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Extraordinary Champagne for Birthday Present

Anyone have any suggestions for an extraordinary bottle of champagne for a birthday present?

Last Christmas, I sent some clients Pol Roger - Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill (I forgot what vintage - I think it was 1996) based on a recommendation, but since I never got to taste the stuff (sadly), I'm not sure it lived up to the recommendation.

Budget is approximately $180 or under.

Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

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  1. 1995 or 1996 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne
    1996 Bollinger RD
    1996 Pol Roger Cuvee Winston Chuchill
    1996 Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame
    1996 Philipponnat Clos de Goisses
    1995 Krug (the '96 is much more expensive)

    Of all of those I'd probably go with the Bollinger or the Krug, but any would be great.

    16 Replies
    1. re: whiner

      I see a theme with 1996! I did read it was a great vintage. Thanks.

      1. re: omotosando

        96 is widely considered to be one of the great vintages of the last 50 years. I'd agree with several of whiner's choices, though not all-- the Philliponnat, Krug, and Pol Roger are all excellent. That's not to take anything away from Veuve or the others, but they're not on the same level as the ones I mentioned, IMHO. I'd add Jacquesson's Avize 96--spends 10 years on the lees... closest you'll find to a single vineyard in Champagne. Creamy, smoky, delicate, and delicious. Also if you can find Salon (and if you can find P.R. Winston Churchill, I'd wager you can), it's worth every friggin' penny more than your $180 that you'll spend. *grin* I think that the 95 is the more readily available Salon at the moment.

        1. re: HeelsSoxHound

          Found the 1996 Salon on line.

          $235 - ouch! This gift has to be shipped,and I understand in summer, you only want to do overnight shipping, less the wine cook, so $235 plus overnight shipping is definitely out of my budget. I'm curious though - is the Salon really that great to justify the premium over other well-regarded chamgagnes?

          1. re: omotosando

            not with the shipping tacked on, no. i think it's maybe worth paying that flat out for retail, but i probably wouldn't go higher. another time, perhaps... but there are some other excellent suggestions on this thread.

            1. re: omotosando


              It is not worth more if you are gifting ;-)

              For personal consumption, I think Salon (from a good vintage) is one of those must-try-before-you-die wines, if you are seriously interested in wine, or particualrly, Champagne.

              1. re: whiner

                I think that that should be the ultimate import of my post. I was, I guess, under the impression that if you like this person enough to be giving them a bottle of wine such as the ones mentioned as a birthday present, that you would be getting a chance to try it too. I need more friends like you, I think! *grin*

                1. re: HeelsSoxHound

                  Sadly, recipient is in a different state, so I will not be there for the birthday or able to partake in the champagne. I think I am going to go with the Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame based on price point, since it appears that overnight shipping is going to tack on another $42 or so, from what I have seen from online merchants.

                  I thought of calling a wine store in recipient's home city in order to save on overnight shipping, but none of them have their inventories online and I've decided it is not worth my time to sit and chat with them on the phone about their inventories to save $20 ($40 overnight shipping versus $20 or so local messenger fee). Plus, I'll probably come out ahead anyway when you consider sales tax, since if I bought in recipient's home state, I would have to pay sales tax.

                  By the way, I assume champagne is not so delicate that it can't survive overnight shipping in the heat? That would sort of defeat the purpose if it arrived "cooked" even with exorbitant overnight shipping.

                  1. re: omotosando

                    Where is it going? I wouldn't ship to Texas under any circumstances this time of year. New York? Yeah, overnight would be fine provided it isn't a 95 degree day.

                    1. re: whiner

                      Oops - I clicked "buy" at an online store before reading this. Yup, it's going to Texas by overnight air (good guess). I'll hope for the best. It's the thought that counts, right, even if you do gift cooked champagne?

        2. re: whiner

          My vote is for the 96 La Grande Dame. It's a suberb elegant wine. As a gift its excellent as the bottle is so beautiful... the heaviest bottle (in weight) of any in Champagne. One of my favorites. In a good market it can be found for as low as $120... can't find anything finer at that price point IMO. Buy some for yourself too.

