Monday, September 18, 2006

Which Champagne Should I Buy?

A Global Bloggers Guide to French Fizz

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photo by Michael Blamey via

For this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, a community online wine-tasting founded by Lenndevours, I asked bloggers to join me in reviewing French Champagne. Here follows a sparkling array of bubbly suggestions from all over the world, at a variety of prices. Thanks to everyone who joined in.

Whit Stevens
from Inferior Good in Seattle is no stranger to sparkling wines like cava, prosecco and cremant but he never buys champagne. His spending patterns might be set to change, however, since he discovered 1998 Champagne Brut Millesime 'Pierre Peters'.

Scott Sinclair lives in Lincolnshire, England. On his blog, he reviews the Moet & Chandon ‘Brut Imperial’ that he received as an apology from his bank after they mistakenly locked his account whilst he was travelling abroad for his recent wedding. Congratulations to Mr & Mrs Sinclair!

Andreea of Glorious Food and Wine in Brussels, Belgium, describes her recent visit to the Champagne region and the The Colin Cuvée Alliance champagne she discovered there.

Mickey from in St Louis who blogs at Kitchen Inferno chose Nicolas Feuillatte to write about. Mickey's post also recalls Veuve Cliquot enjoyed at Bayonna in the French Quarter, a restaurant that sadly hasn't reopened since Hurricane Katrina.

"It is easy to be fooled by the pop of a cork, the rush of new bubbles, foam, and the general romance of a freshly opened Champagne bottle. But to tell the quality of a good Champagne, in my mind, is to not let all this pomp and circumstance sway you from flaws easily obliterated by the glitz and flashiness of an uncorking." Palette.

Neil from Food for Thought based in Australia really went to town for this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday. Neil chose Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Extra Brut VP which he paired with wild barramundi, scallops and mussels in a sauce that was a reduction of the mussel juices, vermouth and fish stock, gently coloured by a few strands of saffron and given shine and richness by the incorporation of butter.

Melinda has a blog called Tokyo through the Drinking Glass which she started in June to write about sake, wine, food, and my experiences in Tokyo. A drizzly day and having nothing better to do was her excuse to pop open a bottle of Beaumont des Crayeres Grande Reserve.

from My Wine Education in the Cincinnati area hosted a Breakfast Party and took the opportunity to try a couple of champagnes, one from a small house, one from a large house. Find out what she thought of Vilmart Champagne Grand Cellier Brut, NV, and Joel Falmet Champagne Brut Tradition, NV.

Vino Keeno, Nikki, relied upon reviews from readers for this round of WBW. They tell us about their experiences with Duval-Leroy Brut and 2002 Saint-Hilaire Blanc de Blancs.

Jack & Joanne from Fork & Bottle in Santa Rosa reviewed a bottle of 1997 Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée that Joanne describes eloquently as having a nose of sourdough bread, dried apricots and a hint of honeysuckle. Jack found the wine too restrained. He plans to update the notes in a few years when he opens the duplicate bottle he has in storage, at which point he suspects it will be significantly different.

Jules from Wellington New Zealand who charmingly calls himself The Wine Wanker reviews a Champagne Brut Jean-Marc Vigreux-Frère à Cauroy-Les-Hermonville which hits him with a tart, almost old fashioned lemonade flavour profile with a good burst of acidity.

Abby from Eat the Right Stuff in my old home town, London, is another entrant who recalls her visit to the Champagne region of France. She tells us about the champagne milan “cuvee symphorine” 2000 grand cru blanc de blancs she bought on that trip.

Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once in Melbourne, Australia chose to drink a Champagne Jacquesson Cuvée No. 729 which she paired with some delicious-sounding onion and anchovy tartlets.

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photo by Rachael via

The Cork Dork over in The East Bay, tried a Tarlant Cuvee Louis which he describes as perfectly balanced austere wine of magical complexity. As well as a little history lesson, The Cork Dork also points out that the Tarlant Champagne house has a blog of its own. Time to brush up on the Francais, methinks.

One of my oldest virtual food blogging pals, Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking down in LA loves her bubbles which describes as "party in a bottle". For today's festivities she chose (vintage) Millesime 1992 J.B. Michel Brut Champagne which she paired with caviar before declaring "I am mad, Mad, MAD for this Champagne!"

