We are in the last throes of 2020 – what a year it’s been. In Australia, we are very fortunate to have ridden out the wave of COVID-19 to a place where (for now) we can spend time with family. And this is worth celebrating.
Mindful of the fact that this year has been tough both mentally and financially for many of us; and also because the readership of my reviews of cheaper champagnes has far out-gunned the regular price bracket ones – I will highlight the best value/quality champagnes to put on the table for Christmas lunch.
I know it seems I’ve had a quiet year – but I’ve still been sipping away; just not with much fanfare – its hard to drink champagne on your own!
One thing to note: Champagne (the place/producer) has had a rough year – market demand (read: consumption) is down due to COVID and thus so is production. This means that stock has been slow moving also, so be wise and check bottle labels – they are a good indicator of age. Some brands change designs from year to year – a “refresh” – look at Mumm for example; so aim for newer looking bottles.
$30 or Less
The golden-goose category of Champagnes – how can one get best value for minimum spend?
As a general rule – this price range will mostly feature capsules (neck label) that say “Champagne” down it – and this is because most of this is generic labelling for generic champagnes that are branded by/for the wine importer – and are usually made from the lower quality grape classifications. That said – on occasion the blend is done well with these and you get something nice.
The main contenders here are:
Aubert (Dan Murphy/BWS) – $25
Bichat (BWS) – $27
Royal Moncourt (1st Choice/Liquorland) – $25
Veuve Monsigny (Aldi) – $23
Most of these are made by (Elabore par) La Maison du Champagne for this market, except the Aldi wine – which is the best of the bracket when at optimum temperature. Keep it chilled.
Otherwise, if you are in a bind and aren’t fussed with it being “Champagne” – try an Aussie sparkler made with “Methode Traditional” – which is the same process used in making Champagne. I would suggest a cold-climate location – Tasmania in particular is great – Especially the Tamar Valley.
$30 – $70
A wide open market here with lots of mainstream options.
If you are more open to sweeter Champagnes; Piper Heidsieck Brut NV is always solid and great value.
If you like dryness and crispness to go with the turkey – a chardonnay driven champagne always works. I really enjoyed Charles Orban Blanc de Blancs for this, but you’ll be well served by a Pommery Brut Royal also.
For Rosé fans – I really enjoyed the Canard Duchene Rosé I had earlier this year. It drinks really well and is just $60 a bottle.
$70 or More
This is always a subjective place to play, but I’ve always believed that aging is king when it comes to making quality champagnes. This is why Bollinger and Pol Roger are impossible to not recommend – with 4 years aging for each. Few other mainstream champagnes put in this time.
I’ve been drinking both regularly over the year – they have not missed a step and are still punching high. When I have an entry level tasting group – I will save a Pol Roger for last – and it always blows minds. Let it blow yours.
My Christmas Curiosity
This year I am trying the Canard Duchene P181 Organic Champagne for Christmas. I have been talking to a few folk over the last year who have been looking for certified organic champagnes – and vegan friendly champagnes (there aren’t as many out there as one thinks). The Lanson Organic Wine I tried a few months back was impressive enough to warrant a few bottles. These little niche market champagnes will drive greater demand in future – so best to be ahead of the curve where you can.