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Aug 9, 2007 11:25 PM

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.