Ok, now I am starting to get jealous - Lisa Roskam of is another recent visitor to the Champagne region where they tasted two non-vintage Champagnes one from Devaux and the other by Andre/Jacques Beaufort, a 1999 Ruinart, a 1998 Legras and a 1989 Jacques Beaufort.

Darcy O'Neil from The Art of Drink pulled out a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne for this tasting. As a bonus Darcy suggests a selection of Champagne Cocktails. Oooh yeah.

Serge Lescouarnec
from Serge the Concierge in Montclair, New Jersey selected Domaine Ruinart 'Blanc de Blancs'. Serge shares his favourite champagne story which has a theory on drinking and headaches.

Doktor Weingolb in Montreal takes the oportunity to answer his fan mail: What wine do I give as a thank-you gift?. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Doktor, and for your postscript too!

Julian of Bubble Brothers in Cork, Ireland, chooses a bottle of José Pierlot's Grande Réserve from his store. Proving that champagne can be enjoyed at any time he remarks "an Indian take-away eaten at half past ten at night and washed down with Monsieur P's champagne felt like real luxury - something of the dormitory feast about it."

James of Second Leaf in the El Dorado Hills, CA, is a man with equisite taste. He chose to review the same champagne as I did, the J. Lassalle Premier Cru Brut. And, like me he is a fan of the breakfast for dinner thing. A man after my own heart.

The Laughing Gastronome, Emma, in New Zealand is our second blogger to choose to feature Tarlant after staff at her favourite wine store exclaimed "If you want boring old Veuve or pricey Bolly that's cool, however if you haven't tried our Tarlant wines then I recommend you give them a go." Find out what they thought about it here.

I love the name of this next blog: This Little Piglet, by Lia of Brooklyn, New York. Brunch seems to be a recurring theme in this edition of WBW. Lia chooses Louis De Sac a to wash down her tomato tart.

Abby and David also live in New York and write at Yarn and Cocktails. They were planning to home cook a fancy meal of steak and heirloom tomato salad to pair with the bubbles. But when they received a last minute call to meet friends at the local Irish pub, they took the already-open bottle of Gatinois Tradition Brut GC NV, Aÿ with them and enjoyed it with a burger and BBQ ribs instead.

Palette of Planet Berry in Chicago penned a fascinating champagne post. It's full of facts and tips. It's worth the read as much as the Philipponnat Royale Reserve Brut that she enjoyed as it unfolded over the course of several hours.

Libby from the Curiosity Cabinet in Los Angeles, CA selected a Diebolt-Vallois Brut Champagne for her first ever entry into WBW. Let's hope she'll join us for another round soon.

Tim Elliott of the Winecast explains that Dampierre Brut Champagne Cuvee Des Ambassadeurs gets it’s special designation from the fact that it is served at many French embassies worldwide and the Elysée Palace (home to the French President).

Catherine Granger
writes Purple Liquid: a wine and food diary in the Bay Area. Like me, she recommends K&L for champagne purchases. Instead of settling with her usual sparkler, Catherine is our third blogger today to try a Tarlant, the Champagne Tarlant Extra Brut Blanc de Meuniers Cuvée La Vigne d'Or.

Dave Fortna of in Sacramento cooked up a storm, creating a dense organic carrot reason bread, fresh chevre and brandy XO sherry fig compote–drizzled with thick old balsamic vinegar to pair with his Billecart-Salmon 2003, Blanc de Blancs Champagne.

My friend, Alder, from Vinography, had a VIP blogger and celebrated Chef around for dinner. His guests generously bought a bottle of NV Henri Billiot Fils "Cuvee Laetitia" Tete de Cuvee Champagne which he paired with sautéed morel mushrooms and shallots with fresh thyme over goat cheese crisps. Isn't it time Alder started publishing his recipes as well as his wine reviews???

