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Champagne

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  • Barry Strugatz Dec 16, 1999 08:58 AM
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Don't know much about champagne, but want to get something good for New Year's Eve....any suggestions? Thanks.

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  1. There are a lot of levels of "good" when it comes to Champagne/sparkling wine. Depends on the price level you want to pay.
    Under $20 - Most of the CA sparklers are pretty good. I like the Roderer (a little sweeter), but Chandon and Mumm also make good bubbly.
    $20-$40 Go for a French non-vintage (NV)Champagne. Vueve Clic. is terrific (however, I don't think their vintage champ. is worth the price). Billicart-Salmon (sp?)also makes a great rose. (Some CA producers make top-line sparlers in this range, but I think other than a few exceptions, the French win in this price category)
    $40+ I think Krug makes the best overall champagne, but their prices start $100+. Dom Perignon is always great (particularly the 1990). (Note: a lot of producers have come out with special "Millennium" bottles and packages at way overinflated prices - stay away and stick with the tried and true classics)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Brad

      Well, if you don't know much about champagne, you probably don't want to spend the biggest bucks. But, if you do, then my vote would go for Cristal

    2. r
      Rachel Perlow

      Here are some of the producers of champagnes favored at the Annual Champagne Taste-Off, Dec. 8, 1999, NYC, followed by the surprisingly most disliked. Prices listed are approximate, some may still be available at Nancy's Wines for Food, 313 Columbus Ave (at 75th), 212-877-4040, but I haven't shopped there (that's the wine shop for which Willie Gluckstern, the leader of the tasting, buys.

      Favored:

      Non-Vintage: Bollinger ($40, Jason's favorite, but I can't find it anywhere and we drank our last bottle on our anniversary (see posting on Cinque Figlie in Tristate Board from October), Rene Geoffroi ($44), Demoiselle ($32), Paul Roger ($30), Charles Casenove ($30), Guy Larmondier (we liked all varieties by this producer, vintage & non vintage, 0 dosage, $35), Deutz ($35, but was able to find it for $27 at Shoppers of Madison in Livingston, NJ, they also have a store in Madison, NJ)

      Blanc de Blancs: Paul Goerge ($26), Guy Larmondier (Grand Cru 1992 $50, Crament Grand Cru $50)

      Rose: Rene Geoffroi ($45)

      Vintage: Bruno Paillard 1989 ($62), Bollinger 1990 ($80) - most of the vintage champagnes seemed tired, see below

      Yucky:

      Non-Vintage: Cliquot (the orange label - its the only brand I've seen EVERYWHERE too!), Taittenger, Mumm Cordon Rouse, Perrier Jouet Brut, Moet & Chandon, Dom Peringnon 1990 ($300!)

      Blanc de blanc: Mumm Crament

      Vintage: Most were old tasting although most were 1990 (some 1989 and 1993s), although these are the years currently in the shops.

      Willie's book has a lot more info about what to look for in champagne and other wines and is very no nonsense, link below.

      Happy New Year!

      Link: http://www.wineavenger.com

      14 Replies
      1. re: Rachel Perlow

        A couple of things that are important to understanding what is good and bad about champagne is that probably the best champagnes are the ones we hear least about. Companies like Dom Perignon, Moet, Perrier Jouet, Tattinger, Cliqout , Mumm and Louis Roederer spend the most advertising dollars and thus we -think- they are the good ones, when really they are very commercial and not that good. As noted in the previous message, there are many smaller producers that make much better champagnes for less money.

        Champagnes can be devided into three major types -- These are the "Codes" you find on champage lables.

        Negotiant Manipulant -- These are companies that buy grapes from growers and make champagne. All of the ones I mentioneed above are NM. Most NM's are commercial champagnes, but some like Bollinger are exceptional.

        Recoltant Manipulant (RM) or "Grower Champagnes" are made by the grape producers themselves, they are hard to find in the US and virtually all of them are superb. If a wine store carries these this is the sign of a very good wine shop.

        Cooperative Manipulant (CM) - a Co-op co-producer. There are 11,000 of these growers who pool their resources to market their own brands. There are 150 such firms, most of these are pretty pathetic.

        Marque de Archeteur (MA) - Buyer's Brand. Always the cheapest on the shelf, made from second pressings and inferior quality grapes. Execreble.


        Finally there are also the Methode Champenoise -- wines made in the champagne style but from other countries. Some of these can be very good, like Italian Prosecco and sparkling German Weisserbugunders-- and are MUCH less expensive than champagne, 8-13 dollars a bottle.

