If you’re looking to splurge on your bubbles this holiday season, here are a few top specimens worth considering. Cheers!
Nathalie Falmet Brut Nature
Champagne, France, $66
Nathalie Falmet is the epitome of a small grower – she owns just three hectares (about 7.5 acres) of vines, and produces her wines in a bare-bones warehouse, not the fancy mansions with extensive crayeres – the caves carved from chalk in Roman times – of the large maisons. Her Brut Nature, from 100 percent pinot noir and made with no dosage of sugar, is electrifying in its focus and intensity. Wow! From broker Thomas Calder, a familiar name for wine fiends looking for the best values in small-producer French wines. Alcohol by volume: 12 percent.
Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut
Champagne, France, $70
Bollinger, a traditional Champagne house founded in 1829, received modern notoriety as the favorite fizz of James Bond in novels and film. The Special Cuvee is Bollinger’s multi-vintage Brut bottling. It shows some golden color, signifying older base wines used in the blend as well as oak aging (Bollinger claims to be the last Champagne house with its own cooper to produce barrels.) The wine is supple, soft and velvety, and caresses the palate with an understated luxury. With the Falmet I say, “Wow!” With Bolly, I say, “Ahhhh.” ABV: 12 percent.
Deutz Rosé Brut
Champagne, France, $50
I had the pleasure of tasting this supple pinot noir-based rosé during a Skype interview with Maximilian Riedel, who convinced me that it should not be drunk from a flute (which I’m against anyway), or even a tulip-shaped glass, but a pinot noir glass with a slight chimney flare at the top. Indeed, the wine in this glass is more fruity, supple and voluptuous than out of a smaller glass. (The pinotfile Riedel suggests a smaller Riesling Grand Cru glass for a Blanc de Blancs Champagne. Being a particular fan of Blanc de Blancs, I would love to debate him and experiment with that combination sometime in person.)
Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut
This top cuvee from a French Champagne house’s operation in California’s Napa Valley is rich and exuberant in a New World style, its emphasis on fruit more than minerality. Etoile, French for star, echoes Dom Perignon’s famous statement, “I’m drinking stars!” when he supposedly invented the traditional method of the second fermentation in bottle. ABV: 12 percent.
Ayala Brut Majeur
2-1/2 Stars GREAT VALUE
Champagne, France, $40
This is an outstanding wine, with the blend dominated by pinot noir and the dosage low to keep the wine dry. Ayala was purchased by Bollinger in 2005 and is now re-entering the DC-area market. At this price, the Brut Majeur (and the rosé) I recommended in November) are worth snatching up. ABV: 12 percent.
Ferghettina Franciacorta Brut
Lombardy, Italy, $40
This example of Italy’s top Champagne-style sparkling wine shows ripe red fruit flavors of raspberries and currants, along with a core of acidity that gives it impressive finesse. ABV: 12 percent.
(Most of these – except for the Deutz – were published in The Washington Post on December 18, 2013.)