The host’s guide to champagne for the holidays

Seven champagnes we can’t resist popping for a party.

By Sara L. Schneider 03/01/2019

Nothing says "party" like a glass of champagne spritzing its delightful and delicate essence into the air. Each sparkling sip lights up the eyes and elicits smiles — when the wine is worthy, of course. And these seven bottles certainly are: a mix of the new, the known, the beautiful, and the rare. Each is paired with the accessories that best show it off — from silver buckets to coasters and crystal — and ensure the ideal toast for the occasion. Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte 2006 Palmes d’Or Brut We love this distinct dimpled bottle, but even more, we appreciate the approachable yet fine golden elixir within. In the champagne world, Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte is a newer kid on the block (42 years old) but a powerhouse in France and around the globe, outselling almost everyone else — and it’s not just about marketing, though they’re good at that, too, as evidenced by the brand’s salon and tasting room in Paris, one of few in the City of Light. We appreciate the wine for its tropical-fruit and melon flavours coupled with a classic toasted-brioche overlay. Dom Pérignon 2008 There’s no question that Dom — that’s all the name you need — is a reference point for superior champagne. It must have something to do with that 17th-century Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon, huddling in the abbey cellar, noodling around with better pressing techniques, better bottles, better blends. The 2008 reinforces the bar. In a cool growing season, the winemakers were able to delay harvest to soften aggressive structure and develop enough ripeness in the fruit. There’s perfect tension in the wine between energy and creaminess, green apple crispness, and a nutty brioche character that unfolds in layers. Le Chemin du Roi Rosé Connoisseurs might have reservations about a celebrity’s newly launched wine, but rest assured, this is excellent bubbly—with the added wattage of star power. Connecticut resident Curtis Jackson, aka hip-hop artist 50 Cent, spent years scouting France for a producer that could meet the quality he was looking for. He found it in Reims-based Champagne Castelnau, and this fall Le Chemin du Roi — French for “the path of the king” — made its debut. The rosé is a blend of 45 per cent Pinot Meunier, 40 per cent Chardonnay, and 15 per cent Pinot Noir, and is made from first-press juice, as all great champagnes should be. Ripe cherries on the nose give way to marzipan on the palate, with just enough acid to give it a refreshing liveliness. Veuve Clicquot 2008 La Grande Dame Brut Rosé Cellar master Dominique Demarville has done for Veuve Clicquot what no other maison in Champagne has yet dared to do: He’s created a prestige cuvée made almost entirely from Pinot Noir grapes (92 per cent). He was inspired by both the beautiful Pinot Noir harvest in 2008 and the brand’s history: the grape has dominated Veuve Clicquot champagnes since Madame Clicquot made the first blended rosé in 1818. This wine is delicate on the nose with notes of strawberry, and on the palate, there is a clean minerality. Its silky texture has an acidic freshness and depth from the nine years spent ageing in the bottle. Rare Champagne Le Secret This exquisite wine was part of a hidden stash that Rare chef de cave Régis Camus secreted away in 1997 in the oldest chalky caves of Piper-Heidsieck, at the edge of Reims in Champagne. It is only the ninth vintage created of Rare, which is made only in the most exceptional years, since the first in 1976. After a 20-year second fermentation exclusively in magnums, this champagne is truly a rare sip: no sugar was added (a rare exception in itself) or needed, so the cuvée’s acid and natural sweetness combine as dry, tropical fruits and a unique licorice flavor. It’s so fresh and lively, it’s hard to believe the wine is 20 years old. Only 1000 numbered magnums — each adorned with an 18-karat gold plate — were bottled, so this is a very limited release. Moët & Chandon MCIII Here’s a Champagne house that never met a large-format bottle it didn’t love. As head winemaker Marie-Christine Osselin puts it, “A regular 750 (millilitre) is just a half-magnum for us.” The newest wine they’ve put in magnum — the MCIII prestige cuvée — eludes all reference points for champagne. It includes six vintages, aged in three different materials: metal, wood and glass. And it involves other firsts, like being disgorged and blended with a little still wine. The result is mind-blowing complexity: bright fruitiness belies a velvety mouthfeel and elegant maturity layered with dried apricot, apple, and toast. Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2007 Blanc de Blancs Only the 35th declared vintage since Taittinger created this singular blanc de blancs in 1952, the 2007 is a superb expression of a wine that, through time, has caught the attention of such disparate luminaries as Nikita Khrushchev and Ian Fleming. The blend, in the end, is from Chardonnay grown only in grand cru vineyards in Champagne’s Côte des Blancs, with a very small percentage spending a few months in new oak barrels, for the complexities of mouthfeel and toast. With 10 years on the lees, the 2007 opens with lovely brioche notes under red pear and white blossoms. Surprisingly fresh and juicy apple flavours give way to rich lemon crème brûlée, chalky minerality, and a pleasant salinity.
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