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29th Annual Best of The Best:
Champagne Tasting

QRW Tasting Team

We remain as devoted as ever to the bubbly, and admit to tasting very few Champagnes we didn’t like. Even the recent price hikes don’t deter us. We revere it because no other beverage can reward us as splendidly as Champagne. Like Napoleon, we “deserve it in victory, and need it in defeat.” Or as Oscar Wilde said, “pleasure without Champagne is purely artificial.” As always we dedicate our “blind” tasting to classical regions — Reims, Épernay, Ay, Tours-sur Marne — and to classically produced bubbly — a near equal blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with some ever-reliable Pinot Meunier added for youth, fruit, and balance; consequently, Blanc de Blancs didn’t figure into this year’s Best of The Best, but will in our Spring tasting. In tastings, finish is everything (smooth, elegant, long) as are expected richness of flavors (pear, brioche, tartness, and creaminess), and we had no trouble finding eminent examples last autumn when we tasted 26 Champagnes, all readily available. Prices listed below are based on producers’ prices, although you can usually find them slightly lower at retail stores.

Non-Vintage Champagne


Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve

Champagne Henriot


Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve (Ay), $55. Floral and fruit aroma. Soft spice. Straw-pale gold color. Ripe, with pear flavor, and long and lively finish. 93 points   CO-BEST OF SHOW

Champagne Henriot (Reims), $52. Classic golden/yellow. Deep flavorful torrent of bubbles, steely, firm, tart and delicious. 93 points   CO-BEST OF SHOW

Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve (Reims), $65 (new label and packaging). Brioche/yeasty aromas. Creamy with lots of Reserve wine (40%). Yellow-gold color, subtle mousse and frothiness, nicely rounded, steely, long, and fabulous. 92 points

Bollinger Special Cuvée, (Ay), $65. Deep, attractive golden color. Aromas and flavors of pear, creaminess, biscuit/brioche, nutty, with firm, deep with long resolution. 92 points

Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée (Reims), $60. Classic color, citrus/grapefruit aromas. Creamy, delicate, big biscuit flavor, engaging texture and a long impression. 90 points

Laurent-Perrier Brut (Tours-sur-Marne), $50. Golden hue, floral aromas, rich, yeasty, brioche. Fine finish. Delicious. Floral aromatic notes. Rich. Toasty brioche. Nutty. Lots of finesse and style. 91 points

Louis Roederer Brut Premier (Reims), $52. Soft gold hue, bursting bubble activity, rich, nutty, brioche/bread aromas and flavors. Subtle and stylish, with good firm resolving finish. 91 points

Perrier-Jouët (Reims), $52. Attractive gold hue. Pear, creamy texture, elegant and aristocratic. Never disappoints. 92 points

Vintage Champagne


2005 Cristal Louis Roederer


2005 Cristal Louis Roederer (Reims), $229. Far better than the 2004 vintage. Young and like all great Vintage Champagne needs some aging. This is elegant, rich, creamy, and nougaty with lemon and peach notes. Firm Chardonnay feel. Stylish and graceful finish. A holiday gift with panache. 95 points   BEST OF SHOW

2003 Dom Pérignon (Épernay), $160. Big aromas of brioche, mineral notes. Creamy. Firm texture. Hint of spice. Seductive. Lasting finish. Delicious. 93 points

2000 Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvée Spéciale (Chouilly), $75. Graceful wine that’s big on flavors — creamy, rich, bread dough, pear, fig notes, with a firm and engaging finish. 93 points

Non-Vintage Krug (Reims), $160. As always, we include NV Krug in the Vintage classification. It hasn’t the substance of old, but it is still commanding, still fine, still Krug. Deep yellow color, eternal bubble activity, with soft lemon and yeasty/biscuity aromas, and luscious texture. 94 points

Grand Siècle Laurent-Perrier Grand Cuvée (Tours-sur-Marne), $150. Non-vintage but Champagne lovers know it’s vintage all the way. Deep yellow/gold. Floral, nutty with pleasing brioche notes. Commanding bubbles and long finish. Very fine. 93 points

Rosé: Non-Vintage


Champagne Barons de Rothschild

Champagne Henriot


Champagne Barons de Rothschild Rosé (Reims), $125. Soft pink/salmon hues. Good frothiness and texture, with torrent of bubbles. Firm finish. Creamy. Impressive. 93 points   CO-BEST OF SHOW

Champagne Henriot Rosé (Reims), $72. Attractive salmon tones. Steely. Soft grapefruit with aromatic floral aroma. Strawberry/raspberry flavors. Elegant, generous, and delicious. 93 points   CO-BEST OF SHOW

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Rosé, $75. Attractive rose color, lots of floral notes and brioche, zesty with lip-smacking finish. Always reliable and consistent. 91 points

Ernest Rapeneau Brut Rosé, $50. Salmon hue. Creamy, soft and stylish. Deliciously elegant. 91 points

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé (Tours-sur-Marne), $85. Raspberry/strawberry aromas, more of same in flavor. Frothy, dry, crisp, with firm body and delicious finish. 92 points

Moët & Chandon Rosé Nectar Imperial (Épernay), $75. Attractive rose/salmon hue. Creamy. Rounded fruit. Nutty and biscuity. Firm with good texture. 90 points

Rosé: Vintage


2000 Cuvée William Deutz


2000 Cuvée William Deutz Rosé (Ay), $125. Super elegance from start to finish; aromatic floral tones. Firm, frothy, and delicate, with and rich fullness. What great Rosé should be. 94 points   BEST OF SHOW

2002 Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé (Épernay), $85. Nicely focused. Lots of zest. Elegant red berry. Elegant pear and brioche, good bubble action; smooth finish. 91 points

2007 Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Rosé (Reims), $72. Attractive salmon color, frothy, creamy, citrusy, with raspberry/strawberry aromas and flavors. Subtle. Well balanced. Ripe. Lovely bubbly. 91 points

Drinking Champagne

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• 29th Annual Best of The Best: California Chardonnay
• 29th Annual Best of The Best: California Pinot Noir
• 29th Annual Best of The Best: California Zinfandel


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