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Champagne - Top Producers of Champagne

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Various-sized bottles of Drappier champagne © Provided by DKBooks Various-sized bottles of Drappier champagne

Statue of Dom Thierry Ruinart

Photo: Laurent-Perrier © Provided by DKBooks Laurent-Perrier

Champagne Bollinger

Photo: Statue of Dom Thierry Ruinart © Provided by DKBooks Statue of Dom Thierry Ruinart

Various-sized bottles of Drappier champagne

Laurent-Perrier

Top Producers of Champagne

Billecart-Salmon - Champagne

location: 40 rue Carnot, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ
telephone number: 03 26 52 60 22
website: www.champagne-billecart.fr
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995, 1990
recommended wines: NV Brut Rosé, Cuvée Elizabeth Salmon Rosé

Billecart-Salmon, established in 1818, is a small family-run house that makes a range of consistently fine wines. It is particularly admired for its delicate, beautifully balanced rosés, both the non-vintage style and the vintage Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon. Although not as well known as near neighbor Bollinger, Billecart-Salmon also makes excellent vintage champagne that ages very well, though in a very different style. In 2003 it launched a 100 percent Pinot Noir from its walled vineyard (Clos St Hilaire) in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ; the first cuvée was made from the impressive 1995 vintage.


- Champagne Alfred Gratien - Champagne

location: 30 rue Maurice-Cerveaux, Épernay
telephone number: 03 26 54 38 20
website: www.alfredgratien.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995, 1990, 1988
recommended wines: Vintage

Alfred Gratien is a traditional producer that still carries out the initial fermentation in oak barrels, giving a distinctive style. The Chardonnay-driven vintage wines are notably long-lived, partly because they do not undergo malolactic fermentation. They may be cellared for many years, to good effect.


- Champagne Bollinger - Champagne

location: 18 blvd du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, Aÿ
telephone number: 03 26 53 33 66
website: www.champagne-bollinger.fr
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995, 1992, 1990, 1988, 1985
recommended wines: Grande Année (white, rosé)

This deeply traditional family-owned house is committed to the high production standards set out in its 1992 “charter of ethics and quality,” which, with its stringent rules, has become a blueprint for quality in Champagne. Based in grand cru Aÿ, Bollinger has a 143-ha estate that supplies 70 percent of its grapes. These underpin the high standard of its muscular, complex Pinot Noir-based wines, which age gracefully.

Bollinger RD (recently disgorged) is a vintage wine that is aged for longer on its lees, and only disgorged just prior to release to preserve freshness. Lovers of rich, mature vintage wines are advised to buy the considerably less expensive Grande Année and age it themselves. There is also a Vieilles Vignes Françaises—Blanc de Noirs from three tiny parcels of pre-phylloxera vines that has much in common with single-vineyard champagnes like Clos du Mesnil and Clos des Goisses.


- Champagne Charles Heidsieck - Champagne

location: 4 blvd Henry Vasnier, Reims
telephone number: 03 26 84 43 50
website: www.charlesheidsieck.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1990
recommended wines: NV Mis en Cave, Blanc des Millénaires

Most Champagne houses like to be judged on the quality of their non-vintage Brut. On that basis alone, Heidsieck deserves its reputation for excellence; its Mis en Cave non-vintage regularly stands out in tastings. Other wines also delight, notably the 100 percent Chardonnay Blanc des Millénaires, the 1990 vintage of which has yet to reach its brilliant peak. It has yet to be seen if this quality will continue following the death of inspired winemaker Daniel Thibault in 2002.


