Champers: best Champagne bets for New Year’s and other sparklers

Above: Jean-Luc Retard (aka Dan Crane) and I cracked a bottle of Bollinger in Bryan Cook’s studio earlier this year. Bollinger is the “official” Champagne of our band Nous Non Plus. We love it so much that we wrote a song about it on our new CD “Ménagerie” (in stores Feb. 3, Aeronaut Records). Bollinger Special Cuvée (the house’s entry level wine) is relatively easy to find and should cost about $55, although it can fetch up to $75 depending on the market).

When it comes to sparkling wine, there’s no better resource in the blogosphere than Brooklynguy’s Friday Night Bubbles. (And for Champagne freaks, Peter Liem’s excellent blog is a must read.) Brooklynguy is a lover of natural wine, Loire Valley (the epicenter of the natural wine movement today), and “grower” Champagne (i.e., Champagne producers that grow their own grapes instead of buying it from other estates). He has an uncanny ability to find great values for great sparkling wine. (Like this 96 Fleury he turned me, Jayne, and Jon on to when we hung this year at Bahia.)

Above: Tracie B and I disgorged a bottle of one of our favorite sparkling wines, Puro Rosé by Movia (Slovenia), the other night at our friend’s place in Austin. Anyone who follows Do Bianchi knows that this is one of my I-would-drink-it-everyday-if-I-could-afford-to wines. It’s pretty hard to find (outside of major markets) but should cost about $50.

The only problem is that, because he lives in NYC, Brooklynguy has access to wine sellers that many of us do not. That doesn’t mean that we can’t drink great bubbles at a reasonable price for New Year’s Eve. The price point for good (and not-too-hard-to-find) Champagne is between $50-80 — that’s steep for me but when it comes to Champagne, you’ve got to pay to play…

Above: Selosse is way too expensive for my pocketbook and next-to-impossible to find. But as they say in French, “impossible n’est pas français”: Alfonso treated me, Tracie, and Kim to a bottle of the high coveted wine a few weekends ago in Dallas. (He found it at Austin Wine Merchant. It’s easier to find in smaller markets.)

When it’s bad, Champagne sucks: please DO NOT ever drink Veuve Clicquot — one of the worst marketing scams in the history of wine (sawwy, but it needs to be said).

When it’s good, reasonably priced Champagne (in Do Bianchi’s world, think Bollinger, Billecart-Salmon, Taittinger) can be delicious, nuanced, and sexy.

Above: Tracie B and I love Billecart-Salmon. It’s not too hard to find non-vintage entry-level at around $55. The non-vintage rosé (soooooo good) costs around $90.

Partly because of the way it has been marketed (brilliantly) and partly because of the ineffable complexity it attains when made well, Champagne is indelibly etched in our psyche as the apotheosis of decadence and celebration. It is perhaps the only wine that transcends place and nationality — everyone loves Champagne and employs it in celebration. So powerful is the image evoked by Champagne that even the word itself thrives outside the world of wine: it just wouldn’t make sense to call someone a “Brunello socialist,” would it?

Above: My good friend and VinoWire collaborator Franco and I tasted in the cellars of Ca’ del Bosco in Franciacorta in September. Franciacorta produces superb terroir-driven sparkling wines.

Beyond the world of Champagne, I’ve been drinking a lot of sparkling wine from the Loire Valley (think Saumur and Vouvray) and Franciacorta (Lombardy, Italy) this year. These wines are not alternatives to Champagne: when they’re well made, they are terroir-driven wines that express the places where they are produced in their aromas and flavors. Because they don’t evoke the prestige of Champagne, they often represent excellent value and in many cases, I find them to be more food-friendly than Champagne (because of its complexity, good Champagne often requires very pure flavors in the foods with which it is served).

What will Tracie B and I be drinking on New Year’s Eve? Stick around and you just might find out!

8 thoughts on “Champers: best Champagne bets for New Year’s and other sparklers

  1. Very kind words indeed, Jeremy, and they mean a lot coming from a maestro such as yourself.

    If it’s not too presumptuous, I might add a wine or two to your excellent list: four grower Champagnes for under $40 that are simply excellent, and that shouldn’t be too hard to find:

    -Brigandat Brut (Blanc de Noirs) – about $35
    -Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee St Anne Brut (blend), about $39
    -Moutarde Brut (blend), about $32
    -Guy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Brut, about $35

  2. where there is one greater (that would be you), the lesser one (that would be me) capitulates…

    I found some of the Chartogne-Taillet near me and will check it out… thanks again, man!

  3. Jeremy:

    I had to laugh about your comments on Veuve Clicquot! Must be the yellow label (or is it orange?).

    Lots of favorites for me, but I keep coming back to Cuvee William Deutz.

  4. More Champagne please. I have a soft spot in my heart for Duval-Leroy. The bottling with the I-Fill Tower on it was magnifique. Thankfully, our cellar is stocked with plenty of Champagne.

  5. Pingback: Angelo Gaja and the “age of responsibility” « Do Bianchi

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