Writing my annual Festive Champagne Guide is, as you can imagine, no hardship, not least because I have tasted everything in it recently.
As always it has been difficult to whittle down the numbers, but one way is to exclude most of the Champagnes recommended in last year's guide (however painful some exclusions are) and those featured in my blogs on Drappier and Bruno Paillard. Even whittled down, there's a spectrum of styles, ages, producers and retailers, presented in ascending order of price as far as possible, bearing in mind seasonal offers, variations according to retailer, whether or not it's a gift-boxed version, and delivery costs. It kicks off at £19.99 and ends with a spectacular jeroboam at £950.
Oeil de Perdrix Rosé Champagne
The current cuvée of this long established Majestic exclusivity (made by Devaux, one of Champagne’s best co-operatives) is particularly good, with enticing red berry fruit and an umami undertow. Great value at the current offer price. 12%
£19.99 until 31 December (down from £24.99), Majestic
Devaux Augusta Brut Champagne
Red apple, a touch of honey-edged brioche and patisserie and elegant chewy freshness. This is another Devaux-produced Majestic exclusive that's great value at the current offer price.
£19.99 until 30 December (down from £24.99), Majestic
Waitrose & Partners Special Reserve Vintage Brut 2007/2008 Champagne
The 2007 vintage is full of brioche, dulce de leche, honey, ripe golden fruit and zesty lemon acidity. The 2008 is altogether tighter and more youthful, but with creamy cappuccino and cocoa notes. Both are good value at their full price and a bargain at the offer price. 12.5%
£19.99 until 2 January (down from £25.99), Waitrose. NB: back in stock on 16 December
Ayala Brut Majeur Champagne
I had this at a wedding this year and it was the perfect choice – stylish, dry and fine-boned, yet generous enough to go with all sorts of canapés. It's owned by Bollinger, so quality is to be expected. 12%
£24.99, ND John; £26.95, Amazon; £28.75, The Whisky Exchange; £29.14, TheDrinkShop.com; £35, Virgin Wines
Pommery Brut Royal Champagne
This is a much improved Champagne in a delicate, harmonious style bringing apple and lemon fruit together with gentle biscuity, toasty notes. 12.5%
£25.99, Majestic; £31.99 until 2 January, Ocado; £31.99, Amazon; £36.50 in any 6 bottles of Champagne, Lea & Sandeman; £40, Waitrose
Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut Champagne
Vivacious, generous, elegant – for a fuller note, see it as a recent Wine of the Week. 12%
£29.95, Hennings Wine, Frazier’s Wine; £30.89, TheDrinkShop.com; £34, Tanners Wines
Deutz Classic Brut Champagne
Deutz flies under the radar in the UK, at least compared with its owner Champagne Louis Roederer, but the whole range is excellent, starting with the sleek, floral, delicately nutty Classic Brut, a classic Pinot Noir, Meunier, Chardonnay blend, aged on its lees for three years. 12%. Higher up the ladder, look for Cuvée William Deutz (I’ve enjoyed the 2000, 2007 and 2009 vintages this year) and Amour de Deutz 2008, a stunning Blanc de Blancs.
£32.50 until 2 January Ocado; £39, The Wine Society; £40, Laithwaites
Dehours Oeil de Perdrix Extra Brut Champagne
Unusually Jérôme Dehours, a grower with 14 hectares in the Marne Valley, specialises in Meunier and he does it very well, bringing out so much fruitness that dosage levels are very low or, in the case of this pale rosé, non existent. It’s elegantly fine-textured with floral, redcurrant and peach flavours.