- Champagne Deutz - Champagne

location: 16 rue Jeanson, Aÿ
telephone number: 03 26 56 93 96
website: www.champagne-deutz.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995, 1990
recommended wines: NV Brut Classic, Blanc de Blancs

A distinguished house in Aÿ that merits a much wider audience, Deutz has long enjoyed a good reputation among aficionados for its fine vintage Blanc de Blancs and delicate, beautifully balanced luxury cuvée William Deutz. The company was bought by Louis Roederer in 1993, and new owner Jean-Claude Rouzaud has invested wisely. He relaunched Deutz non-vintage Brut Classic in 1994, and has watched it become one of the best and most consistent performers in Champagne. The Brut Classic with extra cellar age has added complexity, and a new all-Chardonnay vintage luxury cuvée, L’Amour de Deutz, should bring further acclaim.


- Champagne Drappier - Champagne

location: Grand Rue, Urville
telephone number: 03 25 27 40 15
website: www.champagne-drappier.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995, 1990, 1988
recommended wines: Grande Sendrée, NV Carte D’Or

Family-run négociant Drappier is arguably the best in the Côte des Bars—an area that, according to winemaker Michel Drappier, is not the place to make elegant and delicate champagne. Instead, he produces wines with plenty of character; and as this style has gained popularity, the profile of the company has been raised dramatically. Drappier’s non-vintage cuvée Carte D’Or is a gutsy, Pinot Noir-dominated, structured wine. The vintage labels, particularly Grande Sendrée, show the high quality that this traditionally underrated part of the appellation is capable of. The best vintages of Carte d’Or Brut get a second release with added bottle age.


- Champagne Henriot - Champagne

location: 3 place des Droits de l’Homme, Reims
telephone number: 03 26 89 53 00
website: www.champagne-henriot.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995
recommended wines: Brut Vintage, Cuvée des Enchanteleurs, NV Blanc de Blancs

Joseph Henriot is the man who established Veuve Clicquot’s modern reputation. Since he left Clicquot, he has restored the standing of Bouchard Père & Fils and William Fèvre. He also runs this family company, and although it is not well known, its wines are worth hunting out. There is an attractive Blanc de Blancs and a classy prestige line, Cuvée des Enchanteleurs, but the star of the range is the Brut Vintage, capable of long aging and one of Champagne’s real bargains.


- Champagne Jacquesson & Fils - Champagne

location: 68 rue du Colonel Fabien, Dizy
telephone number: 03 26 55 68 11
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995, 1990, 1988
recommended wines: NV Cuvée (individually numbered), Signature

This small, independently minded producer is distancing itself from the crowd by making its non-vintage cuvée a one-off, different each year, but always the best possible blend. Cuvée No 728, based around the 2000 harvest, launched the series in 2003, and the wines that follow will be numbered sequentially. This means that the wine known as “Perfection” is no longer being made, but the superb Signature vintage wines remain, and they will be joined by more single-cru, single-variety wines, including a Pinot Meunier from the vineyard next to the winery, a Pinot Noir from Aÿ and a non-dosage (completely dry, with no added sugar) Chardonnay from Avize.


- Champagne Lanson - Champagne

location: 12 blvd Lundy, Reims
telephone number: 03 26 78 50 50
website: www.lanson.fr
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1996, 1995, 1989, 1988
recommended wines: Blanc de Blancs, Noble Cuvée

Lanson’s black label cuvée is the only popular non-vintage champagne not to undergo malolactic fermentation (which makes the wines more approachable in their youth), and it can seem acidic as a result. However, a couple of years’ bottle age show how well it is made. Vintage Lanson can be very good (as in 1995, 1989, 1988, and 1976), and the brand’s two cuvées de prestige—vintage Blanc de Blancs and Noble Cuvée—show real elegance.


- Champagne Perrier Jouët - Champagne

location: 26 ave de Champagne, Épernay
telephone number: 03 26 53 38 00
website: www.perrier-jouet.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1996, 1995
recommended wines: Belle Époque (white, rosé)

After a lack of investment when run by liquor giant Seagram, Perrier Jouët’s fortunes have changed under new owner Allied Domecq, as demonstrated by significant improvement in the non-vintage Grand Brut. Since winemaker Herve Deschamps took over in 1993, the vintage wines have also blossomed. Cuvée de prestige Belle Époque, packaged in the famous flower motif bottle and made in white and rosé styles, has barely flagged, apart from disappointments in 1989 and 1990. Recent vintages (1996 and 1995) look set to return to the heights achieved in 1988, 1985, and 1982.


