What are the top 10 Champagnes, and what qualifies me or anyone else to choose them? Obviously there must be a strong element of personal preference here, and my list will be different from anyone else’s. However I have drunk a lot of Champagne and do have some pretty solid opinions, as well as the ability to appreciate greatness in wines that may not perfectly align with my palate. Hey, we all have different tastes!
In looking for the top Champagnes, there are a number of considerations I’ve taken. A wine must be consistently superb year in and year out. While some vintages will certainly be better than others, consistency is important.
Also a long term track record is required. We are only looking at wines that have been produced for decades. This removes most Grower Producers from consideration (but perhaps they belong on another list).
We are also only considering wines that a mere mortal might actually find and drink, which leaves out wines like the 1907 Heidsieck recovered from a shipwreck that auctioned for US$275,000. In fact I am totally ignoring vintages in this list!
There are plenty of things to argue about on this list. How can I list Dom Perignon when they make a virtual ocean of it? (Dom Perignon is superb, I don’t care how much they make or if it doesn’t suit your palate). Why do I not list more Grower Champagnes? (I easily drink more Grower juice than 99.99% of the population and love the stuff, but few growers have a track record). I only list the big houses! (Bullshit, is Salon big for example? How about Jacques Selosse). You didn’t list XYZ (It’s my list, and only 10 long. There are plenty of other worthy wines indeed – go make your own list and then please send me a link!).
So, in no particular order, here they are:
1) Jacques Selosse – Run by the influential, charismatic, yet ultra unorthodox Anselme Selosse since 1980, and producing unique Grower wines with a cult-like following. Selosse is a leader in the biodynamic movement which encompasses standard organic practices as well as pretty far out new age "ethical spiritual considerations." Think of it as wine first, not Champagne, or you may be confused when you drink it. Try any of his wines for a intellectual, and hopefully hedonistic, thrill.
2) Cristal – Roederer’s Cristal is clearly a superb wine. It is a wine of great finesse, elegance, and delicacy, but with plenty of flavor and oodles of tiny little bubbles. It is simply my favorite "finesse" and "elegance" Champagne! Although much of it is drank way too young, as I believe it requires time to show its true splendor, it does drink very well young in most vintages. And just a quick mention as a side note that the very expensive Cristal Rose is true to the Cristal finesse and elegance taste profile.
3) Vintage Krug – I am
massive fan of everything Krug produces, although I have not yet tasted
their stupidly expensive Blanc de noirs Clos d'Ambonnay. Krug is a very
traditional house that makes very big and very dry Champagne. Rich and
complex, with both incredible finesse and power are its trademarks.
Nothing else tastes like Krug.
It's not necessarily a Champagne for everyone, even if you ignore the steep price. It’s very serious wine, best served with food, and not for casual christening of yachts or drinking with babysitters. A magnum of the 1988 is stashed away for opening in maybe a decade or so.