          1. re: WineTravel

            The '96 La Grande Dame was a bit hit. The recipient specifically commented on the bottle as well. Thanks.

            1. re: omotosando

              It is a very impressive bottle/package, and the wine is suburb. Was at a dinner last night and thought of you as they poured the 96 LGD at the reception. It was drinking great. Very elegant. Good fruit, tiny mouse, very round and complete in the mouth, long finish. A classic vintage drinking well now and will age still. Properly stored, I think it will be fantastic over the next 10 years.

              1. re: WineTravel

                What is meant by "tiny mouse"? Thanks!

                1. re: MMRuth

                  You've heard of the worm in the mezcal bottle?

                  Just kidding! Am pretty sure WT means mousse, i.e. foam, i.e. bubbles, i.e. bead.

                  1. re: carswell

                    Ah - thanks - I was ignorant of that term!

                    1. re: carswell

                      I got a chuckle from that too. Yes, carswell is right on. Sorry for the typo...

          2. I'm partial to Dom Perignon 1998. We had a bottle recently to celebrate an important event and loved every last drop of this delightfully elegant wine.

            1. had a bottle of the '96 Sir Winston a few months back and it was terrific. Any '96 is likely to be an exceptional bottle of wine. To those already mentioned, I would add the '96 Jacquesson at about $90 you could get two.

              1. I haven't tried the "Winston Churchill" or the "Grande Dame" yet, but I would take two bottles of J Schram any day (Schramsberg - CA producer). To each her own!

                1. I'd get the Krug NV ( "Grande Cuvée" ).

                  It should fit comfortably in the below $180 bar, and you'd be surprised how many times it beat its grander millésimée'd siblings.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: RicRios

                    Krug is the best Champagne I've ever had - consistently it is excellent.

                    1. re: RicRios

                      Personally, I do not think the curent NV Krug bottling is nearly at the level of the Champagnes I listed, 1995 Krug specificaly -- relative to your comment. But, to each his own. (I've had the new bottling/label 3 times, once out of magnum, never scored it higher than 93 points.)

                      (On a side note, I had an old label NV Krug a couple of months ago -- probably aged for 5 years or so -- that was indeed wonderful.)

                      Another Champagne I forgot to mention: 1985 Charles Heidsiek Campagne Charlie. It was re-realeased about a year ago and is in perfect drinking condition now. It should be findable for under $120.

                      Also, to the poster who said the '96 La Grande Dame wasn't up to some of the others I mentioned... if you've not had it, you owe yourself to try it. VC is an odd producer, it isn't generally at the same level as the very best, but in some years out of the blue they produce staggeringly good wines. 1990 and 1996 were two of those years. In fact, I would honestly feel comfortable putting a 1990 VC LGD up against a 1990 Krug. (It might not be as good, but it is in the same league.) As far as the '96 is concerned, I can tell you it ran circles around a mag of 1985 Dom I had it against in May.

                    2. the New York Times dining section this week had a bit on champagne . . .you can check it out online

                      1. if extraordinay also means unique and interesting, go with aubry le nombre d'or sable bdb. it's comprised of the original champagne varietals (petit meslier/arbanne) as well as chardonnay. the current release is '02 which i just tasted the other day.... outstanding and extremely unique. trust me i love all the others mentioned but for interests sake thats where i would spend my money. should retail for just around $100

                        1. As other hounds have suggested, wouldn't suggest the Salon in this case (buy a bottle for yourself to check it out). I think whiner mostly covered the best choices, perhaps would add a bottle of Cristal just to round out the list.

                          Still think the 96 Veuve La Grande Dame is the PERFECT fit. Great wine, killer packaging... so the perfect gift... and should be easy to find. Have a problem with that for any reason, go with Krug NV. [Just had a great magnum of the 1985 Krug a few weeks ago... superb]. Think the LGD has more of a universal appeal though.

