1999) If youve waited this long to select your millennium bubbly --
forget the dire predictions, friends. Theres plenty of good stuff
Yeah its a tough job, but your selfless
servant has been doing mucho tasting. Following are my
favorites for the
Valentines Day and any Sunday evening you need to smile...
When Price is No Object
My pick of the current litter, bar none, is ***+1990
Dom Perignon. Ill admit that Dom is often overhyped and this bottle
aint no bargain at $120 and up. But the 1990 just may be the best DP Ive
ever tasted. So creamy, you almost hate to swallow it; dense beyond
expectation for a Champagne, but wonderfully light. Grand Cru Burgundy
with bubbles. I broke down and bought some for New Years Eve chez nous.
***1990 Pommery Cuvee Louise also has the
lush, rich texture that I love in great Champagne. Its 40% Pinot Noir
and seems to draw much of its character from this. A whisper of
raspberries on the finish makes it especially seductive. Priced about like
the Dom, alas.
If you prefer a crisper, more apple-tinged
style of Champagne, Pol Roger is always a good bet, and the **+1988 Pol
Roger Sir Winston Churchill is the best bottle Ive tasted this year
from this producer. Its about $95. Gives you a more aggressive attack
than the Pommery or Dom, but sacrifices some richness too. (I also tasted
their special millennium stuff, the **1990 Pol Roger Brut Cuvee 2000.
Nearly half as expensive as the Winston Churchill and nearly as good. But
Still Among the Best, But Costs Less
Best secret going in Champagne? This...
The Only Two Words in Champagne You Really
Need to Know are EGLY-OURIET. Its tough picking out a favorite among
all the stunning stuff from this small producer, but I especially pant for
***Egly-Ouriet Blanc de Noir Brut Vielles Vignes. This is tete-de-cuvée
quality Champagne at about the third the price. Its got the richness of
Dom Perignon, the raspberry-strawberry notes of the Pommery Louise and a
special character all its own, all for about $45. No, its
not vintage dated, but the date of disgorgement is listed on the back,
which is something that even Dom wont do. The only catch is that it can
be very hard to find. Hey, I got mine.
Just about as good and even harder to find is ***1990
Egly-Ouriet Cuvée Millesime. It has a very different character than
the BdN above. Very complex with a lot of mature, truffle-like notes, it
rather reminds me of Krug. Last I saw it, the price was about $50.
Unfortunately, I havent seen it anywhere in months.
Another mid-priced bubbly that Im
especially fond of it **+Tarlant Cuvée Louis. Has more focus to
its flavors than Egly-Ouriet, and may satisfy Champagne purists more. This
wine has so much stuffing, it may even need some time in the cellar before
its at peak. About $52 a bottle.
Finally, I was very impressed with the
brand-new release of **+1996 Charles Heidseick. Strawberry-scented,
lower in acid than some other Champagnes, this is a pleasure-seekers
Champagne par excellence. About $45 a bottle if you shop hard.
And pardon me if I sound like a broken record,
but **Egly-Ouriet Brut Rosé gets my vote for the Worlds Best
Rosé Champagne for under $75. Its about $42. You can really
taste the Pinot Noir in this one, and it works. Fantastic aperitif. You
wont need hors doeuvres.
Terrific for $30 and Under
In this category, my favorite and my brides
is not a Champagne, but a California sparkler. **+1993 Roederer
Estate LErmitage is the top bottling from the Anderson Valley
branch of this famous Champagne producer. It seems to me fruitier and more
voluptuous than Roederers comparably priced French stuff, but retains
the grace and balance Champagne-lovers crave. Still about $30 a bottle.
NOTE: They also make a nearly-as-good non-vintage cuvée which I used
to buy more often, but prices on that one have crept from $12 to $20 in
the last five years. So be a sport. Go for LErmitage.
And for Under $20...
Gloria Ferrer makes a couple of vintage-dated
beauties from Carneros in California. Their *+1990 Gloria Ferrer
Carneros Cuvée ($20) is a few dollars pricier than the *+1991
Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee ($17) but I rank them as equals. So buy the
latter. Crisp style with an impressive depth of fruit for the price.
In the $13 range, Piper Sonoma Brut Blanc
de Noirs is still pretty much unbeatable.
And for $10, check out Domaine Chandons
new bubbly from (believe it or not) Argentina. Its the real stuff.
Enjoy your celebrations. (Clink!) And if theres
a worthy sparkler you think Ive omitted, email
me and share the secret.
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