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Looking for the best bottle of Champagne can be a fun, relatively easy process. First, know that Champagne is defined by sparkling wine that comes from the Champagne region of France. Though winemakers in California make a Champagne-style sparkling wine, this style of wine made outside of Champagne is merely sparkling wine.
Not just for special occasions, Champagnes are available in an array of styles and price points for nightly imbibing. On the more affordable side, look for non-vintage-dated “brut” bottlings, which are typically the entry-level “house style” Champagnes of most producers. But don’t miss out on opportunities to drink vintage-dated bottles from some of the best years in recent decades: 2012, 2009, 2008, 2006, 2004 and 2002. Additionally, look for “Premier Cru” or “Grand Cru” on a label, which indicates the Champagne is from vineyards of top quality. With that said, here are the best Champagnes to drink now.
Best Overall: Krug Grande Cuvée Brut
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Baking spices, Apple pastry, Chalky minerality
Krug can be described in no uncertain terms as the Holy Grail of Champagnes. The famous house dates back to 1843, and each year, this bottle is formulated from 250 different vineyard plots and as many as 150 reserve wines from up to 12 different vintages.
The Grande Cuvée captures the pure essence of great Champagne—bright, crisp, vivid, with layers of intricate baking spices, apple pastry, pear tart and distinctly chalky minerality. You'll also find polish, poise and refinement in each sip, and its ultra-fine beads and creamy texture make it a masterful creation.
"Krug Grande Cuvée is my personal go-to whenever I can justify the cost. Its bold yet refined flavor and fine bead make it a true delight to sip. This Champagne makes any special occasion even more joyful." — Kathryn Maier, Editor
Best Value: Duval-Leroy Brut Reserve
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Pear, Berries, Chalky earth
As a midsize Champagne producer without the quantity imperatives of the largest brands, Duval-Leroy is the sort of label that can offer thrifty customers a first-class experience at an economy-plus pricepoint. Their Brut Reserve, for example, features a more generous percentage of reserve wines (base wine retained from previous vintages, which are blended into the current vintage in order to achieve depth and consistency) than similarly-priced offerings from the bigger producers.
Look for notes of pear, berries, and chalky earth on this affordable entry from Duval-Leroy, which has the distinction of being the first Champagne house to make a certified organic brut Champagne, as well as the first to achieve France’s uber-sustainable HVE (High Environmental Value) certification.
Best Brut: Delamotte Blanc de Blancs
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Zesty, Orange peel, Mineral finish
Brut Champagne is classified as sparkling wine that is bone-dry to off-dry, with either no residual sugar or up to 15 grams per liter. One of the best entries in this category is the 2012 blockbuster from the house of Delamotte.
This brut is a rich, decadent, cellar-worthy Champagne, capable of long life if stored properly. This 100% chardonnay comes from the Grand Cru villages of Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize and Oger, showing the concentration and power of the low-yielding harvest. Elegant beading accompanies lively and fresh aromas of Meyer lemon, sweet-tart candy, kiwi and wildflowers. Creamy on entry and supported by zesty and mouthwatering acidity, more orange peel and lemon zest is met with a deep, mineral finish punctuated by an unyielding wow factor.
Best Sweet: Laurent-Perrier Harmony Demi-Sec
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Creamy texture, Candied apricots, Roasted hazelnuts
This sweet Champagne tastes as if your favorite lemon meringue pie, strawberry tart, or chocolate mousse came together in a glass. The demi-sec wine, or a sparkling that is not entirely dry (not brut) yet possesses some sweetness, is produced by Laurent-Perrier.
Give it one sip, and you'll get a richly textured, full and creamy taste with candied apricots, apple pie spices, toasted almonds, roasted hazelnuts and honeycomb. Pair this with your favorite dessert after a meal for twice the fun.