                          1. I have NO doubt that the 1996 Pol Roger lived up to reputation . . .

                            That said, how much does the intended recipient truly love Champagne? In other words, are you looking for a "famous" name that will IMPRESS from the first sight of the label? or are you looking for a wine that is stunning yet perhaps lesser-known, a wine that will INTRIGUE from the first sight of the label? (Both will delight the taste buds; that isn't the issue.)

                            Salon, Krug, Bollinger RD, Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill are all excellent wines, and very well known. If the recipient loves Champagne, he/she may have already had these -- maybe the exact wine, maybe from a different vintage.

                            I would take another track -- IF, and only if, the person a) loves Champagnes, b) the object is to intrigue rather than impress by sight (again, the wines will be excellent). Take a look at grower champagnes and the tête de cuvée wines from producers like (alphabetical order):

                            Gaston Chiquet
                            Jean Milan
                            Pierre Gimonnet et Fils
                            Pierre Peters
                            Veuve Fourny et Fils
                            Vilmart et Cie

                            Other options would include some stunning wines from lesser known houses (again, alphabetically):

                            Deutz "Vinotheque"
                            Drappier "Grande Sendrée"
                            Joseph Perrier "Cuvé Josephine"
                            Nicolas Feuillatte "Palmes d'Or"
                            Phillipponnat "Clos de Goisses"
                            . . . and many others.

                            Just a thought.


                            1. On the ecletic side. If you can find it...:

                              Jacques Selosse Substance (around $200)
                              1990 Bruno Paillard NPU [Nec Plus Ultra] (under $200)
                              1976 Diebolt-Vallois (around $140)

                              Bang for the buck. It's all there.

                              11 Replies
                                1. re: waffleman

                                  i love selosse!! one of the truly unique wines out there. very hard to come by but, watch for it when bush leaves office

                                  1. re: bowmore36

                                    Yes. Selosse is, indeed, awesome.

                                    1. re: whiner

                                      I ended up sending the Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame as the gift, but I am learning so much about champagne from this thread that I now want to think of a million reasons to celebrate so I can try some of these suggestions myself.

                                      From a quick search, the Selosse does not appear to be available on line in this country, but seems to be widely available in Japan. I guess I will have to wait until my next trip to Japan to try it - kind of ironic that you have to travel to Japan for champagne. But the Salon sounds awesome too, so if I could only think of some justification to buy a $235 bottle for myself.

                                      1. re: omotosando

                                        Not a lot of it around but you can find Selosse in the US. Try using Winesearcher.com (more results show up if you spring for the Pro Version which costs 30 bucks a year). Think Zachys carries it form time to time.

                                        Selosse is excellent (I prefer the Blanc de Blanc). Seems I rarely drink it in the US, prob cause you dont see it. Have it from time to time when Im in France where you see it at some of the finer restaurants.

                                        Wouldn't worry about the gift being shipped overnight, as long as there is someone there to sign for it so it doesn't sit around. A wine company that agrees to ship wine in the summer months typically uses styro containers that insulate very well. I don't ship wine purchases I make in the summer months but have had to on occasion over the years...and Ive had the bottles arrive still cool after being boxed up at cellar temp). It all depends on the packaging. Champagne is a little trickier than trad wine as the bottle shapes are wider (esp the LGD), so lets hope they have the right insulation necessary. If they are a reputable dealer they should.

                                        1. re: WineTravel

                                          I am floored that no one mentioned one of the few remaining Champagne houses to be owned by the original family and the first wine on the RWC list - '96 Billecart- Salmon Nicolas Francois for $110. Best vaule there.

                                          1. re: Caillerets

                                            That is a great wine, too.