Max at I was just really very hungry in Switzerland found a long-forgotten bottle of a Champagne Fleury, almost 10 years old, in the cellar. Max remarks "When trying an over-aged wine, one has to expect surprises. One may or may not like the result, and it could be that the wine has simply turned bad." Head over to his blog to see what happened.

guide to choosing champagne which champagne compare champagnes how to choose champagne best french champagne
photo by Andrew Barrow via

Jennifer from Cookin' in the 'Cuse in Syracuse tries a bottle of Billecart Brut Rose and shares her "big lesson about Champagne. It really is too good to wait only for a celebration".

Garry Clark
is the sommelier at Michelin starred restaurant, Arkle, at The Chester Grosvenor. In his blog, Tales of a Sommelier he gives us two Champagne reviews. The first, for Egly-Ouriet Blancs de Noirs Grand Cru, Brut NV and the second for L Aubry fils, Brut Tradition, Premier Cru de Jouy-les-Reims, NV. Thanks, Garry.

Tyler of Dr Vino, tasted through a half-dozen grower champagnes recently and really liked the ones from Larmandier-Bernier, noting in particular the distinction of a non-dosage wine.

Wine Blogging Wednesday founder, Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours picked up a bottle of Champagne Deutz Brut Classic. He admits to not being a big champagne drinker but concludes, after this tasting, that he is "at least partially convinced that there is something to Champagne...the real thing. There's a certain something about it..."

Every Friday, I start my weekend with a glass of Gosset at Cafe Bastille in San Francisco. This is the same wine that Andrew of Spittoon chooses to review as his entry. He pairs it with Chinese spring rolls stuffed full with "scrummy" strips of lightly spiced duck meat.

Andrew also writes for the Well Fed Network blog, Wine Sediments where he reviewed a bottle of Ruinart Brut Rosé Champagne, NV. No food pairing with this one, though, because Andrew feels "the Ruinart’s poise and delicacy would vanish if paired with food".

from Basic Juice happily enjoyed a Lenoble's 1996 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs but he balked at the price. This led him to conduct a poll - head over to his site where you can weigh in with your own opinion on the subject.

Apologies to the following two entries who are late additions because, unfortunately, their emails ended up in my spam folder. Maybe gmail doesn't like Australians? What is it with that?

Or maybe it was because Edward of Wino Sapien [great blog name], in Australia, was talking rubbish with me and that gmail detected the junk? Edward explains that the vineyards in the Champagne region are spread with 'gadoux' from Paris = trash from the Capital consisting of polystyrene, crushed plastic and broken glass. This was a trend, Edward tells us, that was resisted only by a small number of vineyards in the region, including Egly-Ouriet whose Brut "Les Vignes de Vrigny" champagne he tasted for this event.

Those Ozzies certainly like their Egly-Ouriet. Like Edward directly above and Neil near the start of this post, Cam Wheeler from Appellation Australia reviews a wine from the same vinyard, the Egly-Ouriet VP Extra Brut. Keep an extra special eye on Cam's website because he will be hosting the next round, WBW #26. I can't wait to see what his challenge will be.

Finally, because I am soft and a total pushover, I allowed a couple of entrants to bend the rules when they sent me entries that were sparklers, albeit not Champagne. Since I have been known to accidentally submit incorrect entries to WBW in the past I could hardly refuse the final two posts.

Ben Carter of Benito's WIne reviews makes a very good case for NV Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne grown only 60k away from the champagne region. That distance makes all the difference to the price - this bottle was only $13!

Rebecca from Happy Box can happily blame her husband for picking up a bottle of California sparkling wine instead of the requested Champagne. The problem was, that in their local store, the cheapest Champagne was $55, a steep price to pay for an accompaniment to Sunday brunch. Hopefully, this round up will give Rebecca some good ideas for more reasonably-priced Champagnes in the future.

PS - I nearly forgot about my own entry! You can read my description of Domaine J Lassalle Brut Réserve served with Mushroom and gruyere gougeres here.

PPS - Other champagne-related posts you might be interested in:
Can the English Make 'Champagne'?
Classic Champagne Cocktail.

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Which Champagne Should I Buy?


  • At 18/9/06 16:01, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Hopefully, this round up will give Rebecca some good ideas for more reasonably-priced Champagnes in the future."

    Yes, this is a great list of suggestions. Thanks for putting it all together, Sam!

