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Jan 26, 2008 05:03 PM

solo champagne advice

as a new champagne enthusiast, i've been enjoying reading all of the champagne threads on here. but i have a question for everyone. i'm starting to work my way through the various champagnes and sparkling wines out there, and wanted some advice on which champagnes were best on their own, not as food pairings. i tend to like drinking wine or champagne more by itself, rather than with food. and as i start to decide which of the more expensive champagnes i want to try, i was thinking that i could be disappointed if i dropped $125 on a bottle that turned out to be primarily a food champagne.

any thoughts?

thanks in advance....

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  1. Except for maybe Pol Roger and Bollinger I would suggest skipping the Grand Marques (big names) and stick with grower Champagnes. Find a good wine merchant who understands and take his or her advice. If the merchant lights up when you mention grower Champagne and shows you the Terry Thiese selections you are in good hands. If you get a dull stare and talk of Veuve, Moet or Mumm run, don't walk, to another shop.

    Depending where you live you can find fabulous Champagnes for a lot less than $125. A few suggestions - Aubry, Villmart, Billiot, Egly-Ouriet.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jock

      For anyone interested in Terry Theise's selection of champagne, here's in '07 catalog. I don't agree with everything he says, nor do I have enough experience, but it is nevertheless a fabulous read on grower-producers.

      1. re: jock

        Great suggestion. Only thing that I'd add to the OP's question, is that Champagne can usually function on it's own, or pair with food - some, a dizzingly vast array of food.

        To Bwan,

        You might want to heed Jock's advice and also do some comparative tastings with the Grand Marques, just as a reference. Of course, this also means that you might want to do this with enough friends to handle a bit higher quantity, but there is nothing wrong with THAT. Explore the similarities, as well as the differences. Champagne tastings, when one gets a bit serious, are wonderful events. I wish that more restaurants could include this sort of thing in their line up, as too few folk get the opportunity to experience them. Though, I have to admit that I am NOT a restauranteur, so I do not have to justify the overhead, and hope to hit the right folk, with my mailings, etc.


      2. None of the top $125 aren't great on their own. And none of them aren't 'food' Champagnes, too. Champagne is the single most food friendly type of wine, but that doesn't mean it can be great on its own.

        That said, you are probably looking for a richer style of Champagne. Right now the best widely avaibale Champagne that doesn't break the bank, to me, is the Billecart-Salmon brut. Should be under $50, depending upon where you live you might be able to find it for $40.

        2 Replies
        1. re: whiner

          I'm with whiner on this, too... but I wonder why you wouldn't want to drink Champagne with food?

          My favorite Champagne, with or without food, is Krug, but I can rarely afford it!

          1. re: ChefJune

            i guess it's not that i want to drink it without food...i just worry that i would not get a good sense of a champagne if the first time i had it i paired it poorly, you know? this is really just the economical side of me wanting to not splash for an expensive bottle and risk ruining it...even though the wine side of me knows that risk is part of what makes looking for new wines fun...

        2. For drinking by itself, there's Krug, then there's everything else!

          But Whiner's right, great champagne goes great with or without food. It really depends on how much you want to spend. These are my favorites in each arbitrary price range. Your prices may differ.

          $35 and under
          Charles Heidsieck
          Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé (although this one I personally much prefer with food)

          Bollinger Special Cuvée
          Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs
          Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs
          1996 Duval-Leroy
          1998 Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blancs

          Under $100
          Aubry Rosé
          Billecart-Salmon Rosé
          1995 Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millénaires

          Although to be fair, Aubry doesn't really belong among these other two. It's tasty, but the other two are better. I'm just fond of it in a silly way because it was the first rosé champagne I'd ever had.

          4 Replies
          1. re: mengathon

            Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millénaires is consistently a luxury cuvee that isn't marked as such and is at simply high vintage prices. This is an excellent reccomendation on a widely available, delicious Champagne.

            I drink mostly grower-producer Champagnes but it is always so hard to make a reccomendation since so much of it is direct-imported and there is simply no telling what is available where.

            All Billecart bottlings are excellent values in their price ranges, imo.

            1. re: whiner

              I've only had the Billecart rosé and hope to try their NV and vintage bottlings soon, especially the blanc de blancs.

              Yeah, the Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires really is fantastic value for a prestige cuvee under $100. I really should revisit my wine store to see if they're still selling it for $75.

              1. re: mengathon

                I would have to agree with everyone above and I too think grower Champagne is the way to go. For solo drinking I love wines that have a high percentage of Pinot Noir because they tend to have a deeper, riper, easier to just drink quality, (there are Godme). Look for anything from Camille Saves, H. Billiot or Paul Bara for long, rich remearkably delicious on their own bubbles.
                If you love Blanc de Blancs seek out the wines from Agrapart, (their vintage wines can be lean depending on the vintage but the Non Vintage is wicked good and pretty inexpensive), Jose Dhondt or Jean Milan.
                Those should get you started and welcome to the world of bubbles!

            2. re: mengathon

              In your "Under $100" you gotta include Veuve Clicquot Reserve (Gold Label) - varies some by vintage but is consistently an amazing value from $50-$70/bottle depending on the year and where I buy it. It is our favorite "affordable" champage...& their Grande Dame for a bit more is also worth tasting. PS - GD Rose is great but I don't care for their Reserve Rose

            3. thanks for the replies everyone. to clarify just a bit, i guess i was reacting to some postings i've seen where people said they were a little disappointed with some of the pricier champagnes when drinking them without food. i didn't mean to imply that i was only looking for the super pricey champagnes, just that at that price i didn't want to spend a ton of money if something wasn't at it's best on it's own....

              it's not that i'm pairing averse - i'm just really bad at it. so i tend to just have wine before or after a meal, but not really with it.

              but the "richer champagne" sounds like a good place to start. i live in san fran, so there seems to be a fair amount of good stuff available...

              thanks for all of the comments, again, and i'd love to hear more opinions...

              3 Replies
              1. re: bwan

                You live in SAN FRAN?!

                Get thee to K&L and pick up the $30 Michel Arnould, the Rene Collard (super cheesy, love it or hate it Champagne that you have to just say there is a 50/50 shot you'll hate it, but you do need to try it), the Bonville that they are blowing out at $65... look around, I've seen the 1985 Charles Heidsiek Champagne Charlie still around for $115 or so. Geez, despite wine country, San Fran is probably the best place in the U.S. to buy Champagne...

                1. re: whiner

                  The Franck Bonville Cuvee Les Belles Voyes Champagne for $65 at K&L is AMAZING. One of my favorites. Terrific depth.

                  Here's the link for it at K&L, showing real-time inventory:

                  1. re: whiner

                    i know, things could be a lot worse for a champagne newbie than living in san fran, right? heh.

                    i saw that kandl was pushing the bonville and the arnould, but wasn't sure if i could trust/would agree with their recommends. but now i'll have to look into both of them.

                    thanks again.