When purchasing sparkling wine, there are many Champagne brands to consider. For the uninitiated - or even the very experienced - the array of Champagne choices can feel overwhelming. Don't despair! Here's a guide to help you navigate some of the choices available to you.
Most people use the term Champagne to describe any type of sparkling wine; however, true Champagne is wine that comes from the Champagne wine region in France. When people refer to Champagne that wasn't made in that region, they are generally talking about a wine that was made using the Méthode Champenoise, which is the traditional method of fermentation used in Champagne making.
There are several respected Champagne brands. Most Champagne makers offer more than one brand of Champagne. While they are made by the same vintner, the branding is different and meets different price points. For example, the popular premium vintage Champagne brand, Dom Pérignon, is produced by Moët et Chandon, which also produces White Star non-vintage Champagne and Domaine Chandon, an American sparkling wine made in the Méthode Champenoise. Within each of the Champagne brands, there may be a variety of types like vintage, non-vintage, blanc de blancs, brut, and rosé.
Here's some information to help you navigate some of the popular French Champagne brands.
AR Lenoble makes moderately-priced, well-rated Champagnes. They make both vintage and non-vintage Champagnes in a variety of styles including brut and blanc de blancs.
One to try: Try the Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru, which is made from Chardonnay grapes. It is moderately priced at about $35 per bottle and is usually well-rated.
Krug is one of the most well-respected Champagne brands in France. The brand is considered a premium one, and can often be quite expensive. As a matter of fact, Krug holds the distinction of making the list of Forbes Most Expensive Champagnes with a $750 bottle of 1975 Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs. Other Champagnes from Krug include a NV Rosé, an NV Grand Cuveé, vintage bottlings from good years, Clos d'Ambonnay Blanc des Noirs, and older vintage bottlings.One to try: If you're feeling flush and want to celebrate, you can get a Krug NV Grand Cuveé for under $200. It's a spendy bottle of wine, but the biscuity flavors, warmth and crisp bubbles make it a delicious special occasion Champagne.
Moët et Chandon
This winemaker is most well-known for their expensive Dom Pérignon, which is a vintage Champagne made only during good to excellent years. The company's White Star Champagne is a moderately-priced, consistently good NV Champagne.One to try: If you want to try a Dom Pérignon, but are worried about budget, good years for the grapes are far less expensive than excellent years. For instance, a 1998 Dom Pérignon runs about $150 a bottle while a 1996 vintage, which was considered an excellent year, runs about $350.
Salon is a smaller producer which makes carefully crafted and delicious Champagnes. They make only vintage blanc de blancs that are focused and warmly effervescent. One to try: The most recent Salon vintage released was 1997, and it was a good one. It will run you about $250. The previous vintage, 1996, was even better and will only cost about $30 more per bottle. This is a great special occasion Champagne.
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin is another well-respected French Champagne brand. They are best known for their accessible but consistently good Yellow Label brut and their vintage, premium La Grande Dame. La Grande Dame is made only in good to excellent vintages.One to try: The Yellow Label NV Brut is a very respectable bottle of Champagne for the price. You can get a bottle for about $50 and it is consistently good.
Best known for their premium vintage Champagne, Cristal, Louis Roederer also makes more budget conscious wines like NV Brut and NV Rosé, which will only run about $50 per bottle. Cristal comes in different styles like brut and rosé.One to try: The Louis Roederer 2004 Brut Rosé is a great way to get your feet wet with rosé Champagnes. If you've never tried a rosé Champagne, you're in for a treat. It's loaded with notes of flowers, caramel and toast. Best of all, it's affordable for a Champagne this good - at about $65 per bottle.
Perrior Jouët is most well-known for their decorative, flowery bottle that contains their premium Belle Epoque Cuvée and their vintage Fleur de Champagne. The company also makes rosé, NV Champagnes and blanc de blancs. One to try: The Perrier Jouët NV Grand Brut is a really good Champagne. It is consistently well-rated and affordable, at about $45 per bottle. The bottle isn't nearly as pretty as the more premium wines, but if you're going for what's inside of it, you won't be disappointed.
Bollinger is a rarity in France. In a time when Champagne brands are being swept under corporate umbrellas, Bollinger has remained independent and family-owned. They offer affordable NV Champagne, as well as premium vintage wines like their Vieille Vignes Françaises blanc de noirs.One to try: Bollinger Champagne Special Cuvée tastes of baked apples and orange blossoms, and it is moderately affordable at about $80 per bottle.
These are some of the most well-known French Champagne brands. Check with your local wine shop to find a quality Champagne that fits within your budget for your next special occasion.