- Champagne Philipponnat - Champagne

location: 13 rue du Pont, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ
telephone number: 03 26 56 93 00
website: www.champagnephilipponnat.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1990, 1988, 1985
recommended wines: Clos des Goisses

Owner Bruno Paillard’s first priority on acquiring this house was to restore its magnificent, steep south-facing vineyard, Clos des Goisses. Now Charles Philipponnat (who was working for Moët & Chandon in South America until Paillard bought him back to run the house his family used to own) is quietly adjusting and improving the other wines in the range. Philipponnat is a house whose reputation is likely to climb in the near future.


- Champagne Salon - Champagne

location: Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
telephone number: 03 26 57 51 65
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1990, 1988, 1985
recommended wines: Salon

Salon is an exceptional wine. It comes from grand cru Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the Côte des Blancs, it is made solely from Chardonnay, and it is purely the product of one vintage. No more than 10,000 cases are made in any vintage, and the wine is typically aged for at least a decade before release (the 1983, for example, was put on sale in 1996). Even at release, the wine still tends to be piercingly fresh, and it does not develop its full, often stunning complexity for a couple of decades or more.


- Champagne Taittinger - Champagne

location: 9 place St-Nicaise, Reims
telephone number: 03 26 85 45 35
website: www.taittinger.fr
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995
recommended wines: Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs

Taittinger is one of the bigger champagne houses still in family ownership. Its good vineyard holdings in the Côte des Blancs are put to excellent use in its Blanc de Blancs Cuvée de prestige, Comtes de Champagne, which can develop richness and complexity with age. Sensibly, Taittinger is focusing on this wine, which also comes in a rosé style, and is no longer pushing its overpriced, flashily packaged Vintage Collection, which is now only available from the company’s website.


Grower-producers

There are around 5,000 grower-producers who make and market their own wines. The physical location of the grower-producers is more significant than that of the négociants, since they often have holdings in just the village or cru where they are based. They are prohibited from buying in grapes, but they may swap five percent of their harvest with another grower in order to make a blend. Recommended grower-producers are: Chartogne-Taillet (03 26 03 10 17); Vilmart & Co (www.champagnevilmart.fr) ; René Geoffroy (03 26 55 32 31); Larmandier-Bernier (03 26 52 13 24); Serge Mathieu (03 25 29 32 58).


- Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin - Champagne

location: 1 place des Droits de l’Homme, Reims
telephone number: 03 26 89 54 41
website: www.veuve-clicquot.fr
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1996, 1995
recommended wines: Brut, Rosé, La Grande Dame

The next largest producer of non-vintage Brut after Moët has suffered from its success. The increase in volume has meant sacrifices in quality and style, and wines have become younger and lighter over the past few years. However, the high quality of the muscular, Pinot Noir-based vintage wine, made in white and rosé versions that age particularly well, has continued. The Cuvée de prestige La Grande Dame is consistently good too, although expensive.


Krug - Champagne

location: 5 rue Coquebert, Reims
telephone number: 03 26 84 44 20
website: www.krug.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1989, 1988, 1985, 1982, 1981
recommended wines: NV Grande Cuvée, Krug

Established in 1843 and formerly owned by Rémy-Cointreau, Krug is now in the hands of LVMH, which also owns the region’s most celebrated brand, Dom Pérignon. Fears that LVMH would want to boost production, compromising on quality, appear to be unfounded. At Krug, even the non-vintage Grande Cuvée is matured for at least six years before release. Top wines are kept back much longer, but to fully appreciate what is special about a Krug vintage wine, it should be cellared for several years, perhaps even a decade, after its release. At a tasting in 2002 to celebrate Henri Krug’s retirement, almost every released vintage that he was involved with (1962 to 1988) was opened, and the 1981 vintage was the youngest wine to be nearing its peak.


