Which bottle of bubbly do you reach for when a special occasion arises? For some, it may be something special waiting in the cellar, for others an old favorite or simply whatever is the most affordable. For some of the world’s award-winning sommeliers, however, the choice is made simpler thanks to a plethora of experience tasting the best. WFW asked some of the top palates to share some ideas to consider on your next festive occasion.
International leading authority on Champagne and sparkling wine, Tom ‘Mr Fizz’ Stevenson, voices his personal preference for value when he is looking to celebrate.
“The most consistent best-value Champagne at the moment must be Piper-Heidsieck. It’s just so unbelievably good for the money and it gets better the longer you keep it. Definitely a win-win!”
For something truly special, he says, here’s a tip: “Ask yourself what the last outstanding Champagne was and buy a magnum of it. Better still, buy both a bottle and a magnum and treat yourself by opening them up side by side.”
Cheryl Wakerhauser, owner, wine director, and executive chef at Pix Patisserie, brings a French influence to Oregon, USA with her selection. The establishment has been the recipient of our World’s Best Champagne and Sparkling Wine List since the World’s Best Wine Lists awards inauguration in 2014, making it a hat trick accolade. It’s safe to say that Wakerhauser lives and breathes Champagne (and macaroons) and firmly believes that bigger is better, so: shoot for the magnum.
In celebration, it’s important to relax and revel in the moment, as opposed to analyzing the wine, says Wakerhauser. “I would select Éric Rodez Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Brut, I really like that producer, or Cédric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Les Ursules Blanc de Noirs Brut. Those would be fun to pop and just relax and enjoy them with friends.”
A clear favorite is the iconic Champagne house Krug. Mark Bright, co-owner and wine director at Saison in San Francisco, and Jim Rollston MS, wine director at Manresa near San José, both immediately reach for Krug in celebration. Bright simply states, “Krug. Period,” in response, while Rollston MS says, “Without question it is Krug Grande Cuvée for me. It was the wine I celebrated my engagement with and the one I reach for to mark a special occasion.”
Mirko Benzo, head sommelier at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught hotel, Mayfair, London, is also a Krug convert, alongside Diana Rollan, wine buyer and manager Hakkasan Group in London.
Clement Robert MS head sommelier across the 28-50 group in London swears by Dom Pérignon. “It is one of my best choices because it’s always very high quality. I can’t think of a bottle of Dom Pérignon that has ever disappointed me: it’s always extremely good.” It’s also great for gifting on special occasions, Robert says.
“But if I really wanted to open a special bottle of Champagne because it’s my birthday or something similar, I would go for Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs by Taittinger, Amour de Deutz by Deutz or a great vintage by Dom Pérignon,” comments Robert.
A unique Champagne, which will require a trip down to Gordon Ramsay’s eponymous establishment on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea, is the house Champagne, as recommended by their head sommelier James Lloyd.
“Gordon has done a lot of tastings to create our house pour throughout the group. It is the specially aged Ayala Brut Majeur, ‘Extra Age’, NV, and it’s absolutely fantastic.
“It’s exactly the same as the Ayala Brut Majeur that’s out on the open market but we’ve aged it an extra year, so it’s aged for four years rather than three. The extra year certainly makes all the difference.”
Eric Hastings, beverage director at Jean-Georges New York suggests:
“For Champagne, whatever is cold will work, though my favorite house is Ruinart. I have a personal connection with Ruinart, as a former Ruinart Challenge winner, and thoroughly enjoy their wines. The attention to quality is extremely high and the wines have never been better. Truly a special wine.”
Another vote for Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2005 vintage comes from Adam Pledger, owner, wine director and buyer at Park House, Cardiff; “It’s one of my favorites, we do it by the glass and it’s just extraordinary.”
“There are so many, but I do really love Larmandier-Bernier Premier Cru ‘Longitude’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut,” says Yves Desmaris MS, head sommelier at Lutyens restaurant. Owner and wine director at Sager and Wilde, Michael Sager, recommends, “I love Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée St-Anne, it’s a great value wine from an amazing, talented, and young winemaker.”
When marking your special occasion, whether it is Champagne or sparkling wine that you choose, ensure to revel in the moment in which the bottle was created to be shared.
|Champagne||Recommended by||Average RRP ex-tax|
|Piper-Heidsieck||Tom Stevenson author, wine critic, wine judge||£33 ($41.98USD)|
|Éric Rodez Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Brut||Cheryl Wakerhauser owner and wine director Pix Patisserie||£33 ($41.98USD)|
|Cédric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Les Ursules Blanc de Noirs Brut||Cheryl Wakerhauser owner and wine director Pix Patisserie||£101 ($131.03USD)|
|Krug Grand Cuvée||Mark Bright co-owner and wine director Saison San Francisco; Jim Rollston MS wine director Manresa California; Mirko Benzo head sommelier The Connaught London; Diana Rollan wine buyer and manager Hakkasan Group London||£137 ($174.39USD)|
|Ayala Brut Majeur, ‘Extra Age’, NV||James Lloyd head sommelier Restaurant Gordon Ramsay||£65 inc. VAT ($82.69USD) Only available at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Open market Ayala Brut Majeur £24 ($30.53USD)|
|Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2005||Adam Pledger owner, wine director and buyer Park House; Clement Robert MS head sommelier 28-50||£94 ($119.58USD)|
|Larmandier-Bernier Premier Cru ‘Longitude’ Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut||Yves Desmaris MS head sommeler Lutyens||£30 ($38.17USD)|
|Chartogne-Taillet Cuvée St-Anne||Michael Sager owner and wine director Sager + Wilde||£25 ($31.80USD)|
|Dom Pérignon||Clement Robert MS head sommelier 28-50||£121 ($153.93USD)|
|Amour de Deutz by Deutz||Clement Robert MS head sommelier 28-50||£94 ($119.58USD)|
Please note prices are based on an average price (excluding Tax) determined at the time of writing.