Chef Greg Martin’s Holiday Champagne Suggestions

We’ve all been there, staring blankly at the rows upon rows of champagne wondering what to get for the holidays.  Do you go for the one you buy every year or do you venture out a bit?  Well, I think you should venture out.  Here are my suggestions.

Non-Vintage Brut Champagne
These champagnes are produced from multiple year wines instead of from one specific year.  Because they are blends, they tend to be very consistent year over year.  The advantage is that you have a champagne that is very good and they won’t break the bank like large-house, vintage products.  Look for smaller producers and you should be able to find an excellent buy around $50.  On the smaller side, Ayala is one we especially like and sell.  I also like Laurent Perrier when looking for a dry non-vintage champagne, but expect to pay a bit more.  

Grower Champagne

Produced at small wineries, often using organic methods and only the grapes they grow rather than purchasing from various producers, these “artisanal” champagnes provide all of the taste at a reduced cost, typically 10-20% less than the better known champagne houses. Because they come from one location, usually one small parcel of land, I think they are more terroir driven.  Look for the French designation on the label, including the initials RM (Récoltant-Manipulant) in small print towards the bottom of the front label. My favorite grower champagne this year is the Voirin-Jumel Grand Cru, blanc de blanc that we serve by the bottle, but there are other excellent choices out there.  For me, these represent a great find in champagnes and from the increasing sales of this type of champagne, the world is agreeing more and more.  

NV Rosé Champagne 

Who doesn’t love the pink bubbly stuff?  You can’t go wrong with a classic rosé from a large-house producer like Ruinart.  Ruinart is Champagne’s oldest house dating back to 1729.  This rosé gets its pink color from the skins of the Pinot Noir grapes it is produced from.  With hints of fruit and a crisp mineralogy, you can’t go wrong with this excellent choice.  Another good one is Delamotte Brut Rosé.  Prices on these champagnes can vary greatly depending on the winery, but if you stick with the larger houses, expect to pay slightly more than with the regular NV brut champagnes.  

Vintage Champagne 

Produced from wine from one single year, these wines are the epitome of champagne.  They can vary in taste from vintage to vintage and might not be produced each year if growing conditions were not optimal.  Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Salon and Perrier-Joet are the wineries I think about when I consider vintage champagne and currently I’m partial to the ’04 Veuve Clicquot “La Grande Dame” Brut.  Obviously these premium champagnes come at a premium price, so make your purchase considering the other options I mentioned.  

So no matter which wine or champagne you decide to share with friends and family this holiday, the important thing is the time spent together. Cheers and happy holidays!

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