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18 April 2014

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Champagne - The Knowledge

(menu)

Square Meal’s guide to the top Champagne houses, compiled by Giles Fallowfield


BILLECART-SALMON

Founded in 1818

François Roland-Billecart is the seventh generation of the family to run this highly regarded house. Well known for its rosé and vintage wines.

champagne-billecart.fr

Non-vintage style & blend: Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve. Attractive and balanced with floral aromas.

(Pinot Meunier 40%, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay 30% each; 40% reserve wine added from two previous harvests, dosage 10g/l, aged for a minimum of three years.)

Price & stockists: £39.95, Harrods.

Where to drink it: Billecart-Salmon Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV is available by the glass at Bar Boulud and Umu; Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut 2004 at Searcys, One New Change.

Current vintage: Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut 2004.

Other cuvées: Brut Blanc de Blancs 1999; Cuvée Elizabeth Salmon 2000; Cuvée Nicolas Francois Billecart 2000; Extra Brut NV; Extra Brut 2004; Grand Cuvée 1996; Le Clos Saint-Hilaire 1998.

Insider tip: Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV is made from five top villages in the Côte des Blancs.

Did you know? Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart 1959 came first in a tasting to find the ‘Champagne of the Millennium’, held in Stockholm in 1999.

BOLLINGER Bolly GA - Bollinger-La-Grande-Ann_e-2002-bottle-shot-(web).jpg

Founded in 1829

This traditional house controls a 163ha estate that supplies over two-thirds of its grape needs and underpins the high quality of its muscular, Pinot Noir-dominated wines.

champagne-bollinger.fr

Non-vintage style & blend: Bollinger Special Cuvée. On great form, the weighty Bollinger style is rich with a long finish. (Pinot Noir 60%, Chardonnay 25%, Pinot Meunier 15%; the current wine is 45% 2007 harvest, 45% 2006 harvest and 10% of older reserve wine from magnum.)

Price & stockists: £42, Waitrose, Majestic and leading independents.

Where to drink it: La Grande Année 2002 by the glass at Pétrus, Savoy Grill, Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, and Dinner by
Heston Blumenthal.

Current vintage: La Grande Année 2002.

Other cuvées: Brut Rosé NV; La Côte aux Enfants 2002 (Côteaux Champenois); La Grande Année Rosé 2002; RD (recently disgorged) 1999; Vieilles Vignes Françaises 2000.

Insider tip: Drink Special Cuvée while you wait for your cellared La Grande Année 2002 to develop.

Did you know? Bollinger holds all of its reserve wines in magnums. It has a library of more than 600,000.

DOM PERIGNON

Founded in 1668

The brand that effectively created the prestige cuvée sector of the Champagne market. The original release was the 1921 vintage (released in 1936) and, 90 years on, the 2002 cuvée from Dom Pérignon has received critical acclaim.

domperignon.comDom Pom - dom-perignon-2002-(web).jpg

Style & blend: The wines are vintage, so the style varies slightly. A blend of roughly equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Wines are aged for around eight years before release but need longer.

Price & stockists: From £100, Waitrose, Majestic.

Where to drink it: Available by the glass at Artisan at the Westbury, Auberge du Lac, Claridges, Kai and The Savoy.

Current vintage: 2002.

Other cuvées: Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Collection 1996; Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Collection Rosé 1990; Dom Pérignon Rosé 2000.

Insider tip: Doesn’t reach its best until around 15-20 years of ageing.

Did you know? Dom Pérignon was a pioneer in appreciating the importance of blending wines from across the region.

DRAPPIER

Founded in 1808

Quality producer based in Urville in the Côte des Bar, where Michel Drappier makes a fine range of characterful, expressive wines including a four-variety Blanc de Blancs blend: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Arbane and Petit Meslier.

champagne-drappier.com

Non-vintage style & blend: Drappier Carte d’Or. A well-structured Pinot Noir-dominated cuvée that works as a good introduction to Côte des Bar Champagne. (Pinot Noir 80-90%, Chardonnay 5-15%, Pinot Meunier 5%; 10-20% reserve wines, aged for three years before release.)

Price & stockists: £28.50, Lay & Wheeler

Where to drink it: Pied à Terre, Angela Hartnett’s Murano.

Current vintage: Millésimé Exception 2002.

Other cuvées: Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Signature NV; Brut Nature Zero Dosage NV (100% Pinot Noir); Carte Blanche Brut; Coteaux Champenois (red); Grande Sendrée Vintage 2004 (white and rosé); Quattuor Cuvée, Charles de Gaulle Cuvée Collection; Val des Demoiselles Brut Rosé NV.