                                            I think it slipped my mind... or didn't really register with people because it is the least of the vintage Billecarts. I mean, if the '96 Cuvee Elisabeth was still on shelves I would have been like, "look, it is a rose, but damnit, it is the best thing in your price range, bar none." But it isn't still on shelves... Actually, strike that. I wouldn't have reccomended it because I want it all for myself :-p

                                            1. re: whiner

                                              I have 3 cases of '96 Elisabeth that I am laying away for a long time. :-)
                                              Have you had the NV Blanc de Blanc? Smokin' for the price.

                                        2. re: omotosando

                                          As Wine Travel suggested, plenty of hits in winesearcher pro :

                                          Click to contact
                                          Location & Description
                                          Wine Detail
                                          Click for their Web site Price
                                          Ex-Tax, See Notes


                                          Wine Pavilion CA: Lake Forest. No minimum order. Delivery charges apply. SELOSSE VERSION ORGINALE $139.99


                                          Aabalat Fine & Rare Wines CA: Petaluma. No minimum order. Delivery charges apply. Selosse, Jacques Champagne Version Originale $143.95


                                          Aabalat Fine & Rare Wines CA: Petaluma. No minimum order. Delivery charges apply. Selosse, Jacques Champagne Exquise Demi Sec $143.95


                                          Amarco Wines CA: Sunnyvale. No minimum order. Delivery charges apply. Selose Cuvee Initiale Champagne $147.00


                                          Wine Commune CA: Berkeley. No minimum order. Delivery charges apply. 0 Selosse, Jacques Champagne Cuvee Initiale Champagne Blend $153.95


                                          Aabalat Fine & Rare Wines CA: Petaluma. No minimum order. Delivery charges apply. Selosse, Jacques Champagne Cuvee Initiale $153.95


                                          Amarco Wines CA: Sunnyvale. No minimum order. Delivery charges apply. Selose Substance Brut Champagne $246.05


                                          Wine Commune CA: Berkeley. No minimum order. Delivery charges apply. 0 Selosse, Jacques Champagne Brut Cuvee Substance Champagne Blend $264.95


                                          Aabalat Fine & Rare Wines CA: Petaluma. No minimum order. Delivery charges apply. 0 Selosse, Jacques Champagne Brut Cuvee Substance $264.95

                                    2. re: waffleman

                                      Waffleman, I love Diebolt Vallois but the three shops that I know stock it don't have back vintages. Where can I find the '76? I would definitely pay $140 for try that!

                                    3. D&M has the Gosset 1998 Celebris Rosé and the 1995 Celebris. I haven't had Gosset's vintage Champagnes but their NVs are great values.


                                      1. Good to hear that the LGD went over well, it's one I like myself at times.

                                        My personal favorite for gifts to "folks" has to be Pommery Cuvee Louise Rose. I think the 1995 was the last bottle I had.

                                        It's quite nice, very drinkable, and has the festive air of being a Row-zay. It also comes in a lovely white gift box.

                                        1. Everyone here really helped me out with the birthday present, and now some 6 months later, I am looking for holiday gifts for clients.

                                          The store where I ordered the 1996 Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame has no more of that vintage. Now they only have the 1998 Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame. Anyone know how the 1998 vintage compares to the 1996?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: omotosando

                                            It's very good, but 1996 was an EXCEPTIONAL vintage.

                                            1. re: omotosando

                                              Basically what Zin said. The '98 is a good wine, not as good as thier '96. (Well, I've had the '96 twice, Not the '98 yet, but friends have had it and reported back and just knowing th vintages I can be quite confident in that statement without having tried it yet.) I would look for '96s that you can still get a hold of.

                                              Bollinger RD
                                              Taittinger Comtes de Champagne (or the '95 of this)
                                              Any Billecart-Salmon
                                              Charles Heidsiek Blanc de Blancs
                                              Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs
                                              Pol Roger Cuvee Winston Churchill

                                              1985 Charles Heidsiek Champagne Charie (re-released about a year and a half ago, you can still find it in some stores).

                                              Something from that list should be somewhat findable and in your price range.
                                              There are also more obscure grower-producer Champagnes like Egly-Ourier that make some great stuff, but not knowing what you have access to...