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The Festive Champagne Guide 2018


We're there: my Champagne picks for Christmas, New Year and every other kind of festivity, whittled down with difficulty to what I hope is a manageable number, but I'm posting this before The Wine Gang's annual Ultimate Champagne Evening, so I may well add one or more top-end bottles next week.

I've largely steered away from Champagnes featured in the last two years' round-ups, which means missing out some with particular regret, but it spans the spectrum of styles, producers, retailers and prices, kicking off below £20 and finishing nearer £300.

They're listed as far as possible in ascending order of price (rosés mixed in), but bear in mind seasonal offers, different prices charged by different retailers, whether or not it's a gift-boxed version. and delivery costs. 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 my blogs on Cristal, Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires and Krug. For further stockists in the UK and other countries try wine-searcher.

Les Pionniers Brut Champagne

The Co-op's exclusive Champagne always knocks spots off most others at under £20 and this, made as always by Piper Heidsieck, is no exception, combining biscuit, brioche, red-apple and mineral chalkiness in perfect harmony.

£18.99 (and look out for a seasonal offer), Co-op

Drappier Premier Cru Brut Champagne

Crowd-pleasing Pinot Noir-dominated Champagne from the eighth generation Drappier family of growers in the southerly Côte des Bar region. Floral, fruity intensity with injections of spice, citrus and mineral and deftly turned acidity.

£22.99 (in any 6 bottle mix), Majestic; £24.30, Oddbins

Tanners Extra Réserve Brut Champagne

Rounded, supple, fruity and delicately nutty. Made for Tanners by the small, quality-focused Beaumont de Crayères co-op using a high proportion of Meunier.

£25, Tanners

Finest Vintage Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2012 Champagne

The quality of the 2012 vintage shows in this all-Chardonnay co-operative-made Grand Cru. You could cellar it for another four years, but already there's a creamy, nutty, toasty richness coming through the apple and lemon purity.

£25, Tesco

Piper Heidsieck Brut Champagne

I'm not sure everyone realises how good Piper is. Years ago it wasn't, but now it's one of the most consistent, stylishly fruity, brioche-rich non-vintages. And it's often on offer, hence the starting price below of £22.

£22–£35, widely available

Guy de Chassey Grand Cru Brut Champagne (magnum)

An enticing combination of honeyed depth and spiced apple fruit and freshness in an inspiring magnum. A Pinot Noir-dominated blend from the Oudart family (winemaker fifth generation Ingrid Oudart) in the Grand Cru village of Louvois in the Montagne de Reims

£69.95, magnum, Corney & Barrow; £30.95, bottle

Gonet-Médeville Rosé Extra Brut Premier Cru Champagne

A very pale rosé in a racy, nimble, aperitif style. Essentially it's Chardonnay with a touch of red wine (3%) for the colour. In the old days it would have been called 'feminine'. Far be it from me.

£33.95, Lea & Sandeman

Roederer Brut Premier Champagne

One step ahead of its grande marque NV peers. Rich nuttiness interleaved with limpid fruit (apple with a drizzle of honey) and mineral precision. Impeccable. There are lots of offers currently, taking it way below its rrp of £45.

£30–£50, widely available

Devaux Cuvée D Champagne

If the small, quality-focused Devaux co-op in the southerly Côte des Bar area isn't on your radar yet, it should be. The Pinot Noir/Chardonnay (60:40) Cuvée D is aged five years and has 40% reserve wines to give a biscuity, creamy, honeyed depth to fine peach, apricot, citrus and grilled almond flavours and a chalk-smooth texture. See also the rosé below.

£39.95, Nickolls and Perks; £42.95, The Whisky Exchange; £45.10, Hedonism; £39.99 in cases of 6, Rannoch Scott

Champagne Taittinger 2012

Taittinger 2012 Brut Champagne

Not many of the big names are on to 2012 yet, but it's an eagerly anticpated vintage. Taittinger's 50:50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir shows the class of the year and the house's elegantly intense style and length in a floral aroma and flowing candied citrus fruit, shortbread and chalky notes. It will age well.

£44, The Wine Society

Lanson Extra Age Brut Champagne

Toasty, honeyed and complex, but with Lanson's characteristically zesty (non malo) freshness. A blend of three vintages (2004, '05 and '02), aged for five years on lees and all grapes (60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay) from Grands and Premiers Crus villages.

