Pop the corks - it's time to talk champagne.
It’s that time of year again. The nights are drawing in, New Year’s fast approaching, and any excuse to get sloshed on expensive plonk seems like a good one. Avoid the inevitable hangover that two-for-one supermarket fizz will bring and invest in some of the best champagnes on the market right now. “Champagne is intrinsically associated with celebration,” says Max Merkulovs, head sommelier at the Michelin-starred Galvin at Windows restaurant on Park Lane. “It’s bubbly, light, and wonderfully easy to drink. It’s also a nuanced, subtle drink with an almost overwhelming range of varieties”. Herewith, our edit of the five champagnes we’ll be drinking this month.
The Entertainer - Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV
The new expression of Charles Heidsieck’s Brut Reserve NV has been greeted with much acclaim (and multiple gold medals) since being released in September 2011. “There’s a marked citrus flavour on both the nose and the palate,” says Merkulovs. “It is mid-weight, clean, pure and frank, with a decent maturity for an NV blend.” Guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.
The BLUSH - BILLECART-SALMON Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon 2002
Produced with the addition of a small amount of red wine, rose champagnes are popular at this time of year. Billecart Salmon’s 2002 vintage is the marque’s prestige rosé, thanks to the sunny summer in 2002, which lasted until September’s harvest of pinot and chardonnay grapes. “It has a deep complexity, a savoury quality that takes this out of the flavour spectrum where most pink champagnes reside,” says Merkulovs. Simply, it’s the best champagne rosé on the market.
The Smoothy - Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV
Established in 1729, Ruinart is the oldest of the champagne houses. “Blanc de blancs” may sound like the name of a French TV game show, but means the grapes used are 100 per cent chardonnay. The result? A light champagne which works alone or with oysters or sashimi. “The Ruinart has an open, expressive nose full of dried white fruits,” says Merkulovs. “The blanc de blancs style is gentle and creamy, but there is lots of substance underneath.”
The Super Vintage - Moët et Chandon Dom Perignon OENOTHÈQUE 1992
There’s a reason Dom Perignon is considered the best wine in the world. It’s an exclusive vintage champagne, meaning if the vineyard has a weak year, they don’t produce anything. “The nose conjures up light aniseed and fresh almonds,” says Merkulovs. “The palate is beautifully firm, but gives way to airy and delicate flavours and a distinctive toasty aroma.” If you do locate a bottle, save it for a special occasion.
(The price? Speak to your broker at Berry Brothers & Rudd about tracking down a bottle), bbr.com
The Show-Off - Krug Grande Cuvée NV
Though young compared to some champagne houses (it was founded in 1843), Krug is well-regarded and renowned for its range of Grande Cuvées. As ever the “NV” stands for “non-vintage”, but Krug prefer the term “multi-vintage” as each release features a blend of up to 50 wines from a range of 30 separate crus, with various reserve vintages blended in. “Quite an elegant nose here,” says Merkulovs. “Firm and yet gentle at the same time.”