The Best Champagne Bottle You Can Buy, According to 40 Experts

We asked Michelin-star chefs, mixologists, sommeliers and more

December 23, 2016 9:00 am

Our tip for Champagne? Ask and ye shall receive.

We sent out a simple missive to our favorite food and beverage pals a few weeks back: What Champagne are you drinking — or would you recommend drinking — on New Year’s Eve, and why?

The responses? A veritable deluge of bubblies. And diverse, both in style and price point. You’ll see $15 bottles in our list, and some in the high three- and four-figure range. And some of our experts went to different sippers: sparkling wines from New Mexico, Spain and Austria all make an appearance. We even have a red wine or two in there.

So drink up. You can’t go wrong.

“For value, my top two picks would be R. H. Coutier’s Grand Cru Brut and André Clouet’s ‘Grand Reserve’ Brut. They’re widely available for $35 and always deliver smiles. For right around $50, I’d recommend Pierre Gimonnet Cuis Premier Cru Brut if you’re looking for a blanc de blancs and Marie Courtin Resonance if you’re looking for a blanc de noirs. If you’re ready to splurge, nothing beats Krug Grande Cuvée ($150). Whether you’re enjoying it with a Michelin-starred meal or takeout, it’s presence on a table makes a statement.”
—David White, author of But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine

“If you prefer to celebrate with red wine, Lambrusco Cleto Chiarli, “Vigneto Cialdini” from Emilia Romagna, NV is dry and full bodied, with pronounced fresh fruit and violet notes. It looks great in a Champagne flute, and adds a festive, dramatic look to your New Year’s toast.”
—Francine Diamond Ferdinandi, wine director for Factory Place Hospitality (The Factory Kitchen, Officine BRERA)

“I find that a full-bodied Champagne works best with holiday fare. Aubry 1er Cru Brut, Montagne de Reims, Appellation I ($42) is a very unique wine that shows bold citrus, biscuit, and sea-breeze notes with a streak of minerality.”
—Dan Veit, Norah (LA)

Charles de Cazanove Tradition. It’s a high quality champers from an ancient house, yet inexpensive and drinks well about its $30 price point. Aged in a traditional chalk cellar with adequate yet not excessive oak presence, it’s the perfect bubbly for when your guests are a little tipsy and won’t know the difference—but you will.”
—Michael Nemčik, Beverage Manager/Sommelier at Terra Cotta (LA)

Dom Perignon, Limited Edition by Michael Riedel, 2006. A perfect tie-in for the New Year, Michael Riedel’s design was developed to symbolize the transformation every bottle of Dom Perignon goes through during the aging process, incorporating the letters “D” and “P” and layering them across the box and bottle labels.”
—Chris Adams, CEO of Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits

Dom Pérignon P2 1998 Blanc, because it’s the iconic father of Champagnes. Its aging process takes 16-18 years, matured upside down to slow down oxidation. One of the most unique wines on the market in regards to flavor, winemaking and value.”
—Evan Puchalsky, Director of National Beverage and Bar Programs, STK Restaurants

“Don’t overthink it! People always appreciate a timeless classic. A bottle of Dom Perignon is a solid move, and guaranteed to impress whomever you are celebrating with.”
—Brandon Hawkins, Angelino Hospitality Group (The Churchill, The Hudson)

Gosset 2006 Grand Millesime. There’s no better way to say farewell to 2016 than a glass of Champagne that’s a decade old. This luxury Champagne house has been around for over 425 years, and it’s known for quality and extended cellar aging. Within the glass you’ll find soft floral notes and bright citrus fruit with a refreshing lingering finish.”
—Alexandria Sarovich, sommelier at The Florentine

“That’s easy — 2004 Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. It’s an awesome vintage from a great champagne house — the oldest in existence, actually. The price is more than reasonable, the profile is awesome, and I love the squat bottles.”
—Johnny Swet, Head Mixologist at The Skylark (NYC)

Gruet Brut is my go-to sparkling wine if I’m on a budget. It’s from a winery in New Mexico, and it’s one of the most affordable wines made in the Champagne method. Perfect for cocktails, but also great on its own.”
—Bryan Schneider, Bar Director for Park Avenue Winter/Quality Branded (NYC)

“The first bottle I reach for is Jose Dhondt Blanc de Blancs. This NV Brut is crisp, light, refreshing and offers plenty of mineral and citrus flavors while being endlessly pairable.”
—Benjamin Schiller, Beverage Director of The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group

