Top 10….. Champagne Houses

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You may have read my recent post on Veuve Fourny – if you haven’t then please do have a look – and on the back of visiting Champagne I’ve also been able to taste a lot of Champagne over the last few years – this list is my favourite houses – not withstanding that there are more that I will never taste than I have already tasted!

1. Krug – it had to be really. The vintages that I tasted at the house were probably the best Champagnes I have ever tasted – I loved the 2003 for it’s immediate appeal and forward nature while being complex whilst the 2000 was really pretty profound. I suspect that may be the first and last time I get to taste Champagne of that  quality. A shame and delight in equal measure. The Grande Cuvee is right up there too – a little less powerful and concentrated for me but WOW! I was totally blown away by these wines.

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2. Pol Roger – I really like the Brut NV but for me it’s the Vintage Pol that is the trump card. A fraction of the price of Winston Churchill it’s a complex full bodied, Pinot rich beast that I find hard to resist.

3. Charles Heidsieck – it’s gaining a lot of traction among those in the know for one very good reason – the stuff in the bottle is brilliant. The Brut NV is one of the best out there and I really love the style this house is producing.

4. Bollinger – it’s trendy to knock Bollinger at the moment – critics say it is too oxidative – but it’s a style that I really really enjoy. Grande Annee is one of my desert island drinks and Special Cuvee is always up there for me in terms of power and flavour. Wine is a personal thing – and personally I love this.

5. Laurent Perrier – the subject of my next write up – I had thoughts on it and some pre-conceptions but it seems to me that quality has improved over the last 5-10 years and now the house are producing some really elegant, extremely fine well rounded wines. It is easy to overlook the charm finesse and quality here by searching for power and body which is a mistake – Laurent Perrier’s white Champagnes are invariably much finer than you expect.

6. Billecart Salmon – sensational Blanc de Blancs and terrific rose’ – for me probably the best of the NV pink Champagnes I haven’t tasted the more expensive offerings from this house but I have never been disappointed with what I’ve tasted.

7. Piper Heidsieck – another that surprised me when I tasted it – this was rather a lot better than I was expecting. Elegant with lovely fruit and precision.

8. Ruinart – a second house from LVMH and the other ‘small’ house they own. ‘R’ de Ruinart is about as gluggable as Champagne ever gets – dangerously so, whilst the Rose’ NV and Blanc de Blancs make a very fine pair indeed – I enjoy the added body and fruit that Ruinart bring to their Blanc de Blancs. Dom Ruinart is a very serious Champagne – in both white and pink styles.

9. Delamotte – there is just something about this house that I can’t quite put my finger on – the blanc de blancs NV is superb full of tight precision but also individual with some almost ozone like character.

10. Vilmart – I’ve only tasted things from Vilmart a couple of time – and both bottles are right up there in terms of all time lists. I prefer Krug but that’s a style thing rather than out and out quality. Less well known maybe but sensational stuff.

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4 Responses to Top 10….. Champagne Houses

  1. Tanya Marlow says:

    No Perrier Jouet? Too sweet?

    • Tim Carlisle says:

      No, it just didn’t make it into my top 10, but then nor did Roederer, Veuve Clicquot, Gosset, Mumm, Taittainger, Duval Leroy, Deutz….
      I struggle a little with the NV, I think not because of the dosage as previously I thought (it is 10 g/l) but the very high Meunier content along with quite high levels of reserve wines from a large number of years which I ‘think’ is what doesn’t quite work for me (ie aged Meunier in high proportions). I have however only tasted one bottle of it so it’s not a Champagne I’ve written off (which if you read todays blog post on Laurent Perrier I nearly did with them). Given that one bottle came after Fourny and Laurent Perrier both of which use lower dosage and both of which aim to produce elegance personified it also felt a little clumsy – but that could have been circumstance easily enough – I’d want to taste it blind in a line up before writing it off! But given my very limited experience of it and that bottle didn’t do it for me I can’t put them in. I did like Belle Epoque but I preferred a lot of the other deluxe cuvees that we tasted. That said most of those we tasted were 10-15 years old whereas this was from 2006 which wasn’t a great vintage for Chardonnay that dominates that particular blend. What I need to do is taste a different vintage of Belle Epoque and a fresh bottle of NV at some stage.

  2. tallandrew says:

    I’d be interested in a blog about “Best champagnes under £25” and “Best Cavas and Proseccos under £10”

    • Tim Carlisle says:

      I’d need to taste a LOT more before I can manage that! Although you ought to be able to pick up L-P for around £25 at Christmas. Piper Heidsieck also around £20 on offer in various places I’ve noticed.

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