Related: The Best Sparkling Wines
"Despite their reputation for popularizing the non-dosage Champagne category and the cultural trend towards drier wines, Laurent-Perrier's Harmony Demi-Sec is one of my personal favorites. Well balanced, with just the right amount of fruit-forward sweetness, this makes for a delightful aperitif." — Prairie Rose, Editor
Best Rosé: Ruinart Brut Rose
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Raspberry, Toastiness, Honey
Adored by French kings and modern-day celebrities, this rosé Champagne by Ruinart is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay with a fresh, fruity flavor profile. Founded in 1729, Ruinart is the oldest established house of Champagne that has exclusively produced exceptional bubbly.
Ruinart’s Chef de Caves (cellar master), Frédéric Panaïotis, highly recommends serving his intensely aromatic, red-fruited rosé bubbly alongside Peking duck: "The crispy skin and soft meat contrast, the complex and gently spicy flavors, make for a beautiful, refined combination." He also suggests fixing up an upside-down vine-ripened tomato and balsamic vinegar pie, with fresh opal basil and shaved 24-month-old Parmigiano. “The gentle effervescence [of Ruinart] wraps up the light puff pastry, the acidity and sweetness of the tomatoes,” he says.
Related: The Best Rosé Wines
Runner-Up, Best Rosé: Paul Bara Bouzy Brut Rosé Grand Cru
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Cherry, Ginger, Peppery minerality
Calling all pinot-heads: if you’re someone who really likes to taste the pinot noir in your sparkling rosés, this is the Champagne for you. After blending the light, clear, direct-press chardonnay and pinot noir from their Grand Cru vineyards, Paul Bara then adds 12% of finished, full-color still pinot noir before the wine undergoes its secondary fermentation. This result in an opulent, textured rosé bursting with flavors of cherry, raspberry, and ginger—as well as pinot noir’s signature firm structure and plenty of peppery minerality.
The Paul Bara estate is now overseen by Paul’s daughter, Chantale, and features a thirty-foot-deep cellar dug straight into Bouzy’s signature subsoil composed of pure chalk.
Best Non-Vintage: Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Black cherry, Mint, Pastry dough
Non-vintage Champagnes are blends of grapes from the most recent harvest, along with older wines that are in reserve. They are typically the most affordable, showcasing the classic “house” style of the producer.
Utilizing a blend of pinot noir (70%) and chardonnay (30%) grown in the grand cru villages of Bouzy, Verzenay, and Ambonnay, the Brut Tradition is a textured and expressive Champagne which drinks deliciously when it’s young and only adds richness with a few years of aging—a challenge for many non-vintage bubblies. The palate is complex and generous, with flavors of black cherry, fresh mint, and toasted pastries leading to a savory mushroom finish.
Best Vintage-Dated: Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: White flowers, Stone fruit, Creamy mouthfeel
In contrast to “NV” (non-vintage) bottles, a vintage-dated Champagne is produced from a single year’s harvest because of its exceptional quality. One of the more elegant Champagnes of the 2012 vintage, Perrier-Jouët's cuvée blends together 50% chardonnay, 45% pinot noir and 5% pinot meunier from five crus—Cramant, Avize, Ay, Mailly and Dizy. Translucent gold in color with radiant emerald hues, this Belle Epoque Brut Champagne offers notes of fresh white flowers, stone and orchard fruit, as well as lemon zest with a creamy mouthfeel and mineral finish.
The bottle is a beauty, with gold-etched, white Japanese anemone flowers that echo the highly-stylized, ornamental Art Nouveau fashion of the late 1890s and early 1900s.
Runner-Up, Best Vintage-Dated: Pierre Gimonnet Fleuron Blanc de Blancs Brut
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Crisp apple, White pepper, Sourdough
If crispness and acidity are what you seek out in a Champagne, look no further than the Fleuron from Pierre Gimonnet & Fils. As a blanc de blancs, it’s composed entirely of chardonnay, and the grape’s natural acidity and green apple flavors are on full display.
The 2014 vintage in particular showcases chardonnay’s bright and bold character, with flavors of white pepper, fresh flowers, and warm sourdough all complimenting a tasting experience that is elegantly fresh now but which will reward patient buyers for the next decade.