“I choose the N.V. Brut Rose ‘V.S.Q’ Metodo Classico, Deltetto, Roero (Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir) for dinner. It goes with many styles of food, is very complex and can be enjoyed throughout the whole meal.”
—Aldo Zaninotto, Owner/Wine Director of Osteria Langhe (Chicago)

“I choose Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut, one of my favorite bubbles produced in Napa Valley. It’s made entirely of chardonnay grapes, giving it a crisp clean taste and bright acidity. There’s historical significance to this one as well: President Nixon served this wine in 1972 at the ‘Toast to Peace’ in Beijing.”
—Raymond Chester, Beverage Director of Lowcountry (Chicago)

“I love Henriot Champagne — it’s an exotic blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and an example of French ‘family winemaking’ at its best.”
—Arif Rahman, General Manager/Sommelier of Eden (Chicago)

Billecart-Salmon Rose. It’s quite possibly my favorite thing in the world to drink any day but is priced in more of the ‘special occasion’ range.”
—Eric Trousdale, Head Bartender at Arbella (Chicago)

“I would recommend an elegant sparkling from Mantinia, such as Domain Spiropoulos Ode Panos Brut Sparkling. Made in the cool region in the heart of the Peloponnese, it’s a vibrant, energetic, fresh sparkling wine with awesome fruit and a crisp minerality.”
—Kamal Kouiri, Wine Director at Molyvos (NYC)

“To most somms like me, Krug is the king of the castle. Also to most somms like me, I can’t forgo my car payment to chug a $200 bottle to the midnight countdown. Next best thing?  Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime 2005 ($99). It’s bready and toasty and bright fruit ripping in your face acid makes me want to pop another bacon-wrapped shrimp while Auld Lang Syne is chattered off in the background.”
—Keith Hansen, Wine Director at the InterContinental (SF)

“My personal preference is the Dom Perignon P2 so I made sure that we have it for guests on our menus. If I want something a bit more casual, and slightly less pricey, I tend to lean towards Krugs or Perrier Jouet.”
—Mark Birnbaum, CEO/restaurateur of EMM Group and CATCH Restaurants

“The 2013 Rotari Brut Rosé is an ideal sparkling wine for the holidays. It’s a top quality sparkling made in Trento DOC that is metodo classico, or Champagne method of secondary fermentation in the bottle. This is an expensive, labor intensive product, and the fact that you can get such a well-made vintage sparkling for the price of $19.99, well, you can’t go wrong.”
—Sarah Clarke, General Manager at Osteria Mozza (LA) and Beverage Director for Mozza Restaurant Group

Henriot ‘Souverain’ Brut Champagne. It has an extremely bright, fresh style makes it approachable for everyone, yet it still has some weight to it. I love the balance of fresh fruit with notes of smoky minerals.”
—Lindsey Ofcacek of 610 Magnolia (Louisville)

“Since we tend to celebrate NYE with a group, I’d choose a Champagne that won’t break the bank, like Moutard Pere et Fils ‘Grand Cuvee’ Brut NV ($40). Powerful yet elegant, this is a wine that will pair with a wide array of hors d’oeuvres and still go down easy on its own.”
—Gina Goyette, Sommelier and Wine Director at Bottle & Bine (NYC)

“If you’re having a subtle, romantic New Year’s eve with your partner, I would suggest a Grand Cru from a smaller producer, or even a vintage champagne. Vintage champagne is special because producers only make a vintage champagne during years when the grapes are at their very best quality. If you find yourself in the budget bubbly aisle, pick up a bottle (or several) of Cremant de Bourgogne. This is a great alternative to champagne at nearly half of the price.”
—Austin Flechler, Sommelier at Virginia’s (NYC)

“Since New Year’s Eve is a celebration of time past and new beginnings, a vintage champagne is a perfect fit. 2006 Grand Vintage Moet. It is a decade old, and I love that!”
—Alex Smith, Wine Director at GreenRiver (Chicago)

Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose. It has an amazing aroma of fresh berries and redcurrants. The elegant pink hue is a result of a unique process that the Pinot Noir grapes go through. It’s not only well crafted, but it also has the versatility to pair with anything from starters to dessert (as well as authentic Chinese cuisine).”
—Paul Ballesteros, Beverage Director at Imperial Lamian (Chicago)

Veuve Fourny et Fils Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut, ‘Cuvée du Clos Notre Dames’ 1er Cru 2006.  This grower Champagne has a creamy mouthfeel with layers of chalky minerality and rich citrus cream. It’s the ultimate expression of terroir in Champagne, exhibiting the characteristics of its unique microclimate as well as soil, exposition and vine age. A memorable wine to bring in the new year with elegance and style.”
—Shannon Tucker, Wine Director at Foreign Cinema (SF)