        1. re: Jason Perlow

          I disagree (to some degree) with the last 2 posts.
          How can you say that Cliquot, Tatt, Moet, etc are "very commercial and not that good"? Have you tasted these wines? I realize that we each have our own tastes, but to dismiss all the great Champagne houses of France in a single sentence! Do you also dismiss Ch. Lafite and Mondavi Reserve because they are popular? Sure there are plenty of good small producers out there (and I can name and often drink plenty) but...
          You seem to be getting a lot of info from a wine tasting and a book written by a wine store owner. Now I do not know the man or his reputation, but wouldn't be surprised if his happened to be one of the few stores in NYC to risk carrying these small Champagne houses...
          (Also, DP 1990 is $140-$150 in most NYC wine shops (try Gotham - $140) - not the $300 you mentioned.)

          1. re: Brad

            Brad, Rachel and I were at a blind tasting on Dec 8 with over 50 people, where we had 40 different French champagnes, vintage and non-vintage. The ones that got the most consistently lower scores are the champagnes that you mention, sorry.

            To call them the "great champagne houses of France" is a generalization, like I said they are name brands which are primarily for export. Americans drink champagne so infrequently that we do not really know what champagne is good and what is bad.. all we know is what they cost, and thus we think the expensive ones must be good. The french on the other hand, would not bother drinking that stuff, they have many alternative choices.

            As for Willy Gluckstern's choices.. he's one of the foremost wine experts in New York, he teaches at Peter Kump and has selected many of the wine menus for many of the finer restaurants in the City ... and he goes against the grain of most of the industry.

            As far of Mondavi.. I would not wash my car with it.

            Link: http://www.wineavenger.com

            1. re: Jason Perlow

              Guys, we might have to just agree to disagree (particularly due to the fact that I'll be away for the next few weeks-unable to post).

              I respect your tastes and if you like wine X, by all means drink wine X! And tastings, both professional and non, often produce interesting results (look at the Long Island wineries which always claim their products beat Ch. Petrus, etc. in blind tastings!).

              As far as Americans not drinking much Champagne, that might be true, but I for one drink my fair share and feel that Bollinger, Krug, et al make great bottles.
              And having been to and having read many reports of professional tastings, the more well known Champagnes consistently emerge at the top. There is more than just marketing at work here. (FYI- having just returned from Paris, I saw PLENTY of these "known" Champagnes being served!).

              BTW- the next time you decide to wash your auto, please send me a few bottles of the Mondavi '94 Reserve!

              1. re: Jason Perlow

                Glad you added that last remark about Mondavi -- means I don't have to take anything you say about wine seriously!

                1. re: pinot

                   
                  You don't have to take me seriously. But consider this:
                   

                  Robert Mondavi Reserve is a -Chardonnay- . Robert Mondavi is a commercial producer.
                   
                  What you are drinking when you are drinking Chardonnay, especially one from a commercial producer, is the taste of NEW OAK. Yes, Oak. Wood Chips. They take bales and bales of the stuff and pour it into the new oak wine casks to enhance the flavor of inferior grapes. Why do they do this? Because they know they can take advantage of us. We don't know any better, we don't know what the hell decent Chardonnay should taste like.
                   
                  The one thing I can say about Mondavi is that they are at least HONEST about what they do, though.
                   
                  From Mondavi's web site:
                   
                  "We fermented all the wine in small Burgundian oak barrels (33% new oak), using native yeasts for heightened vineyard expression and layers of complexity. During the long malo-lactic fermentation (92%), we hand-stirred the wine (batonage) to integrate flavors. "
                   

                  "The complex bouquet and opulent flavors of our 1997 Chardonnay Reserve slowly unfold into layers of citrus, pear, hazelnut and spice. Nuances of -toasty oak- and caramel linger on the creamy finish.... Barrel-fermentation with native yeast and gentle hand stirring during sur lie aging in -French oak- harmonized the flavors and perfected the balance.
                   

                  Case end point.
                   
                  Now, there are a few decent Chardonnays out there that are aged in stainless steel casks or old oak, but they are few and far between.
                   
                  So like I said, I wouldnt wash my car with Robert Mondavi.
                   
                  If you're gonna drink a decent white wine, have Reisling, Gewurtztraminer or a Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc or a Gamay for god sakes.

                  1. re: Jason Perlow

                    Wait! You are dismissing all of Modavi just because you happen to not care for chardonnay??
                    Like saying Mercedes is a terrible car producer because they make an SUV and you do not happen to like the way SUVs look.
                    Mondavi has ALWAYS been on the forefront of wine making in CA. They are one of the fist CA producers to not filter many of their wines, they are also one of the first to go in a joint venture with a top French producer (Lafite). They now also have similar ventures in S. America and other developing wine regions.
                    I happen to NOT care for a number of the wines they produce, however, I doubt there are many true wine lovers who do not cherish Mondavi cab reserve or Opus.

