9 Top Champagnes

Great bottles of the real deal


Yes, we’re talking about the real thing, sparkling wine from Champagne, France. And while I’m willing to go for the real thing, a man’s got to know his limitations. 

For New Year’s Eve, when I’m sharing my bubbly with friends and friends to be among other people, going for the real thing means plenty of affordable, non-vintage brut. 

Let’s face it, there’s no need to splurge for the best when we’re sharing wines with a large group. Heck I’ll be drinking with my family and they’ll be the first to tell you that breaking out something really great would be lost, or worse, on them.

The great wines are not necessarily great because they are friendly or easy to drink, and frankly those two things are what I’m looking for on New Year’s Eve! While I couldn’t taste many non-vintage bruts this year, this smattering of a selection offers a pretty wide variety of styles and some seriously quaffable wines to welcome in the New Year with!

I hope you find the wine of your dreams this New Years. Let me know if you do, or if you don’t!

Photo courtesy lasard via Flickr/CC

NV Lanson Black Label Brut 12.5%

This smells fresh and complex with a nice note of apple blossoms, some gentle marzipan and brioche notes, and fine pear fruit. A touch coarse with the bubbles, but then this shows fine depth of flavor, blending a slightly richer, toastier style with brisk fresh fruit. Shows peach and apricot notes on the palate before revealing some toasted hazelnut notes on the finish. The finish also has a fine vein of minerality. This is quite a vinous Champagne with more than a passing resemblance to still White Burgundy.  Lovely. 91pts   

Buy this wine at Sherry-Lehmann!


NV Pol Roger Pure 12.5%

Lots of yeast on the nose is followed by a real rush of dried lemon and orange peels, over a deep base of toasty brioche and crisp apple fruit. Soft and rich in the mouth, this is dry with steely apple flavors and a nice hint of chalk, with some light spice tones accenting the fruit. This has a super fine mousse, doing a great job of combining depth of flavor with elegance and delicacy. Dry and tense, this is a lovely choice for caviar. 91pts

Buy this wine at Sherry-Lehmann!


NV Bollinger Special Cuvee 12%

Deep and toasty on the nose, with brioche notes toped with dried citrus, dried apricot, a little honey and candied almond notes. A richer style of Champagne with a faint candied edge to the fruit, this is actually quite fresh and green apple-toned. This has nice chalky accents on the palate and shows a layered quality, with gently yeasty notes and a touch of herb over the fruit and mineral that show on the back end and through the long, rather decisively stony finish. 91pts

Buy this wine at Sherry-Lehmann!


NV Besserat Cuvee des Moines Brut Blanc de Blancs 12.5%


A bit sulfury on the nose, but as that blows off, this shows aromas of peach, melon, lots of toast and a little cheesiness. Very soft in the mouth with a fine mousse, bright acids and a dry feel. This is really lovely and superbly drinkable, with a refreshing quality on the lightly chalky, decidedly lemony and lemon pithy finish.  This presents a lovely delicacy, not particularly complex but with admirable purity. 91pts


NV Perrier Jouet Grand Brut 12%

Very stern on the nose, with low mineral notes covered by lots of fresh yeast dough, lightly candied citron and a suggestion of peach. Slightly large bubbles in the mouth don’t detract from the rather elegant style of this wine. Not intense but well balanced, with citrus fruit accented by pollen and bitter almond notes driving through the long finish. The sweetness here is very well judged, just adding roundness and a wash of ripeness to the otherwise lean and focused citrus and mineral flavors. 90pts

Buy this wine at Sherry-Lehmann!


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  • Greg-
    For those of us who do not live in NYC, how about rating the Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Mumms Mouton Rouge and a few other personal favorites? In reading your column, I did not find some of my common choices even mentioned. I like to learn, but if you don't give me a solid reference frame, I am disappointed. I'm fine with your Bollinger, Taittinger, Laurent Perrier ratings. Perhaps, I expect too much and these are enough for a good comparison. Happy New Year.

    Dec 27, 2011 at 5:48 PM

  • Dear friends & family,

    Another great article, on some outstanding price quality Champagnes, for your New Year celebration !


    Dec 28, 2011 at 7:33 AM

  • Snooth User: spicycurry
    764650 53

    No grower Champagnes?

    Dec 28, 2011 at 10:06 AM

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