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Website © 2019 Joanna Simon

Header photo © Waitrose & Partners Drinks / Cat Garcia

The Festive Champagne Guide 2017



So here they are: my Champagne picks for Christmas, New Year and every other kind of festivity, whittled down with difficulty to what I hope is a reasonable number. There's a spread of styles, producers and prices, kicking off below £20 and finishing around £150. I've largely steered clear of Champagnes featured in the last two years' round-ups, which means missing out some with particular regret. This year there's only one pink but, as it happens, without planning it, there are more rosés than whites in the non-Champagne fizz round-up. As always, they're listed in ascending order of price, as far as is possible bearing in mind special offers and different prices charged by different retailers. If you've won the lottery or are flush with a thumping Christmas bonus, you'll know to start at the far end. For more recommendations, see this year's blogs on Krug 2004 and Grande Cuvée, Champagne Guy Charlemagne and other growers' Champagnes, Bollinger La Grande Année 2007 and Dom Pérignon P2 2000.

Champagne Lefebvre Cuvée Réserve Brut

Biscuity, toasty notes, red-apple fruit and bright acidity from a blend of Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay (50:30:20). While it wouldn't have made the cut at its original price, it's a steal at half-price.

£16.99 (down from £34.99), Laithwaites

Waitrose Special Réserve Vintage Brut Champagne 2005

Crème brûlée, honey and brioche richness lifted with zingy acidity. Good value at its full price of £24.99 and a bargain at the £19.99 offer price that runs right through until January 23, 2018. It's made for Waitrose by Champagne Castelnau's chef de caves Elisabeth Sarcelet.

£19.99, Waitrose

Champagne Geoffroy Expression Brut

From Vallée de la Marne grower Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, one of a pair of Champagnes that Armit has reduced from £32 to £25. The other is the equally accomplished, no-dosage, and therefore bone-dry, floral, almondy Pureté. This is the same blend (half Pinot Meunier, 40% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay) but with a judicious 8g/l dosage making it more of a crowd-pleaser – flowing with honey, brioche, spiced-pear and peach flavours, dill-like freshness and a seductive, creamy texture.

£25 on offer until December 22, Armit

Les Pionniers Vintage Champagne 2008

Piper Heidsieck continues to do a first-class job making the Co-op's two own-label Les Pionniers Champagnes: the non-vintage at £16.99 and this 2008 vintage . It's a great Champagne vintage and it shows in the toasted, nutty, bready aromas, the leafy, toast, honeyed apple and peach flavours and the sustained mineral and lime-zest finish.

£25.99, Co-op

Champagne AR Lenoble Brut Intense

A low-dosage blend of the three grape varieties from AR Lenoble's own vineyards. Aptly named Intense, it's expressive, taut and tailored with spice, chalkiness, red-apple fruit and a goose-down texture.

£31.45, The Whisky Exchange; £193.94 for 6 bottles, Stannary St Wine Co

Booths Vintage Champagne 2006

An injection of clotted cream richness infuses the dried flower, straw, biscuit and honey flavours of this still nimble 11-year-old. Made by Duval Leroy.

£34, Booths

Champagne Claude Cazals Millésime Grand Cru 2008

Vintage Blanc de Blancs made from old vines (40-plus years) by a grower based in the Grand Cru of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. Smoky, wheaty complexity with sweet citrus fruit and chalky intensity.

£34.99, Laithwaites

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve

A consistently brilliant Chardonnay/Pinot Noir/Meunier blend (40:40:20). made from 40% reserve wines with an average age of 10 years. Stone fruit and sumptuous buttery patisserie and grilled nut complexity stretching out with racy freshness.

£33.96, Nickolls & Perks; £35, WineTrust100; £37.95, slurp.co.uk; £42, Laithwaites

Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Longitude Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut Premier Cru

Pure Chardonnay from the Premier Cru of Vertus and four of the finest Grands Crus vineyards and from one of Champagne's most celebrated growers. Generous, toasty, toffee-apple maturity with mineral precision, crystal-bright citrus fruit and a low-dosage, dry finish. (The labels aren't ice-bucket proof, as you can see, but if you peer very hard you can just pick out the word Longitude on the label.)

£39.95, Lea & Sandeman

Champagne Gosset Grande Réserve

Gosset's trademark style: generous, toasty and honeyed with laser-cut acidity. Made from equal proportions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with 10% Meunier. Gosset describes Grande Réserve as a multi-vintage, rather than non-vintage, because it's a blend of three vintages (instead of being based on one year with added reserve wines). Delicious now but if you're looking for something to cellar, it ages extremely well.

£37.95 (down from £49.95), slurp.co.uk; £39.95 (down from £45.95), Lea & Sandeman; £45–£60, many independent merchants and smart department stores

Champagne Deutz Rosé

Deutz is still a bit under the radar, but is making stellar Champagnes all the way from the Brut Classic (recommended last year) to the Cuvée William Deutz (see below) and the new Hommage à William Deutz Parcelles d'Aÿ, made from the two original vineyard parcels and launched for the 180th anniversary this year. The salmon-pink rosé has great purity but is also full of the red fruit sweetness and joie de vivre that you want from pink Champagne (well, I do anyway).

£46.16, TheDrinkShop; £47.50 in gift box, Ocado; £52, Cambridge Wine Merchants; £55 in gift box, Fortnum & Mason; £25 half-bottle, Soho Wine Supply

Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2007

Creamy depth, floral lift and beautiful purity, balance and length with a long life ahead, should you want to keep it. Delamotte is a Chardonnay specialist and in vintages when Salon (its sister Champagne) isn't produced Salon's unused Chardonnay grapes go largely to Delamotte.

£55, Corney & Barrow; £56.10, Hedonism

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Vintage 2007

Billecart's style is one of purity, precision and elegance, but that doesn't mean it's Chardonnay led: this low-dosage Extra Brut vintage is 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. Five per cent of the blend is fermented in oak barrels which gives silky depth to the texture and adds a delicate, nutty length to the flavour. One of the stars of the 2007 vintage.

£64.95, The Whisky Exchange; £66.99, Uncorked

Champagne Deutz Cuvée William Deutz Vintage 2002

Bottles of Champagne from the fabulous 2002 vintage are becoming increasingly scarce and this is one of the finest. A cushion-soft mousse and complex layers of rich, evolved, toasted brioche and honey are seamlessly woven with orange-zest intensity and freshness and chalky minerality. Snap it up while you can – and lay it down if you can resist it now.

£99 in a gift box, Soho Wine Supply

Comtes de Champagne Taittinger Blanc de Blancs Brut Vintage 2006

One of the most exquisite of Chardonnay Champagnes and one of the more widely available of prestige cuvées. The 2006 has lovely roast-almond nuttiness and a creamy texture, with sweet peach and biscuit flavours followed by lemon curd, lemon zest and a mouthwatering mineral seam. It can be cellared for a decade and more.

£120, or £108 when you buy any mix of 6 bottles, Majestic; £125, Oddbins; £129.99, Waitrose

Champagne Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Vintage 2004

Majestic, intense, multi-faceted blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Refined notes of toast and Marmite on the nose, with hazelnuts, honey and almond on the palate and richness and depth pierced by racy acidity. Drink now or keep a decade or more.

£140.95, Eton Vintners; £145, The Whisky Exchange; £150, Waitrose

All photographs by Joanna Simon

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