17 best champagnes
We've found the bottles of fizz to suit any occasion, and any budget
The UK has been the number one market for Champagne for many years according to Francoise Peretti, Director, Champagne Bureau UK. In 2017 we got through a whopping 27.8 million bottles of the stuff, but we’re yet to see how this may be affected with the on-going Brexit negotiations. For now though, there’s still plenty to celebrate.
Try to cast off preconceived ideas of what a ‘good’ champagne brand is – this list proves that deals can certainly be had if you’re willing to try lesser known labels. And actually if you follow this rule you might find that champagne needn’t be saved exclusively for special occasions. Hurrah!
Food-wise, Champagne is pretty versatile. It’s an obvious aperitif, exquisite with smoked salmon and cured meats and excellent with seafood of all kinds, including sushi. It doesn’t end there though, try pairing with rich buttery sauces, roasted chicken and many cheeses. It even works with chocolate or fruity desserts and is one of the few wines that can be enjoyed from breakfast until party time.
Champagne should be served well-chilled (between 8-10 degrees) and ideally in an elegant flute. As beautiful as the coupes are, they make the bubbles disappear quickly and you’ll lose the wonderful aromatics. Best stick to a tulip shape which will help funnel the rich biscuit notes for maximum enjoyment. Take care when opening, as fun as Formula One style displays of fizz are, you don’t want to waste a drop. Slowly twist the bottle (not the cork) and aim for a gentle hiss on release.
So with the festive season in full swing, now is the time to stock up on your favourite bubbles, to see you through until the New Year. We've chosen a variety of both vintage and not, (non-vintage being labelled as NV) to cater for all taste buds.
Champagne Pol Couronne Brut, NV: £28.90 Honest Grapes
This is a grower champagne, meaning the grapes are grown by the same estate that produces the end champagne. Although this may not sound so radical, it means you get a very distinct character from the terroir – just as you might find from a single barrel bourbon. In this case the perfectly balanced blend of chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir results in an aromatic nose of almonds and dried fruits which is cut through with refreshing grapefruit-flecked acidity. This really does represent great value, but if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you won’t be disappointed by the rosé either, at £34.90.
Berry Bros. & Rudd Champagne by Mailly, Grand Cru, NV, 12%: £28.50, Berry Bros. & Rudd
Whilst not a vintage, this Grand Cru from Berry Bros has all the toasty, brioche flavours you can expect from something with three years of aging. Elegantly structured with classic citrus notes and a touch of honeysuckle, we could happily drink this all night long. Created in the prestigious village of Mailly, expect a long lasting (read: expensive tasting) finish.
M&S Champagne Delacourt Vintage Brut, 12.5%: £35, Marks and Spencer
Standard supermarket plonk this certainly isn’t. M&S have worked closely with Elisabeth Sarcalet, winner of Champagne Cellar Master of the Year 2017 and Reims based Champagne house, Castelnau, which dates back to 1916. The result is a memorable fizz made from 100 per cent chardonnay. Full bodied, creamy and with a delicious toasty finish – we’re not the only ones impressed – the vintage picked up Silver at the Decanter 2018 awards.
Charmant Brut Premier Cru Champagne, 12%: £24.99, The Fizz Company
We’re big fans of The Fizz Company’s big brand matching service. Simply tell them what branded fizz makes your heart flutter and they’ll recommend a cheaper version with a similar flavour profile. Clever hey? Crisp and refreshing, this dry charmant is an absolute steal, offering everything you could want at this price. This straight forward acidity and creamy mouth feel make this an easy drinker.
Champagne Taittinger Brut 2012, 12.5%: £44, The Wine Society
Widely regarded as a great year in champagne circles, Taittinger’s latest vintage release is from the 2012 crop. Sourced entirely from grand cru and premier cru vineyards (the crème de la crème in other words!), it’s really rather exciting. Intensely flavoured, thanks to the concentrated flavours from a smaller yield, this one will age well. However it didn’t hang around long in our house – expect mouth-watering cherries, and notes of creamy hazelnuts.
Bruno Paillard Brut Premiere Cuvee Champagne, NV, 12%: £39.95, The Finest Bubble
Although a non-vintage, this unusual champagne is a blend of many grape varieties and vintages and spends an impressive three years aging in the bottle. The dosage (or added sugar) is low here, so best for those that like their champagne crisp and dry. Having said that, there’s still a well-structured intensity thanks to the red fruit and welcome brioche finish.
