As long as people have been people, we have gathered together to celebrate, commemorate, and honor events as innocuous as promotions and as important as weddings, inaugurations and elections. Every culture and religion has a different way of doing so, but it is endemic to our culture. And for hundreds of years, the drink of choice to pair with such events is Champagne.
Legend has it Champagne was invented by the Benedictine monk Dom Perignon himself. Back then, bubbles were thought to ruin wine — not elevate it. Perignon was the cellar master for the Abbey of Hautvillers, meaning he was given the task of overseeing wine production and eliminating the risk of bubbles. However, with only faith and 17th-century science to inform his efforts, Perignon failed. And the rest is literally history.
Now, personally, I have a checkered story with Champagne. I love the concept, I respect the time and effort, but the ‘mousse’ or level of bubbles can be challenging for me. I need a tight, lower mousse, otherwise some Champagnes can kind of just blow up in my mouth. It’s weird, I don’t argue it, I just live with it. BUT… that led me to Cremant (and others… but specifically Cremant in France). For this reason, I have fallen in love with Bouvet Ladubay Brut Excellence Cremant De Loire. It’s a lower mousse bubbly with all the elegance of Champagne, and at a price that lets me pour it anytime I have guests.
Side story, I started working for Saratoga Wine in 2003 and was married the same year. Josh (the owner) bought us a bottle of 1990 Dom P from an auction and gifted it to us the next year on our first anniversary. If you are not a wine nerd, 1990 was an astounding year for Champagne. That evening we drank a glass each, and it was superb… but we had a marathon of a day and let the bottle sit until morning. TO THIS DAY I WILL TELL ANYONE THAT FLAT, DAY OLD DOM PERIGNON 1990 IS THE BEST CHARDONNAY THAT I HAVE EVER HAD. The magic of Champagne… tada.
Below are some absolutely amazing Champagnes, the favorites of our staff:
Matt: Bouvet Ladubay Brut Excellence Cremant De Loire NV
It’s a lower mousse bubbly with all the elegance of Champagne, and at a price that lets me pour it anytime I have guests. What really cements this for me is the abundance of pear to go along with the apple notes. Throw in a little lime peel, and I’m a happy drinker.
Josh: Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Brut Reserve Exclusive
As anyone with a wife who adores Champagne can attest to (happy wife, happy life), keep her favorite around the house. Luckily we both love the basic Brut from Feuillatte. This light, bright ”appley” style is just so easy to drink you don’t need to worry about what you are eating with it, or what the occasion might be. It is the Swiss Army Knife of Champagne. We keep a case of 1/2 bottles around the house at all times, perfect for a pair of glasses at a moment’s notice.
Keely: Mumm Champagne Brut Grand Cordon
This is one of my go-to bottles of bubbles at this time of year particularly – it’s zesty, and fresh with great balance and body. It’s an elegant package, perfect for festivities and over delivers for the price.
Charles: Bollinger Champagne Brut Speciale NV
Bollinger’s NV Brut Speciale is without question my go-to Champagne – regardless of the time of year. Slaving over the stove with a bottle on ice and a glass in hand is one of my favorite pastimes. I always have a bottle in the fridge because you never know when the mood screams bubbles. Clean, brilliantly made, rich and a screaming deal for the quality in the bottle. Wonderfully refreshing, laden with minerals and just a touch of yeast notes. Perfect with roast chicken, oysters, a lean cut of steak, or even a stew.