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Jun 13, 2006 11:33 AM

What's your favorite champagne? And a book review. [Moved from Not About Food]

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Has anyone else read Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times, by Don and Petie Kladstrup?

The authors also wrote Wine and War, which I'm putting on my list next.

The book details the evolution of champagne (and rises and falls of the region, Champagne) from the days of Dom Perignon up to WWII. There are a lot of interesting anecdotes about all the most famous champagne makers, the perils of making champagne, which historical figures couldn't get enough champagne, what people did to get their hands on champagne, how champagne played a role in major wars, etc. A quick and easy read, but very fun.

Unsurprisingly, the book has me hankering for champagne.I love bubbly, but because I like to have it regularly I always pick an inexpensive prosecco, cremant, the Roederer Estate, or one of the $20 and under Gloria Ferrer bottles, but this time I want to go up a little just for kicks.

I can't afford Dom Perignon or a Grand Dame, but what are people's favorite $30ish bottles from the big famous champagne houses? The ones that feature prominently in the book are:

Pommery and Cliquot, which are the only two I've tried (and liked)
Moet & Chandon


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  1. Personally, I love to have Veuve Cliquot demi-sec on hand, but will accept brut. Bollinger next on my list of the regular brews of the big houses. I prefer a full-bodied champagne, not light. After all, it is one of the basic food groups (along with pasta, eggs, cheese, and chocolate).

    1 Reply
    1. re: Karl S

      Another Demi-Sec fan here.

    2. I also like Cliquot, although I prefer the drier Brut version. If you like Cliquot, I agree with Karl that you will probably also like Bollinger, as both are the more full-bodied style with a higher percentage of Pinot Noir vs. Chardonnay. Another one of that same style is Pol Roger. The opposite end of the spectrum - the lighter, "flinty" style - is perhaps best typified by Taittinger.

      The other important variable is sweetness, which is determined by the amount of residual sugar in the wine. The driest is Natural, then Brut (probably the most common), then demi-Sec, then Sec. The sweetness will be denoted somewhere on the label. Natural can be a bit tough to get to like, and Sec will give you cavities, so most of the market is taken up with Brut and demi-Sec.

      A true "pink" Champagne (as opposed to all the imitators that give the genre a bad name) is made by using a good proportion of Pinot and allowing the must to ferment on the skins for a while. They can be wonderful, but the good ones are usually more expensive.

      7 Replies
      1. re: FlyFish

        It's probably around 98.5% Brut, 1% Demi-Sec and perhaps .5% for any others.

        1. re: FlyFish

          Thanks! I'm evolving towards liking a more full-bodied sparkling made with more pinot noir than chardonnay, and occassionally I'll want something with a lot of yeast just for a change. This is a big step from the sugar bombs I used to think were good but now find overpoweringly cloying. Brut is still usually too dry for me, depending on the brand, and demi-sec usually just perfect.

          I was gifted the Cliquot Ponsardin, which is sweeter, right? I'll have to try the demi-sec and Bollinger.

          1. re: nooodles

            The "Ponsardin" is part of the name of the Champagne house - Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. Veuve means "widow." Barbe Ponsardin married into the Champagne-producing family of Clicquot and took over the business when her husband Francois died prematurely. You most likely have the non-vintage brut, one of the most common Champagnes on the market, which is usually referred to as "yellow label," though the label color is actually a bit orangey.

          2. re: FlyFish

            Many "pink" or Rose champagnes are in fact made with the addition of a small amount of still red wine to the cuvee.

            1. re: FlyFish

              To clarify, the levels of residual sugar in Champagne from the driest to the sweetest goes like this:

              Extra Brut (Brut Nature): Very, very dry
              Brut: Very dry
              Extra Dry: Medium dry
              Sec: Slightly sweet (Literally translates to "dry")
              Demi-Sec: Sweet
              Doux: Very sweet

              A little confusing at first. I'm in the Extra Brut camp, but usually drink Brut due to its availibility. Some Bruts are sweeter than others, like Moet's White Star. It calls itself Brut, but it's really Extra Dry, which means it's got a little more sugar. At the end of a special celebration meal, we serve an Extra Dry (or a Demi-Sec would work, too) for a celebration toast with cake or a fruit dessert.

              Bollinger, Louis Roederer, Delamotte, Gosset, Veuve Clicquot, really, I'm pretty happy with most well-made, quality champagnes. The most interesting to me now are the artisanal champagnes--Monday and dbird's recs are good.

              1. re: FlyFish

                Krug and Taittinger are my absolute favorites - to me they have such amazing complexity - there's so much to savour there. I see what you mean about flinty on the Taittinger with that great minerality from the high proportion of Chardonnay - and it's definitely got finesse - but I don't think of it as "light" at all. Definitely got a lot more going on than the yellow that's become everyone's standard. I've found it helpful to reference wine reviews as a bit of a guide - that's actually how Taittinger and I met! Agreed, Bollinger's good stuff too. So many wonderful bubblies, so little time!

                1. re: FlyFish

                  Flyfish, there is also extra-dry between brut & demi-sec.

                2. I like the American Schramsberg champagnes, e.g. Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, etc.


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                    1. I read the book a couple of months ago and it had the same effect on me: I really want to try some expensive French champagne. I was also fascinated to read about how champagne has changed to satisfy its various markets over the years.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jillp

                        Do report back when you get your hands on some!