Best Under $50: Taittinger Brut La Francaise
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Yellow peach, Vanilla bean, Brioche
Another one of the last family-run estates is Champagne Taittinger, which owns 34 vineyards spread out over 752 acres of prime land. Its Brut La Francaise is aged for a minimum of three years in cellars and contains a higher proportion of chardonnay in comparison to Taittinger’s general non-vintage brut, making it a bit brighter and lifted.
The chardonnay is blended with pinot noir and pinot meunier, with persistent bubbles in the glass for subtle yellow peach, acacia flowers and Madagascar vanilla bean notes. It's also full and rich on the palate with ripe stone fruits, brioche and a honeycomb finish.
Best Under $100: Pol Roger Brut Réserve
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Tropical fruit, Jasmine, Acacia honey
Pol Roger is one of the most iconic labels in Champagne, and the Brut Réserve is one of its best offerings: it combines equal parts pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay from 30 Cru vineyards in Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Épernay and the Côte des Blancs. Blended with 25% reserve wines, the Champagne is astounding, powerful and seductive, with abundant bubbles and fervent aromas of tropical fruits, honeysuckle, jasmine, quince, apricot jam, and candied citrus peel with a dramatic baking-spice, vanilla bean and acacia honey finish.
Best 2012 Champagne: Louis Roederer Vintage Brut
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Lemon, Flint, Toasted almonds
The 2012 season in Champagne was one of two challenges—a rainy spring-reduced yields and a hot August hastened the ripening process. Still, the best houses, like Louis Roederer, were prepared for these roadblocks. With smaller and reduced grape clusters, and because unusual late-harvest heat helped ripen the grapes, the year produced spectacularly rich Champagnes, and this vintage brut is no exception.
Persistent and delicate beads cascade in a steady stream revealing lemon citrus, white flowers, flinty notes and toasted almonds. This brut is full-bodied and silky with rich citrus and crushed stone minerality.
Best Worth the Hype: Dom Pérignon Vintage
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: White flowers, Aniseed, Spicy notes
Iconic Champagne brand Dom Pérignon, the prestige cuvée from Moët & Chandon, only produces vintage-dated bottles, all of which are aged up to seven years prior to release. This 2008 bottling marks one of the best years in champagne-making: in a year of overcast skies, the start of harvest had opened up the weather, resulting in strong vines and riper grapes than usual.
This complex Champagne offers both warmth and freshness. Opening up with white flowers, citrus and stone fruit, it's enhanced by aniseed and crushed mint with aromas of spicy, woody and roasted notes.
Best Splurge: Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Intense, Yellow apple, Toasty finish
A top Champagne house with utterly strict standards, Salon makes vintage-dated chardonnay only—no blending involved. It declares a vintage in years when the growing season produces exceptional wine. As of June 2020, only 40 vintages have been produced since 1905.
The 2007 vintage has proven to be an especially dynamic one; Intense, mineral-driven, and just-bloomed white floral notes, with rich yellow apple, citrus peel and a flinty, toasty finish. Drink this Champagne today, and it will still age for years.
Best for Mimosas: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12% | Tasting Notes: Tangy, Red berries, Fresh and vivacious
This is the benchmark Champagne rosé that top sommeliers keep stocked for every occasion. You can't go wrong with Billecart, which has been producing bubbly for more than 200 years. With mouthwatering, tangy acidity, a wave of strawberry, cherry and raspberry fruit, along with immense freshness and verve, it is best enjoyed solo—however, the rosé will pair perfectly with a nice, Sunday morning Mimosa.
Best for Gifting: Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame
Region: Champagne, France | ABV: 12.5% | Tasting Notes: Crème brûlée, Honeysuckle, Bosc pear
If you love Champagne, you know Veuve Clicquot. The iconic label is the standard-bearer of consistent, high-quality Champagne, and their "La Grande Dame" expression is a standout. Clicquot tapped Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama to design a special label and presentation box for their prestige cuvée, the vintage-dated La Grande Dame 2012. The flower design symbolizes "vital energy, love and celebration of life," according to Clicquot, and "the polka dots, Yayoi Kusama's signature patterns, are reworked like Champagne bubbles to embody La Grande Dame 2012."
