What better way to bid farewell to our annus horribilis of seemingly never-ending pandemic restrictions than with a golden flute of bubbly champagne?
Apart from symbolising celebration and new beginnings, champagne has long-standing royal connections too. It all started with the first French king, Clovis, who was anointed by Saint Remi at the Cathedral of Reims, which sits in the heart of France’s Champagne-growing region. Over the next 1,000 years, other French kings followed suit, each marking their rise to power with locally-made champagne.
Made with chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, champagne is meticulously crafted using a laborious process called methode traditionnelle, which calls for two fermentations. The latter, termed secondary fermentation, must occur in the bottle for a minimum of 15 months, so that ultra-fine bubbles (or mousse) can form. This endeavour, which has been perfected by the likes of Dom Perignon and Veuve Cliquot, requires precision and patience.
From the three grapes come a selection of styles. The non-vintage style – a blend of recent and previous vintages – is the most consumed worldwide. Vintage champagne, meanwhile, is made in years of exceptional harvest conditions. The Blanc de blanc style is made from 100% chardonnay while Blanc de noirs can only use red grapes: pinot noir or pinot meunier. Another style to note is champagne rosé, which may draw on red or white grapes. Lastly, prestige cuvées are reserved for a producer’s best wine.
No matter what kind of champagne you’re after this Christmas and New Year – from crowd-pleasing to splurge-worthy to sustainable – we’ve found the perfect bubbly for you. Here are our picks of the 10 best champagnes, all available locally, to call on for your year-end festivities.
1. BEST NON-VINTAGE CHAMPAGNE
Louis Roederer Collection 242
Don’t miss this outstanding new Collection series, which the Reims-based house launched this year. Based on the 2012 vintage which favoured chardonnay grapes, it is notably fresh and taut. Expect ripe fruit like citrus and berries, an elegant mousse, touches of hazelnut and a lovely saline finish.
2. BEST VALUE VINTAGE WINE
Vilmart and Cie Cœur de Cuvee 2012
Recently launched in Singapore, Vilmart and Cie is a small organic and sustainable champagne house. Their flagship wine, Cœur de cuvee is a blend of 80% chardonnay and 20% pinot noir sourced from classified Premiere cru plots in Rilly-la-Montagne. It is bright, intense and evolves in the glass. Expect a creamy texture of mature wines with baked lemons, lemongrass, melon, cardamom and a gentle toastiness.
3. BEST BLANC DE BLANC
Perrier-Jouet Blanc de Blancs
Chardonnay sits at the heart of the intensely floral, light, elegant and fruity Perrier-Jouet style. The grapes are sourced from the chalky terroir of Cote de Blanc – particularly the village of Cramant, which is renowned for chardonnay. Perfumed white flower aromas like acacia and honeysuckle are followed by fruity esters of nashi pear, grapefruit and summer peaches. On the palate, it has an exceptional balance of fruit and fine, delicate acid.
4. BEST LOW DOSAGE CHAMPAGNE
Bollinger RD Extra Brut 2007
The dosage is a mix of sugar and reserve wines added right at the end of the winemaking process to balance the wine’s acid. This is kept low here, as Bollinger believes low dosage allows the fruit to express itself. Crafted with 70% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay, the wine unfurls layers of complexity from the 14 years of ageing on lees. On the palate, look out for beeswax, vanilla, toasted peaches, young ginger, hazelnuts and baking spice. This is pure elegance in a glass.
5. BEST CHAMPAGNE ROSÉ
Billecart-Salmon Brut Cuvee Elisabeth Salmon Rosé Millesime 2008
Named after the founder, each cuvee is released in special vintages, and this year was only the 13th release. Pinot noir and chardonnay come together in equal measure from grand cru sites and express aromas of field strawberries, lemon zest and cream underpinned by chalky minerality and soft spices. The dosage is kept low at 7g per litre, and the fruit shines through its impressive length.
6. THE BEST UNDERRATED GROWER OF CHAMPAGNE
Frederic Savart Bulle de Noir
Organic farming and low-dosage cuvees are the signatures of this grower champagne brand. Savart is a small producer based in Ecueil in Montagne de Reims and produces a structured, elegant and lifted rosé expression marked with rose petals, rosehips and pronounced red fruit. Based on the 2012 vintage, this wine is romance on the palate.
7. THE MOST LUXURIOUS NON-VINTAGE POUR
Krug 169th edition
The 169th edition comes from 146 different wines spanning 11 years. Altogether aged seven years on lees, the youngest of these is the 2013 vintage and the oldest from 2000. Floral aromas greet you first, along with framboise and citrus. Give it time, and it develops into a nuanced sip, suggesting blanched almonds, brioche and a memorably long finish.
8. SPLURGE-WORTHY CHAMPAGNE
Salon Le Mesnil
Made exclusively from chardonnay grown in the hallowed cru of Mesnil-sur-Oger, Salon is exquisite. For starters, it is not made every year, and when it is, the grapes are carefully selected from old vines adding intensity of flavour. The 1996 is pure, gold liquid, all toasty and savoury with lemon oil and honey with oyster–style salinity.
9. CHAMPAGNE’S BEST-KEPT SECRET
Another small house, Delamotte is not only next door to Salon, the two houses share the same parent company. In the years Salon doesn’t make a vintage, the grapes go to Delamotte. Look for citrus and orchard fruit, mineral touches, on-point mousse and graceful acid.
10. BEST SUSTAINABLE CHAMPAGNE
Telmont Brut Reserve
Sustainability and transparency are the core of Champagne Telmont. They’ve done away with gift boxes, turned most of their vineyard to organic viticulture and deliver veritable terroir wines. The Brut Reserve is a blend of three grapes in equal parts and shows ripe fruit, marzipan and pastry notes.
$80, Bottles and Bottles