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Champagne House Styles/Recommendations?

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I've been trying to learn more about French sparkling wines, both Champagne and Crémant, but due to price considerations haven't been able to try as many as I'd like. I'm hoping you all could offer some suggestions based on what I've enjoyed so that I can learn more while not breaking the bank. I'm also interested in learning

First off, not sure if it's helpful but when it comes to whites in general I tend to drink a lot from the Loire and German Rieslings. I tend to enjoy good acidity but like a nice balance of minerals, fruit, and herbs. This is a gross generalization and I like a variety of wines, but hopefully it gives an idea. I've found a number of Champagnes too austere for me.

So far for Champagnes (due to budget) I've stuck mainly to standard Brut bottlings. My favorites thus far has been Duval Leroy followed by Taittinger. I found them more flavorful than some of the others I've tried (Moet, Perrier-Jouet, Thierry Triolet, Pierre Paillard "Daniel" Brut, Veuve Clicquot, Gruet from CA) Is there something about these two that might make me gravitate to them?

Any suggestions for who else I should try? Also, for budget reasons any Crémant suggestions?

Since I've barely dipped my toes in Rosé Champagne, any producers or recommendations for where to start? Is Rosé Champagne generally more expensive?

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  1. Rose may be a good it if you find many Champagnes too austere. I haven't tasted near the range many regular posters have, but I adore Billecart Salmon rose. For something cheap enough to drink often that isn't super austere, I like some California sparklers, like Domaine Chandon Blanc d' Noir. When you win Super Ball, Krug is generally the other end of the scale from austere in my opinion. To me a perfect early evening involves a bottle of Krug NV, a cold crystal mug, a tub of good caviar, a spoon, and, for decadence, a dozen oysters. Oh, and of course, company.

    1. My favorite Brut NV's are Charles Heidsieck and Pol Roger. Ultimate is Krug.

      Try Chartogne-Taillet (Cuvee Ste. Anne), Egly-Ouriet, Pierre Peters, Gimmonet, Ruinart (esp Blanc de Blanc) Pommery...

      You should try Cremants not just because of budget. They're good! (Oh, and Gruet is from New Mexico, not CA).

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChefJune

        Second Pol Roger.

        If you can find Michel Loriot, I find his champagnes richer (more Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier) than others - less austere.

      2. There was an interesting article in the NY Times maybe 3-4 weeks ago about "grower" champagnes from France. These are sparkling wines produced by vintners that actually grow their own grapes. They vary greatly in style vs. the styles that the large champagne houses (Mumm, Moet, etc.) try to produce each year on a consistent basis.

        You should be able to find the article at www.nytimes.com

        1. Take a look at Terry Theise's catalog here: http://www.skurnikwines.com/msw/docum...

          He describes the house style for each of his offerings.

          13 Replies
          1. re: zin1953

            and he handles great wines.

            1. re: zin1953

              +1. The catalog is a great read and Theise doesn't import a single champagne that's less than great.

              1. re: zin1953

                Great read; thank you!

                1. re: Klunco

                  You're welcome. It's gotten to the point where I honestly can't remember the last time I bought a bottle of Champagne from a Grande Marque -- I am buying "grower Champagnes" all but exclusively . . .

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Ditto.

                    For very good Cremant try Baumard from the Loire.

                    1. re: jock

                      Are the grapes used to make Crémants in the Loire as varied as they are for still Loire whites? Or do they tend to stick to the big three grapes as used in Champagne?

                      1. re: Klunco

                        For each appellation of Crémant (see below) -- like ALL appellations in France -- certain specific grapes are permitted.

                        Specifically, for Crémant de Loire, the following grapes are permitted: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir,Pineau d’Aunis, Grolleau, (but mostly) Chenin Blanc, and Cabernet Franc. Sparkling Vouvray can *only* be Chenin Blanc, while Saumur Brut can be made from Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, or a combination of the two. Chardonnay, which is also permitted, cannot exceed 20 percent.

                        For Crémant d'Alsace, for example, the white can contain Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grix, Auxerrois Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir; but for rosé wines, only Pinot Noir is allowed.

                        The AOC laws require that Crémant de Bourgogne be composed of at least thirty percent Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc or Pinot gris. Aligoté is often used to fill out the remaining parts of the blend on the less expensive wines, but most of the Crémants de Bourgogne that I've seen (and drunk) here in the US are 100 percent Chardonnay.

                        And so on and so on . . . .

                        1. re: zin1953

                          This is very helpful, thank you!

                      2. re: jock

                        "Danger! Danger! Warning, Will Robinson -- Thread Drift Approaching . . ."