Piper Heidsieck Champagne Brut, NV, 12%: £22, Asda
Official sponsor of the Oscar’s this well-known champagne house have picked up many awards of their own over the years. This is their signature cuvée, a lively fizz with notes of almonds, crunchy pear and delicate lemon. For this reason it pairs well with sushi, or seafood starters. A well-trusted brand that you can still pick up for a good price.
I Heart Champagne Didier Chopin, NV, 12%,: £22, Tesco
Following the huge success of I heart Prosecco, the I heart brand worked closely with family run Champagne house Didier Chopin to add this value champagne to the range. Dry with notes of honeysuckle, this has been aged for five years to develop a long lasting toasted finish. You can’t ask for much more at this price.
Champagne Corbon Absolument Brut, NV: £200 (case of six), The Vino Beano
Online wine shop The Vino Beano include this special bottle of fizz in their Grand Cru Club introductory package for new members as they rate it so highly. This non-vintage is a fruit forward champagne, fresh and crisp, which makes it perfect as an aperitif on a summers day. If you’re looking for that biscuit taste, you won’t find it here. Instead you’ll be rewarded with an aromatic floral aroma and soft bubbles.
Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis Blanc de Blancs 2006: £130, Champagne Direct
This family-owned champagne house is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year and what better way to celebrate than with this vintage Blanc de Blancs champagne. Showcasing the exquisite minerality from a 100 per cent chardonnay fizz, this is a fabulous option for pairing with food. Creamy savoury notes are cut through with ripe citrus fruit, so try it with everything from canapes to roast chicken. Pure class. If your budget doesn’t stretch this far, the Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV (around £40) is a wonderful alternative made with just as much care.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve, NV: £43, Oddbins
Picking up a non-vintage master award at the Drinks Business Champagne Masters 2018, this copper coloured fizz is richly aromatic. Expect plenty of toasted brioche flavours, alongside ripe red fruit, a creamy nuttiness as well as crisp acidity. It really does have it all. Complex, with a long lasting finish, we like this with smoked salmon and charcuterie.
Waitrose Blanc de Noirs Champagne 12.5%: £18.39, Waitrose
We know we’ve mentioned price quite a bit, but come on – at this price Waitrose really have excelled with their own-label offer. Rich, fruity, we think this tastes a lot more expensive than it should. Made from 100 per cent pinot noir grapes, you’ll really detect that ripe red fruit coming through, along with a good biscuit finish.
Nicolas Courtin Brut Champagne, NV, 12%: £14.99, Majestic
If you know you’re going to have a lot of guests embark on you and are looking to stock up on the bubbles, Majestic is a great place to turn. This non-vintage is a straight forward fizz, ideal as an aperitif, perhaps with smoked salmon blinis. Light, lemony with a touch of brioche, this doesn’t claim to be particularly complex, but it will certainly be a crowd-pleaser.
Ayala Brut Majeure, NV, 12%: £22.95, Slurp
This champagne house was actually bought by Bollinger back in 2005 but still uses a very hand-made approach, so you’re getting very good value here. Pale golden in the glass, this is a beautifully well balanced wine with fine bubbles. The clean, crisp palate features apples and peach with a long, slightly nutty finish.
Tesco Finest Vintage Champagne 12.5%: £25, Tesco
A vintage champagne for £25? Tesco have delivered. It’s a Blanc de Blancs style, meaning it’s made exclusively from chardonnay grapes, and in this case they have been selected from the very best vineyards in Champagne. Again, it’s a 2012 vintage which we know has very concentrated flavours, so expect a wonderful intensity, balanced with juicy lemon.
Comte de Senneval Champagne Brut, AOP NV, 12.5%: £11.49, Lidl
This supermarket champagne is making waves in the wine world. Rich and full-bodied with plenty of blossom on the nose, expect ripe peach, notes of biscuit and crisp citrus. With no further aging needed, this is perfect for drinking now. Although it can sadly only be bought in store, it’s one worth seeking out.
Harvey Nichols Champagne Brut, NV, 12%: £29.50, Harvey Nichols
This sophisticated little number is made by long established Champagne house Lombard & Medot, on behalf of Harvey Nichols. Expect good complexity – red fruit, toasted brioche and creamy hazelnuts – and a pleasant finish. An obvious aperitif, the slightly festive label would also make this a great gift.
The Verdict: Best champagnes
We’re big fans of Champagne and would drink it every day if we could. So for this reason we’ve given our IndyBest Buy to Honest Grapes’ Pol Couronne which is exceptional value. However if you have that little bit more to spend Taittinger’s latest vintage is absolutely worth the money. Ready to blow the budget? Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis Blanc de Blancs 2006 is an absolute belter.
Stacey Smith is the founder of food & drink website Crummbs
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