It goes without saying that it's always a pleasure to publish my annual round-up of Champagnes to meet the varied needs of the festive season. This year the bottles start at an undiscounted £13.99 and end with an indulgent magnum at £260 and the styles range from from Blanc de Blancs to Blanc de Noirs to rosé and from vintage to non-vintage to multi-vintage (the new buzzword). If you're looking for ultimate bottles, you should also consider three that I reviewed here during the year: Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millesimé 2008, Louis Roederer Cristal 2013 and Bollinger R.D. 2007.
As always, when comparing prices, remember that it's not only the ever-moving feast of promotions that you need to consider but delivery charges and whether the Champagne is in a gift box. Feast on!
Veuve Monsigny No.III Brut Champagne
Reliable, rounded and friendly with well-balanced red-apple and soft, bready flavours.
Brut Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Brut Champagne
Made by the small house of Alexandre Bonnet from its own Pinot Noir grapes and aged for two years on lees. Brioche, toast and ripe peach and apple with easy fresh acidity. Very good value at the offer price.
£17.99 until 2 January (down from £23.99), Waitrose
Booths Brut Champagne
Exemplary supermarket non-vintage Champagne – elegant and fluent with creamy, malty, wheatmeal flavours. Made by Duval-Leroy from Grand and Premier Cru Chardonnay.
Labbé & Fils Brut Tradition Champagne
From a small family-owned domaine run by two brothers in Chamery in the heart of the Montagne de Reims. A blend of 65% Pinot Noir with Meunier and just a little Chardonnay; 20% was aged in oak for nine months giving gentle oak nuttiness and interest to the fruity apple and citrus flavours.
£24.99 in a 6-bottle mix (£33.99 single bottle), Majestic
£26 to £42
Tesco Finest Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne 2015
From an excellent, warm, sunny vintage, this is svelte yet rounded, with grilled brioche, pear, crystallised lemon, crème fraiche, lightly honeyed walnut and chalky mineral notes and tangerine-zest on the finish.
Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne 2013
Stylish, persistent Chardonnay with great purity of flavour – toast, grilled almond, subtle creaminess, citrus and mouthwatering minerality – from a vintage that was initially overshadowed by its predecessor but which has emerged as something special, especially for Chardonnay. This is the latest in a long line of excellent vintages from this small co-operative that has Grand Cru vineyards exclusively.
Henriot Brut Rosé Champagne
The family-owned and run Henriot is a name that’s always worth seeking out, not least for its recently released 2012 vintage. The non-vintage rosé combines depth with effortless drinkability in a perfume of rose, wild strawberry and raspberry, opening on to toastiness, spice, creamy chalk and orange zest.
Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Another all-Chardonnay Champagne from a stellar small co-operative, but this one in the Montagne de Reims. Chablis-esque nutty, mineral richness with toasted-sourdough, creaminess and fine-boned sweet fruit .
Pierre Vaudon Grand Cru Champagne 2015
A blend of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, this spent five years on its lees, giving a full, intense and finely structured vintage Champagne with biscuity richness and youthful dryness. Could be cellared for 6 or 7 years.
£41.25, Haynes Hanson Clark
Louis Roederer Collection 242 Champagne
A new cuvée from Roederer that the house refers to as multi-vintage (rather than non-vintage). It's based on 2017, but key to its character and quality are the older reserve wines, including a solera blend (the réserve perpetuelle) and wines aged in oak, dating from 2009. The result is sumptuous – generous, layered and plush but with a deep saline, chalky freshness, together with ripe apple and hints of spicy mango and hazelnut. Compelling now and also worth cellaring.
Delamotte Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Sharing premises with its sister-house, the legendary Champagne Salon, Delamotte makes a consistently persuasive, finely poised Blanc de Blancs – fragrant, creamy, mineral and sustained by crystalline acidity. This release, based on the 2016 vintage (a challenging one, especially for Chardonnay), was four years on lees.
Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé Champagne 2013
The investment and resources Moët has put into its rosés have really paid off. The non-vintage Imperial rosé is consistently good; this 2013 is splendid. Based on a higher than usual 35% Chardonnay, and 44% Pinot Noir, it’s opulent yet precise, long and saline, with wild strawberry, juicy redcurrant and peach underpinned by savoury, salted-caramel ice-cream richness, brioche and grapefruit-peel and candied Seville orange bite.
De Saint Gall Orpale Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne 2008
This impressive, luxurious Champagne was aged for ten years on its lees and is the top cuvée from the co-operative that also produces Pierre Vaudon and Tesco’s Finest Vintage. The 2008 Orpale is tightly sprung, precise and powerful with a blossomy scent and notes of vanilla, honey, toast and almond-cream carried on a long spine of lime-zest acidity. Beautifully balanced.
Pol Roger Rosé Champagne 2012
Bright, copper-tinged pink, full bodied and succulent with peach and red berry fruit, creamy, toasty richness and polished acidity. The blend is Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Meunier (50:35:15) and it was aged for 6 years in the cellars before release. All too easy to drink now but you could keep this until 2026.
Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Champagne 2013/2012
Champagne’s most eye-catchingly pretty bottle bears a Chardonnay-led style that is equally pretty – floral, fruity, unashamedly charming, but which is also more than that. Beneath the hawthorn blossom, pear, delicate patisserie and gossamer creaminess there’s quietly confident acidity and structure that will keep it for many years.
£260 for 2012 in magnum, Waitrose. I've tasted the 2012 in bottle and am certain that it will be at least as good in magnum.