Insider tip: Millesimé Exception 2002 is a very vinous, rich style from a great vintage.

Did you know? Drappier was President de Gaulle’s favourite fizz.

DUVAL-LEROY

Founded in 1859

Carol Duval runs this large family-owned business based in Vertus in the Côte des Blancs. The quality of its vintage cuvées is built around the 200ha of prime vineyards it owns, mostly planted with Chardonnay. 

duval-leroy.com

Non-vintage style & blend: Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru Brut. A high proportion of Chardonnay makes this light and quite delicate cuvée a good choice as an aperitif. (Chardonnay 70%, Pinot Noir 30%; from premier- and grand-cru vineyards.)

Price and stockists: £29.99, Waitrose.

Where to drink it: Hélène Darroze at The Connaught (Brut Rosé NV by the glass); The May Fair Bar (Brut NV).

Current vintage: Brut Vintage 1999.

Other cuvées: The Authentis range: Clos des Bouveries 2005, Authentis Trépail 1999, Authentis Cumières Organic 2003. Brut Rosé NV; Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs NV, Rosé Sec NV (half-bottle); Femme de Champagne.

Insider tip: Look out for the single-vineyard, 100% Chardonnay, Clos des Bouveries from the Authentis range.

Did you know?
Duval-Leroy makes a full, rich organic Brut from Côte des Bar Pinot Noir.

KRUG

Founded in 1843

This famous house is one of the few in Champagne that retains a strong family connection, with Olivier Krug following in the footsteps of his father Henri and grandfather Paul as the link with the past in the blending room.

krug.com

Non-vintage style & blend: Krug Grand Cuvée: Distinctive, rich, developed style, which comes from oak fermentation and long ageing. (Pinot Noir 45-55%, Chardonnay 25-35% and Pinot Meunier 15-20%; uses 35-50% reserve wine, which is 6-20 years old.)

Price & stockists: From £120, Waitrose, independents.
Where to drink it: One of the five ‘Krug Rooms’ around the world, including: The Dorchester, London; Kinoshita, São Paulo; and Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.

Current vintage: Krug 1998.

Other cuvées: Clos d’Ambonnay 1996 – only 3,000 bottles made; Clos du Mesnil 1996 (100% Chardonnay); Rosé; Vintage Collection (older vintages held back
for a second release).

Insider tip: You can buy Grand Cuvée in half-bottles: an affordable treat.

Did you know? Singer Rihanna (left) celebrated with bottles of Krug after her O2 concerts last year.

LAURENT-PERRIER

Founded in 1812

Best known for its trend-setting non-vintage rosé style that helped to kickstart the current popularity of pink Champagne. Laurent-Perrier also boasts the most widely available non-dosé (bone dry) style of Champagne, with its Ultra Brut.

laurent-perrier.com

Non-vintage style & blend: Laurent-Perrier Brut. A soft, moreish, light and delicate style with no harsh edges. (Chardonnay 45%, Pinot Noir 40% and Pinot Meunier 15%; 10-30% reserve wine added, aged for at least three years prior to disgorgement and then for six months before release.)

Price & stockists: From £27.50, widely available.

Where to drink it: LP’s Brut Rosé is de rigueur at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Current vintage: Laurent-Perrier Brut Vintage 2002.

Other cuvées: Brut Rosé NV; Demi-Sec NV; Grand Siècle Cuvée Alexandra Rosé Vintage 1998; Grand Siècle La Cuvée NV; Ultra Brut NV.

Insider tip: Grand Siècle La Cuvée is an unusual multi-vintage blend of three fine harvests. The current 1996, 1997 and 1999 blend is on top form.

Did you know? It may not have won the battle to be present at this year’s royal wedding, but we hear HRH Prince Charles still likes a drop.

GH MARTEL & CO

Founded in 1869

GH Martel is a large family-owned Champagne brands and sells wines under labels like Château de Bligny, Ernest Rapeneau and Charles de Cazanove.

champagnemartel.com

Non-vintage style & blend: GH Martel Prestige Brut. Soft and approachable style, with the large percentage of Pinot Noir in the blend giving it added richness and length. (Pinot Noir 70%, Chardonnay 30%; around 15% reserve wine, aged for 30 months before release.)

Price & stockists: £28.99, Tesco.

Where to drink it: Le Gavroche. Try the oak-aged Cuvée Victoire Fût de Chêne with the soufflé Suissesse.