£39.95, The Whisky Exchange; £40, The Solent Cellar
Gonet-Médeville Blanc de Noirs Brut 1er Cru Champagne
Apart from a whisper of pink/copper in the colour, there’s fruit and brioche richness riveted by lively freshness in this all-Pinot Noir Champagne from a grower in Bisseuil in the Marne Valley. 12.5%
£40.95, or £37.50 in any 6 bottles of Champagne, Lea & Sandeman
Alfred Gratien Brut 2006 Champagne
The Chardonnay-dominated 2006 vintage has depth, intensity and zing, with lemon curd, lime zest, toast and nutty flavours and touches of spice and apricot. It could be kept (in cellar conditions) for up to eight years. 12.5% Alfred Gratien also makes The Wine Society's own-label Brut Champagne, which is my house Champagne and which, like this, is fermented in oak barrels. (Read about my visit to Gratien in Epernay)
£42, The Wine Society
Pol Roger Pure Extra Brut Champagne
Not sure where I’ve been but I hadn’t tasted Pol’s Pure Extra Brut before this year and it turns out to be one of the best zero dosage/non dosé (completely unsweetened) Champagnes I’ve tried. Too often they have all the charm of sucking on a lemon, but this has delicately honeyed peach and shortbread notes entwined with mineral freshness and elegance. 12.5%
£49.99, Ocado, Waitrose; £51.45, The Whisky Exchange; £52, The Wine Society
Gosset Grande Réserve Brut Champagne
I don’t know whether either producer would thank me for saying this but I always think that if you like the Bollinger style, you’ll fall for the deep, dry, biscuity richness and rapier acidity of Gosset Grande Réserve. 12%
£49, The Wine Society; £50, Waitrose; £58.50, Fortnum & Mason
Charles Heidsieck Brut Millesimé 2008 Champagne
A long time in the making – 10 years on its lees in Charles Heidsieck’s deep, chalk, Gallo-Roman cellars (crayères) – but worth the wait. Both ripe and taut with candied citrus, apricot, exotic fruit and deep, biscuity, salted-almond richness held tight by tenacious acidity. A long life assured, but be aware there’s not much of it. 12%
£75, The Wine Society; £100, Laithwaites; £105, The Whisky Exchange; £110, Jeroboams; £112, The Finest Bubble; £120, Fortnum & Mason
Bollinger La Grande Année 2008 Champagne
A great vintage for Champagne and it shows in this majestic, concentrated, Pinot Noir dominated Grande Année. Blossom and vanilla-brioche notes on the nose, spice, orange, orchard fruit, savoury wood and cream unfurling on the palate, a wonderful chalky texture and tightwire acidity. It’ll last decades (though not in my house), but UK stocks are already very low.
£119.95, The Finest Bubble; £313 magnum, Hedonism
Thienot x Penfolds Vintage 2012 Blanc de Noirs Champagne
One of a debut trio of impressive 2012 vintage Champagnes produced by Penfolds, the producer of Australia’s most famous and sought-after still wine, Grange, in collaboration with Thiénot. The Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru of Aÿ is rich, ripe, and pure with steely intensity, raspberry, candied fruit and spice flavours and chalky minerality. It deserves to be aged, as does the equally good Blanc de Blancs from Avize. 12.5%
£180, Champagnes & Chateaux
Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 Champagne
Although this was in last year’s roundup I’ve just presented it at The Wine Gang’s Ultimate Champagne Evening and can’t bring myself to leave it out. It’s stupendous – the “Cristal of Cristals”, as chef de cave Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon puts it – and although it will last for decades, stocks won’t. I’ve written more about it here. 12%
£198, Uncorked; £199, The Finest Bubble; £204, Hedonism; £205, Harrods, £210, Selfridges; £215, Harvey Nichols
Salon 2007 Champagne
The 41st vintage of this exceptional Champagne – single vintage, single grape variety (Chardonnay) and single Grand Cru (Le Mesnil-sur-Oger). Another Champagne I presented at this week’s Ultimate Champagne Evening. Perfumed, intense, complex, mineral, incisive – the taste goes on and on. Thrilling. It can be drunk now with pleasure, but could be kept three decades or more.
£595, Harvey Nichols; £1451.44 for 3, Corney & Barrow
Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères Brut Millesimé 1989 Champagne – in jeroboam
You read it correctly: 1989 and in a jeroboam (4-bottle equivalent). I’ve tasted it twice since it was released from Charles Heidsieck’s cellars (crayères) this year after ageing there for more than a quarter of a century on its lees. To say that it’s astonishingly fresh, textured, honeyed, melifluous, mouthfilling and complex barely scratches the surface. It was voted best Champagne of the night at The Wine Gang’s Ultimate Champagne Evening 2019 in a line-up that included Cristal 2008 and Salon 2007.
£950, The Finest Bubble. Contact Liberty Wines for other UK stockists
Photographs by Joanna Simon