                        Jock (and Klunco), Crémants can be delicious and delightful. However, not only a) can they vary widely *within* the appellation, as can and do ALL wines, but b) they also vary widely from appellation to appellation.

                        A quick background, in case any readers are not familiar with Crémant . . .

                        The term "crémant" USED TO BE a specific style of Champagne -- one with *less* effervescence (typically 6 atmospheres, rather than 9), and so with a "creamier" texture. But after a series of complicated negotiations, the Champagne producers gave up this term (few producers made this style anyway), in exchange for non-Champagne producers giving up the term "méthode champenosie" to describe how their non-Champange sparkling wines were produced.

                        Today, there is Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant d'Alsace, Crémant de [la] Loire, Crémant de Limoux, Crémant de Die, Crémant de Bordeaux, and Crémant du Jura. There is also sparkling Vouvray from the Loire . . .

                        One of my favorites has long been the Crémant de Bourgogne from the Cave Cooperative à Viré that is made from 100 percent Chardonnay. I used to drink cases of the stuff, but that was back when it was $6.99 retail.

                        From the Loire, I enjoy the Crémant de Loire from Baumard, as well as the sparkling Vouvray from Foreau.

                        And then there's the Crémant d'Alsace Brut Rosé from Lucient Albrecht.

                      3. re: zin1953

                        Do you really feel it's this black and white? Should I really just shoot to go "cold-turkey" on the big houses given the option? And probably most pressing, will I be able to find RM Champagne in my price range i.e. sub $40? I think the biggest roadblock is finding shops that sell RM champagne around here.

                        Reading Thiesse, he paints the big houses almost as Monsanto-like corporations, so how are they so successful? Advertising, consistency, ubiquity? Or is it more about the difference between unique interesting wines imported by a discerning importer (like a Lynch) vs mass market brands of wine?

                        1. re: Klunco

                          The big houses need a good descriptor. I would say wildly inconsistent and generally not good value. If you can find TT imports you will drink better. Of the bigs IMO your best bets are Pol Roger, Bollinger and Delamotte.

                          I think Baumard cremants are made from Chen in blanc with some cab franc in the excellent rose.

                          1. re: Klunco

                            http://www.wine-searcher.com/

                            Not sure if you know this website, but a useful resource for finding a particular wine in your state. In CA, grower champagne is often the same price or cheaper than the premium big houses. Sub-$40 is really hard in many states with restrictive laws unless you get on sale.

                            One problem for wine is just how little quantities are made from the smaller houses + all the different states different wine laws.

                            Plus people love bubbles and, at least in CA, many use "champagne" as the name for any bubbly wine. Very few people even recognize how austere/crisp/acidic champagne can be. I hated it for years until I found rounder versions.

                            As I said upthread, look for ones with more pinot noir/pinot meunier and/or ones that went through some malo fermentation (which tends to be the ones that have pinot noir/pinot meunier but not necessarily). Whether a big house or a small one, these tend to have more heft to the palate for me.

                            1. re: Klunco

                              And, what? You don't think Monsanto is successful?

                              / / / / /

                              Stop thinking of Champagne for a moment. Think California. What are the first names that come to mind in California winemaking? If you are "of a certain age," and remember the 1960s, it's names like Beaulieu, Inglenook, Charles Krug, Louis M. Martini, and so on . . . NONE of which grew 100 percent of their own grapes. They all had *some* vineyards, yes, but relied mostly on buying grapes from any number of growers . . .

                              The same is true for Champagne. Virtually all of the grandes marques date back into the 18th or 19th century (if not earlier!), and despite owning some of their own vineyards, they heavily relied on a number of growers for their grapes.

                              And just as it's only recently that we've become aware of the names of various California growers through "vineyard designated" wines, or growers starting their own labels/wineries, so, too, is it happening recently in Champagne. None of the grower Champagnes that Theise represents have been making their *own* wines (for commercial sale at least) before the late 20th century. Grower Champagnes are a *new* development.

                      4. As far as California is concerned Latetia makes some very nice sparklers that are quite reasonably priced.

                        Spanish cava has, so far, gone unmentioned and in general with good reason. A few, however, are worthy of trying. I have found the Elyssia from Frixinet to be rather nice.

                        1. While I have not tasted Duval Leroy, I do agree with you about Taittinger - it is a favorite of mine. I enjoy it much more than Moet and Perrier-Jouet and some of the Veuve Clicquots I've had.

                          Another favorite of mine is Camille Saves, a grower champagne that retails for about $45-50. I like it much more than a Pierre Peters I once tasted.