                    1. re: Brad

                      Its over-oaked Chardonnay, its commercial.

                      I would say the same about Beringer, Gallo or any other similar swill.

                      Feh.

                    2. re: Jason Perlow

                      Is there anything more dangerous than a boob with a little knowledge? In wine, it is often the case that handmade wines from small, low-production producers are better than famous, large-production wines from behemoths, but as anybody who's ever tasted a bottle of Chateau Margaux knows, it is by no means universally true. And in any case, the champagnes you have mentioned are mostly industrial products too. (My faves include Lassalle and Billecart-Salmon.) Still, to each his own. But to assert that winemakers are trying to put one over on the consumer because they age their wines in new oak is absolutely ludicrous. Outside of perhaps Alsace, Chablis, Germany and Austria, practically every still wine aspiring to greatness is aged in oak--unless you also write off Burgundies, Bordeaux, Riojas, Barolos, California, South America and the entire Rhone, to name just a few regions. Oak is as necessary to wine as salt is to food, and to damn wineries for using it is just goofy. Mad Dog, Thunderbird and Cold Duck are made without the benefit of oak. Maybe that's where you should be looking for your next quaff.

                      1. re: Al Pastor

                        Al:

                        I'm not going to make a personal attack on you like you just did to me. Its against the spirit of this board.

                        Maybe I -am- a boob with a little knowledge (oh god forbid I should be able to back up my arguments with facts) but at least I like to drink wine that tastes like grapes, not that tastes like wood!

                        1. re: Jason Perlow

                          I won't delude myself as to the torrent of truth and light that Chowhound brings to this dark and sorry world. But these astonishingly ignorant wine postings are the equivalent of a guy with exactly one geography class under his belt excitedly posting about the flatness of the Earth.

                          1. re: Al Pastor

                            Al, I'm not going to deny that good wine an be made in oak barrels. The point is not that oak isn't used in the fermentation process of making good wines, its HOW MUCH.

                            Chardonnay producers are some of the worst examples of this abuse. Yes there are many fine wines that are aged in aged oak barrels -- the difference is that those producers dont use new oak or POUR new oak wood chips and new oak wood powders and essences into the fermenting juice like chardonnay producers do.

                            If I want to drink something that tastes like traces of Troncais or Limousin, I'll have a snifter of Hine Antique or Remy Martin XO. But I sure as hell don't want it in my wine.

                            1. re: Jason Perlow

                              New oak is part of the recipe for chardonnay the way that butter is part of the recipe for pound cake. The costliness of new oak barrels often contributes as much to the price of a chardonnay as the grapes themselves, and is one of the things winemakers grouse about the most. And apart from Chablis (which can be, of course, very fine), nearly all chardonnay is made, at least in part, with new oak. Overoaking may be a pretty common sin in midpriced California chards--as it is not, by the way, in the often-great Mondavi reserve--and the ABC crowd is fairly ubiquitous, but railing against all new oak makes about as much sense as railing against the fact that bottles are round.

                2. re: Brad
                  r
                  Rachel Perlow

                  As I said, we were at a tasting, so, yes, we tasted the champagnes. I was just reporting a summary that seemed to be the general concensus of the room. If you like Cliquot, fine, but that was not the opinion expressed by most people spitting it out. Re: the DP price, you're right, I didn't look at my sheet close enough, he said it ranges from $135-$300, as it was a vintage bottle.

            2. I preface this by saying that all wine/champagne choices are very subjective.

              My overall favorite light champagne is the 1990 Veuve Clicquiot La Grande Dame (90$$) or the more preferrable but harder to find 1993 (50$). They are made with more pinot noir grapes and are not as "big" in the mouth as DomP. The regular yellow label is also very good. Also, the 1993 Bollinger is very good and only about 35$.

              For a bigger more Chardonnay laced champagne try DomP or Cristal if you got the money. (at least a $100).
              Tattinger and Rodiedrer (sic) make good cheaper champagnes.

              Buy little of both, if you want the best get Krug vintage...if not try the varieties I stated but remember if u plan on drinkin all night go w/ a better lighter champagne.

              1. Barry--consider Cava. It's sparkling wine made according to the same methods (mostly in Catalonia, Spain), and a good cava beats all but the really good champagnes at a fraction of the price. I haven't shopped for the stuff much, but I'd ask at Garnett and Astor. Grand Wine in Astoria might be another good choice. Lisboa Wines on Ferry street in newark would probably have best selection/price.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Jim Leff
                  p
                  Patrick Keilch

                  Just recently had a bottle of Cava that was surprisingly good. I'm a fan of the stuff in general, but think comparing it to champagne doesn't work that well.