Current vintage available: Cuvée Victoire Brut Vintage 1999.

Other cuvées: Charles de Cazanove ‘31.12’ (a range of five cuvées); Charles de Cazanove Cuvée Romance; Charles de Cazanove Vieille France Brut and Brut Rosé NV; Clos du Château de Bligny 2007; Cuvée Vincent Blanc de Blancs 2005; Ernest Rapeneau (Brut & Brut Rosé); GH Martel Cuvée Victoire Brut Premier Cru NV.

Insider tip: The Charles de Cazanove Vieille France range has new packaging.

Did you know? GH Martel is one of  the 10 largest producers in Champagne.

MOET & CHANDON

Founded in 1743

Never scared of innovation, Moët is attempting to open up a whole new sector in the Champagne category with the launch of Ice Impérial: a Champagne made to be served over ice.

moet.com

Non-vintage style & blend: Brut Impérial. Moët’s flagship is made in an accessible style (Pinot Noir 30-40%, Pinot Meunier 30-40%, Chardonnay 20-30%; 25% reserve wine added, aged for a minimum of three years).

Price & stockists: From £29.44, widely available.

Where to drink it: Initially, Ice Impérial will only be served at very select restaurants around the world including the newly opened Madison at One New Change in London.

Current vintage: Grand Vintage Brut 2002.

Other cuvées: Impérial Grand Vintage Brut Rosé 2002; Nectar Impérial.

Insider tip: Try older vintages like 1995 and 1990 and find out how good vintage Champagne can be with extra bottle ageing.

Did you know? The face of Moët is Scarlett Johansson.

MOUTARD PERE ET FILS

Founded in 1927

This family-run business is based in Champagne’s southernmost region: La Côte des Bar. It produces a large range of low-dosage styles and rare varieties.

champagne-moutard.fr

Non-vintage style & blend: Brut Grande Cuvée NV is 100% Pinot Noir with the fruit all coming from La Côte des Bar. Full and rich in the mouth, with a soft, creamy palate.

Price & stockists: £25.49, slurp.co.uk.

Where to drink it: Brasserie St Jacques, Goldfish City, Gordon’s Wine Bar, Hi Sushi, Pied à Terre and Zuma.

Current vintage available: Moutard 2002.

Other cuvées: Brut Cuvée des 6 Cépages (2004); Cépage Arbane Vielles Vignes; Cuvée Prestige Brut NV; Cuvée Prestige Rosé Brut NV; Cuvée Reserve Brut NV; Grande Réserve Champ Persin; Extra Brut NV.

Insider tip: Brut Cuvée des 6 Cépages 2004, a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Petit Meslier and Arbane, has depth, weight, and acidity.

Did you know? In 1952, François Moutard’s father Lucien helped to save the Arbane grape from extinction by continuing to plant it, despite it being banned.

GH MUMM

Mumm 2002 vintage - Mumm-2002-Vintage-hi-res-(web).jpgFounded in 1827

The GH Mumm brand has reintroduced an excellent quality prestige cuvée to the range called R Lalou.

mumm.com

Non-vintage style & blend: GH Mumm Cordon Rouge. An assemblage of 77 crus with a backbone of Pinot Noir from Mumm’s vineyards in the Montagne de Reims.

Price & stockists: From £29.99, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose.

Where to drink it: Champagne Bar at St Pancras, Epernay, Le Gavroche, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and Rotunda.

Current vintage: GH Mumm Cordon Rouge 2002.

Other cuvées: Brut Rosé NV; Grand Cru; Mumm de Cramant; Mumm de Verzenay; R Lalou 1999.

Insider tip: Mumm de Cramant is made at a lower pressure, so it’s softer to drink.

Did you know? Explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot drank GH Mumm on an ice floe after he had crossed Antarctica in 1904.

PERRIER-JOUET

Founded in 1811

Perrier-Jouët’s flower motif, designed by Emile Gallé, that adorns its prestige cuvée Belle Epoque, makes it the most distinctive bottle in Champagne.

perrier-jouet.com

Non-vintage style & blend: Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut. Its elegant style is down to the intensity of Chardonnay from sites in Cramant, Avize and Le Mesnil.

Price & stockists: From £26, Harrods, Majestic.

Current vintage: Belle Epoque 2004 (prestige).

Where to drink it: Boisdale, Dukes Hotel, Hakkasan, Harvey Nichols, The Lowry and St Pancras Renaissance.

Other cuvées: Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2002; Belle Epoque Rosé 2002; Blason Rosé NV.