As for the taste, beautiful toasty notes of crème brûlée and honeycomb find pops of fragrant white flowers and honeysuckle. It's persistent with a decadent lively and zippy mousse. Granny Smith apple, Bosc pear and lemon zest add layers of complexity, while a fine thread of stony minerality solidifies this remarkable Champagne.
Champagne comes in a dizzying variety of styles, and we feel confident saying that there's truly a Champagne for every occasion. In terms of that perfect balance between value and excellence, it's hard to beat the Pol Roger Brut Réserve (buy on Drizly), but those truly special occasions might call for an indulgent splurge like the Krug Grande Cuvée Brut (buy on TotalWine.com) or the Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs (buy on Vivino). Or, if the game plan is to impress your wine geek friends, spring for a grower Champagne like the Paul Bara Bouzy Brut Rosé Grand Cru (buy on Wine.com) or the Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition (buy on TotalWine.com).
What's the difference between Champagne and other sparkling wines?
Any sparkling wine labeled “Champagne” must be produced within Champagne, a geographical region in northeast France. However, certain sparkling wines produced elsewhere in the world may be produced using the Champagne method, in which the secondary fermentation, the step which creates the bubbles, takes place in each individual bottle. Regions producing bubblies made with the Champagne method include Italy (where it's known as metodo classico), Spain and Portugal (método tradicional), California, Australia, and even regions of France outside of Champagne (where the method is known as méthode traditionnelle). Many other popular sparkling wines, such as Prosecco and Sekt, are made using less labor-intensive processes than the Champagne method.
How do you properly store Champagne?
Store your Champagne like you would any other fine wine: on its side in a cool, low-light environment. "Cellar temperature" (50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit) is ideal, but even if you don't have a wine fridge that maintains this temperature, you can get away with keeping your bubbly in a dark closet or cabinet where it will be away from its two main nemeses, heat and light. But don't store your Champagne in the regular refrigerator: the vibrations from the motor and the frequent light will disturb the wine and may alter its taste.
How long does Champagne last after opening?
The bubbles in your Champagne will dissipate within a few hours after opening, but there are tools you can employ to mitigate this, such as sparkling wine stoppers and hinged metal corks. For a down-and-dirty DIY method, try dangling a spoon into the neck of your Champagne and placing it in the refrigerator: the metal of the spoon keeps the air in the bottle neck colder than the air in the reservoir below, creating a "cold cap" which helps to seal in the bubbles. Whether you're using the spoon trick or one of the re-sealing gadgets, your Champagne should drink pretty nicely for two to three days, as long as it's kept in the fridge.
What's the proper temperature at which to serve Champagne?
Serve your Champagne at the same temperature you’d serve any crisp white wine—i.e. not freezing, but not far off. (An hour or two in the back of the fridge should bring your bubbly down to a delightful mid-40s.) That said, there are sometimes certain elements of smell and taste that won’t express themselves until the Champagne begins to warm up a bit. “I like to drink Champagne ice cold at the beginning, and prefer to leave it out of the ice bucket, on the table, to allow the wine to come back up to room temperature,” says Matthew Kaner, wine director and co-owner of Los Angeles’ Covell. “In that manner, the bubbles dissipate and the wine opens up, gaining much more aromatic character. The last few sips are almost always divine.”
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This roundup was edited by Jesse Porter, who's worked as a sommelier for several excellent Champagne programs—and yet who finds it challenging to maintain a decent Champagne collection at home, as they tend to pair so nicely with pretty much any meal.
Jonathan Cristaldi has written about wine and spirits for over a decade. He regularly tastes wines from around the globe and personally tasted every wine in this roundup, except for the Salon. He is the editor-at-large for The SOMM Journal and The Tasting Panel Magazine and his writings have appeared in Food & Wine, Seven Fifty Daily, Los Angeles Magazine, Thrillist and more.