Time to Stock Up on Champagne
According to the New York Times wine critic, Eric Asimov, there are now some pretty good Champagnes in the $30 to $40 range. A panel of experts, including Asimov, set up blind tasting of 20 Champagnes under $40 and found some seriously good wine. This is quite a change from last year.
What has changed? As James Carville said back in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
When the bottom fell out of the economy, it took the wine industry with it. In 2007 shipments of Champagne were at close to 22 million bottles. In 2008 they fell to 17 million bottles. This year, as previously noted here at Twisting Vines, Champagne shipments dropped more than 41%.
“I think a lot of the importers got very nervous and this fall lowered prices for the big houses, especially in November and December,” said Lorena Ascencios, wine buyer for Astor Wines and Spirits in Greenwich Village.
Asimov said he was the most excited by the smaller producers who make Champagne from grapes they grow themselves. 4 of the top 10 were selections were from small producers.
The Falmet Brut Tradition
The top-rated wine in the tasting. “We found it full of lively energy, with complex flavors of flowers, minerals, citrus and herbs, and with more finesse than you generally find in Champagnes dominated by the pinot noir grape.” $30
Brut Tradition from Christian Etienne
No. 5 bottle in the tasting, was rich, round and full of fruit, yet beautifully balanced. $30
NV Grande Cuvée from Moutard
No. 8 Champagne showed its 100 percent pinot noir character in its rich, full-bodied texture and ripe fruit flavors. $30
Les 7 Crus from Agrapart & Fils
Rated best value was another grower-producer. Agrapart is in the Côte des Blancs, which is chardonnay country, so naturally this was a blanc de blancs, made entirely out of chardonnay. It is fresh and balanced, with just the sort of finesse you would expect to see in a good blanc de blancs. A great deal at $28.
From Asimov: “Personally, I love the individuality and distinctiveness I find in many grower-producer Champagnes. But I recognize that unless you live near a wine shop with a deep Champagne selection, or have access to one through the Internet, these labels can be hard to find. Fortunately, some of the bigger names did very well, too.”
Louis Roederer Brut Premier
The No. 2 bottle. “It is a perennial favorite of mine, though this is the first time in a few years that I’m seeing it for under $40. It was ripe and rich, yet showed the balance and elegance I’ve come to expect in Roederer Champagnes.” $35
Henriot Brut Souverain
No. 4 bottle was full, rich and creamy, with surprisingly ripe tropical fruit flavors. Yet it was dry and balanced. $34
Taittinger Brut La Française
No. 7 bottle was from Taittinger, an often underrated producer. It was both fine and elegant, if that’s not redundant, with a mellow mineral and citrus flavor. $35
The Nicolas Feuillatte Brut
No. 9 bottle. It’s by no means a complex Champagne, but it was fresh and lively. $30
Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV – White Foil
The No. 10.” It’s a far cry from a vintage Pol Roger, but a decent bottle nonetheless, with lightness and elegance.”
Notes: A cuvée, with gold straw yellow hue, fine bubbles, a bouquet of floral and fruity aromas. Ripe and thirst-quenching on the palate, with a superb taste of brioche. $36