 2012 Brut Millesime ($95) 93 This is a very fine Champagne showing effusive yet delicate citrus and floral scents. The palate reveals excellent depth and freshness with flavors of citrus and pear complemented by notes of shortbread and toasty lees. Finishes with noteworthy clarity. A 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with 5 years on the lees. The Chardonnay comes from the Côte des Blancs, and the Pinot Noir comes from Montagne de Reims and the Vallée de Marne. Taittinger 2006 Comtes de Champagne Rosé Grand Cru ($262) 96 Opening with perfumed scents of freshly picked, tangy red fruits, this is one of the most prestigious of the vintage rosé Champagnes. It reveals a deeply flavored, energetic and full-bodied palate of cranberry, Montmorency cherry, and nuanced secondary flavors. Closes with outstanding persistence and clarity. Drinking beautifully now. A blend of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Bouzy Pinot Noir.
Trouillard NV Brut Extra Selection ($50) 92 The Extra Selection Brut is beautifully refined Champagne with a very fine mousse, creamy mouth feel, and excellent palate balance. It’s fresh and flavorful with light autolytic notes complementing dense fruit. Excellent value at this price. A blend of 35% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier, and 30% Chardonnay sourced from 15 different vineyards in the Marne Valley, the Aube, and the Montagne de Reims with a minimum of 15 months sur lie. US Importer: Kysela