Laurent-Perrier - Champagne

location: ave de Champagne, Tours-sur-Marne
telephone number: 03 26 58 91 22
website: www.laurent-perrier.fr
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995, 1990
recommended wines: Grande Siècle: La Cuvée, Alexandra Rosé; NV Brut

Winemaker Alain Thierry is one of the best in Champagne, and he makes two of the appellation’s greatest wines: Laurent-Perrier’s Cuvée de prestige Grande Siècle and Salon. While the company is probably best known as the producer of the biggest-selling non-vintage rosé, its light and approachable non-vintage brut and decent vintage wines deserve attention. The Grande Siècle cuvées, particularly the rosé, demonstrate what prestige champagne should be, but rarely is.


Louis Roederer - Champagne

location: 21 blvd Lundy, Reims
telephone number: 03 26 40 42 11
website: www.champagne-roederer.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1996, 1995, 1990
recommended wines: NV Brut Premier, Blanc des Blancs

Along with Bollinger’s Ghislain Montgolfier, Jean-Claude Rouzaud is arguably the man who has done the most to encourage high standards in Champagne. The Roederer wines are exemplary; elegant, subtle, complex, and long-lived. A large holding of top-quality grand cru vineyards forms the basis of the dazzling range. The delicious non-vintage Brut Premier puts most non-vintage champagne to shame, while Louis Roederer’s top wine, Cristal, is one of Champagne’s three icons of excellence. (The others are Dom Pérignon and Krug’s Grande Cuvée.) The vintage Blanc de Blancs is a beautifully refined, less celebrated star, for those who do not have the cash for Cristal.


Moët & Chandon - Champagne

location: 18 ave de Champagne, Épernay
telephone number: 03 26 51 20 20
website: www.moet.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1996, 1995, 1990
recommended wines: Dom Pérignon, NV Rosé

The best-known and biggest selling non-vintage brand by a mile is Moët & Chandon’s Brut Impérial. Given the volume produced (over 16 million bottles a year), the consistent quality of this wine is laudable. Moët’s recently introduced non-vintage rosé is good enough to rival Laurent-Perrier’s, and its vintage wines can be classy and develop well with age. Moët’s Dom Pérignon continues to excel under the talented hands of winemaker Richard Geoffroy, although unfortunately most is drunk long before its peak, rarely reached before 15 years of maturing.


Pol Roger - Champagne

location: 1 rue Henri Lelarge, Épernay
telephone number: 03 26 59 58 00
website: www.polroger.co.uk
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1996, 1995, 1990, 1988
recommended wines: Sir Winston Churchill Cuvée

After a period of sensible reinvestment in its winery, Pol Roger is back in top form. Its fine, long-lived vintage wines are much sought-after and attractively priced. They need time to reach their full potential, so anyone who has already drunk their 1988 vintage is missing a treat for the future. Prestige style, the vintage Sir Winston Churchill Cuvée, has few peers. The installation of Krug’s former winemaker, Dominique Petit, is unlikely to set things back.


Ruinart - Champagne

location: 4 rue des Crayères, Reims
telephone number: 03 26 85 40 29
website: www.ruinart.com
wine styles: sparkling
best vintages: 1995, 1990
recommended wines: Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs

Ruinart, the oldest house in Champagne, was founded in 1729, and is the only producer in the LVMH camp to specialize in Chardonnay and Blanc de Blancs styles. With the launch of a non-vintage Blanc de Blancs and a seriously expensive top-of-the-line, multi-vintage blend named L’Exclusive in the past five years, it now has three such wines. However, it is the vintage Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, unusually comprising a blend of Côte des Blancs grands crus with Chardonnay from the best villages in the Montagne de Reims, that has established the good reputation of this house.

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