The very word ‘Champagne’ is a byword for indulgence and celebration. There is no other drink that so encapsulates luxury, decadence and good times, and the houses that make Champagne enjoy luxury status, too – think Krug, Bollinger, Moët et Chandon and countless others.
This sparkling wine, made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, can be by turns elegant and fresh, delicate and fruity, and rich and toasty, and has a history that stretches back hundreds of years.
Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon is falsely credited with ‘discovering’ Champagne, with his memorable quote “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”, but the reality is that the wines from the region started off still and gradually evolved to the sparkling style over many years.
Fast forward to the present day, and some houses are now producing special cuvées designed to be served over ice – and attract a younger audience. We’re not sure if Monsieur Pérignon would approve, but it’s good to see the Champenois loosen up and try new ways to broaden Champagne’s appeal.
The other big trend is that Champagnes are getting drier. Extra Brut and Brut Nature styles have enjoyed big success over the past decade, and two of this year’s IWSC winners in this category are Zero Dosage – sometimes marketed as the healthier option, given the lower levels of sugar – and therefore calories – in the wine.
It’s encouraging to see some of the lesser-known names picking up awards, too, such as Jeeper for its 2007 Brut, and Paul Goerg for its Brut Premier Cru 2009. Find these and more in our list of the 15 best Champagnes from the IWSC’s recent Northern Hemisphere tasting.
The nose is complex and shows delightful maturity. A generous and indulgent palate with lively bubbles and a creamy texture providing a full grip and control of the wine. Finely etched perfection. 12% ABV £116 fromGluGulp
Special Réserve Brut 2008
Waitrose & Partners
Elegant, glittering and ostentatious. Brimming with piercing stone and citrus fruit aromas. On the palate, an edgy nuttiness, smooth creaminess and rich marzipan. Balanced acidity reverberates harmoniously. Its youthful mouthfeel and impressive finish deliver great poise and potential. 12.5% ABV RRP £25.99 fromWaitrose & Partners
Femme de Champagne Brut Nature 2002
An opulent creation combining exotic aromas and flavours of coconut, fig, marzipan, wild honey and custard. Well-structured with an earthy minerality, appreciable length and a white peppery finish. 12% ABV £260 fromMillesima
La Gourmandise d'Eléonore Brut NV
Philizot et Fils
Gloriously inviting and complex with notes of sweet honey, nuts and subtle truffle on the nose. Impressively textured with layers of butter and honey enveloped in a reassuringly long finish. 12% ABV n/a in UK
La Réserve Brut Premier Cru NV
The elegant and complex nose gives alpine strawberries, grapefruit and orange peel. This is racy, but with rounded acidity that works well with the elegant and well-structured mineral palate. 12.5% ABV n/a in UK
Charismatic, lyrical and complex. Overflowing with creamy, pastry and smoky notes; there is an apple orchard of ripe fruit and the provocative pungency of cloves. An extensive length. 12% ABV n/a in UK
Seduction Brut 2007
Remarkably intense, bright and fresh for 2007. There are hints of toasted beans, dairy and sourdough on the gastronomic palate. Racy with linear precision. 12% ABV n/a in UK
Brut 2007 Jeeper
Rich, intriguing, plush nose based on a profundity of apple aromas, hazelnuts, spice and a hint of oak. These all add to its complexity, impeccable balance and generous finish. 12% ABV n/a in UK
Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
Expressive nose with delicate white fruits. The palate combines tropical fruits with chalky undertones. This is precise and harmonious. 12% ABV enquire atWhitebridge Wines
Brut Premier Cru 2009 Paul Goerg
Attractive nose of tropical fruits and spice. The palate is bright with delicate lemon and grapefruit tones. Very well-balanced wine maintaining strong tension between the youthfulness and the evolutionary. 12.5% ABV £57fromTannico