£45, Marks & Spencer

Leclerc Briant Réserve Brut Champagne

Captivating fresh straw and dried flower aromas with intense, pure, peach and apple fruit on the palate. Chalky richness, dry, layered, long and very expressive. Organic and biodynamic.

£50.50, Berry Bros & Rudd

Devaux D Rosé Champagne

Salmon pink, rich fruit but fine-boned and fine-textured with apricot and raspberry flavours, concentration and polish. Stood up to sautéed pigeon breasts dressed with raspberry vinegar.

£49.85, Exel Wines; £59.95, The Whisky Exchange; £54.52 in cases of 6. TheDrinkShop; £58.99 in cases of 6, Rannoch Scott

Moët et Chandon Grand Vintage 2009 Extra Brut Champagne

Most producers rate 2008 higher than 2009, but the opulent ripeness of 2009 was particularly suited to Pinot Noir and to Moët's generous style. The result is dry (extra brut) but sumptuous, with glossy, bright fruit, a note of spicy apple pie and cream, and gleaming, streamlined acidity. It will age well.

Selected branches and online: £38, Asda, £44, Morrisons, £45, Tesco, and Sainsbury's; available from independents at around £54-£55

Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millesimé 2005 Champagne

Luxurious, mouthfilling Pinot Noir-led rosé aged for at least eight years on its lees. Architectural in structure, deep and richly fruity with buttery grilled-nut flavours and vanilla spiciness (although there's no oak), edged with laser-cut pink-grapefruit acidity. Released this year to succeed the more forward 2006 vintage. Stood its ground unwaveringly with beef and truffled potatoes at lunch at Charles Heidsieck HQ in Reims earlier this year. A long life ahead, which is true of all Charles Heidsieck Champagnes, including the stellar Cuvée Classic non-vintage.

£87, Exel Wines; £99.95, The Finest Bubble; £115, Hedonism; £115, Handford Wines

Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2006 Champagne

Chosen from the list at Hide restaurant in London as our pre-dinner aperitif by Penfolds' chief winemaker and self confessed 'Champagne nut' Peter Gago. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for... I also drank it at lunch at Ruinart HQ in Reims in the summer. There it was served with turbot in a Champagne sauce, but you could also serve it with sashimi, shellfish and so on. It's 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay (37% from the Montagne de Reims) and after ageing on its lees for nine years has wonderful vitality, creaminess and depth with notes of linden, orange, peach, pear and toasted brioche.

£119, Hedonism; £124.95, The Finest Bubble

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut 2007

The 2007 vintage isn't one of Champagne's most highly rated, but Taittinger's all-Chardonnay Comtes is one of the stars. Pristine, elegant, floral fruit with yeasty, toasty, honeyed complexity sustained by gossamer minerality. Lovely now, but it will wait for you if you need it to.

£114.95, The Finest Bubble; £120, Great Western Wine; £129.99, Waitrose (138 shops and

Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 Champagne

The 2008 vintage has succeeded the more forward 2009 on to the market. Cristal is always exceptional but, if something can be more exceptional, 2008 certainly is: it will last for decades, although it's hard to resist now. You can read my full review in my report on the launch of Cristal Vinothèque last month.

£182, Waitrose (141 shops and; £204, Hedonism; £205, Harrods

Dom Perignon P2 2000

Dom Pérignon P2 2000 Champagne

P2 meaning second release after longer ageing on its lees: this was 16 years before it was disgorged and given a lower dosage (3–4g) than the original disgorgement. Intense, concentrated and complete. Mineral fresh nose with floral, sweet orange, roasted coffee bean and spiced roast-nut aromas. The palate is flowing, expansive, rich textured, still effortlessly fresh. Tasted in 2017 and 2018 and also drunk at dinner with lobster, morels and asparagus in a cream sauce in the Moët Hennessy group's Résidence de Trianon in Epernay.

£259.95, Master of Malt; £295, The Finest Bubble, £300, Laithwaites

Krug Champagne

Easy: buy anything you see – Clos du Mesnil 2004 (recently released), Vintage 2004, Grande Cuvée 166th Edition or the late released 160th Edition, Rosé 21st Edition...

Photography by Joanna Simon

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