  • At 18/9/06 16:19, Blogger neil said…

    After your weekend contretemps, Dr Neil recommends a whole bottle of the finest bubblies + one more for your huge effort with this roundup. That should fix things right up! Well done, Sam.

  • At 18/9/06 17:12, Blogger Edward said…


    Lovely write up.
    Could you please add my contribution that seems have been missed.

    also I think a fellow Aussie's contribution - Cam Wheeler has been missed too -



  • At 18/9/06 17:32, Blogger Libbycookie said…

    Thank you for the lovely round-up, Sam. So much great reading! This is just the kind of education I like.


  • At 18/9/06 18:52, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    I guess the hardest part of hosting Wine Blogging Wednesday is the roundup.

    Must have made you thirsty!

    Thank you


  • At 18/9/06 19:12, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, I've got some reading to do. Thanks so much for hosting!

  • At 19/9/06 00:07, Blogger Anna Haight said…


    If you are wondering about the economic benefits of champagne read this:

    Quite enlightening! To higher salaries!


  • At 19/9/06 00:53, Blogger Andreea said…

    sam this is a great round-up. fantastic to see so many champagne enthusiasts!
    i do like the idea of starting my weekends with some bubbly :)

  • At 19/9/06 07:19, Blogger Edward said…




  • At 19/9/06 08:59, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mickey from in St Louis who blogs at Kitchen Inferno is incorrect. Bayona in the French Quarter opened last fall. I had a fabulous meal there in December of 2005.

  • At 19/9/06 19:02, Blogger Haalo said…

    I'll have a glass of each thanks!

  • At 19/9/06 20:13, Blogger jens at cincinnati wine said…

    I take a couple months off and look what happens! Very professional! Nice job.

    jens at cincinnati wine

  • At 20/9/06 04:21, Blogger Julian said…

    Here's some news that may be of interest:

  • At 20/9/06 08:29, Blogger Linda said…

    I'm lucky enough to live in France and while we can buy champagne at a fairly reasonable price, we often by the bubbly drink that can't be called champagne because it is from the "wrong" region. It costs alot less and tastes great if you pick the right one. I like the quote in orange about the glamour and excitement of opening a bottle of champagne. There really is nothing like that sound of a cork coming out of a bottle that makes you feel like you are going to celebrate something great in life.

  • At 22/9/06 09:59, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    rebeca - my pleasure
    neil - a bought a bottle of Tarlant after reading this, I confess
    andrew - ta - i definitely recommend bubbles at the start of the w/e, the end of the w/e and inbetween too
    edward - you and cam are sorted - I apologize now please excuse me whilst I go and have a word with my spam filter
    libby - education that HAS to be put into practise of course!
    serge - it'snot easy, you are right, but the result is worth it.
    melinda - my pleasure
    andreea - ditto what i said to andrew
    dave - it is all corrected now - sorry about that, roundups are done with blinkers on and then i miss things on the periphary. no worries about the gender mishap - it happens all the time, sometimes to my advantage.
    anon - that is great to know - thank you
    anna - higher salaries, I wish
    shel - me neither - i've already got a recommended bottle chilling in the fridge
    haalo - and make it two for me
    Jens - we missed you!
    Julian - thanks again
    linda - lucky you! I have to admit I am quite a fan of cremant, it's light and peppery. Ummm.

  • At 9/2/07 04:01, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    A fantastic write up and some great suggestions. I will pass this page onto my friends

  • At 16/2/07 06:52, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    nice one Sam - thanks for this

  • At 24/11/07 04:16, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Explains me please what is incorporation of butter?

  • At 24/11/07 09:32, Blogger Sam said…

    To incorporate is to unite (one thing) with something else already in existence - hope that helps, Sam

  • At 30/10/08 03:04, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Firtly I like the look of this blog as it is pleasing to the eye.

    About the post, there are a number of Champagnes that are great such a Veuve Delaroy or if you are after something sexy looking then try Duval Leroy, but ofcourse if you are after the bling bling Champagnes then obviously buy Cristal.

  • At 21/3/09 14:17, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Better champagne are from Eperney in France not Reims


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