                  In general, cava is made from indigenous spanish grapes, the names of which I forget at the moment. Cava made from these grapes is generally light, acidic (pleasantly), appley, herbal, etc. However, I just had a bottle of Codorniu Cava (Brut Reserva or something), that was really good. It was more round, creamy and full flavored than most, a result of a large proportion of chardonnay. At $5.99 a bottle at Garnet, it was a great deal. I apologize for not remembering the exact kind (I recycled the bottle already), but it is unlikely that whichever store you try will have more than one of Codorniu's products. In any case, it comes in a greenish bottle with a misshapen, enlarged bottom. Also, the back label mentions the high proportion of chardonnay.

                  For champagne, I like a few:

                  Bollinger (a bit more expensive, but very flavorful)
                  Pol Roger
                  Laurent Perrier Rose ($35 range, but really pretty)

                  The ubiquitous Veuve Clicquot is a little dull, but still very enjoyable, creamy, toasty, etc.

                  Garnet carries a few of the small producer champagnes imported by Thierry Theise, the one of which I had was very interesting and individual (I've never had anything that Theise imports, mostly German and Austrian, that wasn't at least interesting and individual) and also very good.

                  Happy New Year.
                  Patrick

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    Similar to Cava is Prosecco, which is from Italy and is also very inexpensive. You can find it for 8-12 dollars a bottle.

                    There are also sparkling German Weisserburgunders which are very good too.

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      I agree, also the Italian sparklers can be fantastic.

                      But still the Veuve Clicquiot vintage wins for me.

                    2. Recently tried two terrific rose champagnes: Nicolas Feuillette and Jacquesson & Fils. Yes, fruitier, slightly less effervescent. Yes, too, more complex, I thought. Must stress that I am strictly an fan of tasting different things: I do not profess to know anything more than what I like. But I sure liked these too more than Moet, Veuve Cliquot and Roederer.
                      In CA, I liked Pacific Echo Brut.
                      Just one gal's opinion, FWW: get a few bottles Before the big night, and try 'em. See what tastes good to you above and beyond is supposed to taste good.
                      Happy Tasting!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Liza

                        First, I must say that I LOVE Champagne, and all of its sparkly brothers and sisters. This and every New Year, I intend to consumme exclusively cake and Champagne. This year it will be Nicolas Feuillette Rose, which is on the sweet side, my preference. I'd like to try the Veuve Cliquot Rose, which is a bit more expensive. Personally, I don't care for the very dry ones, like the Nicolas Feuillette Brut, but I like the Paul Cheneau (same company and 1/3 the price) sparkling blanc de blanc.

                        Tattinger makes my mouth feel like the skin is being burned off, and Moet and that crap in the black bottle are worse. I like Veuve Clicquot with the orange label pretty well, it's quite festive and even non-Champagne lovers seem to enjoy it. What about a nice sparkling riesling? There are some nice ones, they're quite light and fruity, and usually inexpensive. Piper-Heidsieck is also quite nice, the bottles are exquisite as well.

                        Traditional black forest cake is the absolute best cake to have with any of the above.

                        1. re: Tara

                          Thanks, Tara!
                          Found Paul Chenaeu champagne for the unbelievable cost of $6.69 a bottle. And it was fine! Not mind-blowingly terrific, but an absolutely decent bottle.
                          I'll try to keep it our secret, of course!

                      2. I noticed today that CitySearch (I used to work there) posted a Champagne guide as the feature. It's got some basic info, as well as a side by side comparison of 10 brands. Hope it helps.

                        http://newyork.citysearch.com/E/F/NYC...

                        Kat

                        1. s
                          Steve Plotnicki

                          It depends if you want to drink the champagne alone or is it something you are drinking with food like caviar?

                          If you want a "splurge" champagne and money is no object, buy 1990 Cristal. It will cost you $175 a bottle and it's like drinking carbonated creme brulee. Rich and opulent. If you want the wine for food, 1990 Dom Perignon is a great choice as it is crisp, yeasty, very direct and intense. The champagne producer Drappier just released magnums and regular bottling of 1959 and 1964 vintages and they are around town for $100 or less. A great buy for special wine.

                          The only other thing I can tell you is that when it comes to champagne, you usually get what you pay for.
                          Try and stick to the better quality producers and their top bottlings. Krug, Bollinger, Veuve-Cliquot La Grand Dame, etc. and you won't go wrong. Also, as my first paragraph indicates there are a number of different styles. Opulent, austere, big bubbles, small bubbles, highly carbonated, lightly carbonated, sweet, dry. Knowing what you want to use the champagne for is helpful. Most of the better retail shops in the city can guide you through the various types and help you choose a wine that fits your occassion.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Steve Plotnicki
                            b
                            Barry Strugatz

                            Thanks everyone for your information and suggestions.
                            May you all ingest happily in the next century.