Insider tip: Older vintages of Belle Epoque (1998, 1996 and 1995) offer delightful complexity.

Did you know: Georgia May Jagger and mum Jerry Hall (above) helped to mark Perrier-Jouët’s bicentenary celebrations.

POMMERYPommery rose - Pommery-Rose-bottle-(web).jpg

Founded in 1836

In the first half of the 19th century, Champagne was made in a sweet style. But in 1874, Madame Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Pommery, one of Champagne’s famous widows, launched the first commercial dry style in Pommery Brut Nature.

pommery.fr

Non-vintage style & blend: Pommery Brut Royal. Made in a delicate, fruity style with no harsh edges. (Fairly even three-way blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier; around 30% reserve wine.)

Price and stockists: Pommery Brut Royal £37.95, Harrods; Rosé Apanage £49.95, Jeroboams.

Where to drink it: Frieze Art Fair, Galvin at Windows, The London Eye, Pied à Terre, Sketch and The Wolseley.

Current vintage: Brut Vintage 2002.

Other cuvées: Rosé Apanage; Brut Rosé; Cuvée Louise (white 1998 and rosé 1999); Dry Elixir; Falltime Extra Dry Blanc de Blancs; POP white and rosé; Springtime Rosé; Summertime Blanc de Blancs; Wintertime Blanc de Noirs.

Insider tip: Rosé Apanage is a pale, subtle, creamy, textured pink fizz – mostly sold to the restaurant trade.

Did you know: Cuvée Louise 1990 in Jeroboam is yours for £28 a glass at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught.

LOUIS ROEDERER

Founded in 1776

One of the most celebrated houses in Champagne, with wines renowned for their elegance and finesse. Cristal is the most sought-after prestige cuvée in
the appellation.

champagne-roederer.com

Louis Roederer - Louis-Roederer-Brut-Premier-NV-High-Res-(web).jpgNon-vintage style & blend: Louis Roederer Brut Premier. Elegant, complex style with great finesse and structure. (Pinot Noir 56%, Chardonnay 34% and Pinot Meunier 10%; 8-12% reserve wine, aged for a minimum of three-and-a-half years before release.)

Price & stockists: From £35, Waitrose, Majestic and Nicolas. 

Where to drink it: Drink Cristal 2004 by the glass at The Berkeley, The Dorchester and the Savoy.

Current vintage: Brut Vintage 2004.

Other cuvées: Brut Vintage Rosé 2005; Cristal 2004; Cristal Rosé 2005; Carte Blanche NV.

Insider tip: Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2004 – austere and somewhat linear in its youth – is one of the most impressive wines in the Roederer range with bottle age.

Did you know: Cristal was served by Victoria and David Beckham, and Christina Aguilera, at their respective weddings.

RUINART

Founded in 1729

The oldest Champagne producer, founded by Nicolas Ruinart, whose nephew Dom Thierry Ruinart was a friend of Dom Pérignon.

ruinart.com

Non-vintage style & blend: R de Ruinart Brut. More about elegance and freshness than power – the ideal aperitif.

Price & stockists: From £39.95, Nicolas, Roberson and Lea & Sandeman.

Where to drink it: Browns Hotel; Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland; Martin Wishart, Edinburgh; Nathan Outlaw at St Enodoc Hotel, Cornwall; The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath; The Waterside Inn, Bray. 

Current vintage: Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 1998.

Other cuvées: Blanc de Blancs NV; Brut Rosé NV; Brut Vintage 2002; Dom Ruinart Brut Rosé Vintage 1996.

Insider tip: Find vintage Ruinart in Nicolas branches.

Did you know: The 1988 and 1982 Dom Ruinart vintages were the pick of a 2009 tasting – proof of how well it ages.

VEUVE CLICQUOT

Founded in 1772

One of the great success stories of Champagne, Veuve Clicquot’s yellow label is an instantly recognisable icon.

veuve-clicquot.com

Non-vintage style & blend: Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV. Aromatic, rich, powerful.

Price & stockists: From £26, widely available.

Where to drink it: Summer sporting fixtures such as Lord’s, Cowdray Park and Goodwood.

Current vintage: Vintage Brut Réserve 2002.

Other cuvées: Brut Rosé NV; Brut Vintage Reserve Rosé 2004; Cave Privée; La Grande Dame 1998; Vintage Rich 2002.

Insider tip: The Cave Privée wines show that Champagne can age for at least two decades.

Did you know: Since 1890, Veuve Clicquot has only had six cellarmasters.

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