“I would recommend trying one of the brilliant sparkling wines coming from Austria these days. My favorite is the Steininger Heiligenstein Erste Lage Riesling Sekt 2009. It’s a very special single vineyard sekt from the legendary Heiligenstein vineyard in the Kamptal. Classic white peach and green apple aromas with a crisp texture and bubbles that rival good Champagne.”
—Michael Dolinski, wine director/sommelier at Junoon (NYC)

“A nice affordable option for New Year’s Eve is Crémant d’Alsace. I particularly like the Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé from the Braun family winery. It’s made in the same method as Champagne from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. It’s pink, sparkly and delicate in character.”
—Elizabeth Burke of Green Zebra (Chicago)

“Two affordable options: Aubry Brut Non-Vintage, Premier Cru Jouy-les-Reims: This wine is amazing. You can spend twice as much on a Champagne that’s not nearly as vibrant and compelling. And J. M. Seleque “Solessence” Brut Non-Vintage. Sixteen vintages were blended to create one remarkable expression of the beauty and majesty that is Champagne.”
—Dan Davis, Head Sommelier at Commander’s Palace (New Orleans)

Gonet-Médeville Premier Cru Champagne—the Tradition cuvée is sensational. Tight mousse (meaning the bubbles really dance in your mouth) and balanced acidity which leaves your mouth ready for food. It also has a lifted nose of slight pear-skin and a touch of brioche.”
—Marissa Copeland, Sommelier at David Burke Kitchen (NYC)

Charles Heidsieck. Both celebratory by nature, a magnum of champagne and New Year’s Eve celebration are the perfect pair.”
—Maureen Donegan, Presidio Social Club (SF)

Castell D’Age Brut Nature Reserva. Cava is a standout choice to ring in the New Year since it’s best enjoyed with decadent and rich foods. The arid Spanish climate results in heavily acidic, interesting grapes that make for a beautiful flavor profile. And Cava is often a great value.”
—Sam Lyden, mixologist at Presidio (Chicago)

“I always want something on the drier side for champagne, so I would recommend the Champagne Laherte Freres Champagne Extra Brut, Les Empreintes. It’s a biodynamically farmed Champagne that focuses on doing things traditionally and with a small team that all hone in on the details together. The product is a really delicious, crisp, refreshing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir based sparkling that’s a value for the quality.”
—Angie Silberberg, Beverage Director at Entente (Chicago)

“My favorites favorites right now are Domaine des Marnes Blanches Crémant du Jura (NV), Champagne Vincent Couche Champagne Extra Brut Chloe (NV) and Les Capriades, Pet-Sec (2014). They are all natural wines, made by their growers, with a focus on sustainability. At ENO, we will be popping the Les Capriades at midnight.”
—Amanda Herrell, Beverage Director at ENO (Chicago)

“One of our largest champagne imports is Besserat de Bellefon, a specialized house producing a very unique style of champagne. The champagne has small bubbles, which makes it less filling, and therefore ideal for consuming with food.”
—Adam Sager, Vice President of Winesellers, Ltd.

Andre Clouet Bouzy. 100% beautiful bodied rose with bright red fruit and great minerality. The red fruit and high acidity is fantastic with the broad array of flavors that we enjoy during the holiday season, New Year’s Eve specifically. Cranberry, goose, turkey, pork, caviar: they’re all great matches.”
—Jason Prah, General Manager/Sommelier at Acadia (Chicago)

“I love a sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne for NYE. For parties, it’s all about value and this is the perfect mix of drinkability and wallet-friendly. Everyone will love and it’s easy to sip.”
—Bill Netherland, Wine Director for the Hospitality Management Group in Charleston, SC (Cypress, Magnolias, Blossom, Artisan Meat Share)

Jérôme Prévost ‘La Closerie’ Les Béguines, Extra Brut Champagne 2009 — a relatively new producer making gorgeous, super-dry bubbly from 100% Pinot Meunier. A single vineyard, single vintage Champagne [that’s] all the rage among sommeliers.”
—Kathryn Coker, Wine Director/Co-Owner of Esters Wine Shop and Bar (Santa Monica, CA)

“If I’m looking for something vintage and unique, with a very dry, good texture, try Louis Roederer Brut Nature, 2006. On top of being great wine, it has fun packaging — it was a collaboration with Philippe Starck.”
—Rob Holder, Director of Beverage and Brand Development at JNK Concepts

“There’s nothing more celebratory than the Billecart Salmon Brut Rose. This medium sized, quality focused house leans toward the elegant side of Champagne. This wine has the structure to pair well with your meal and the finesse to enjoy the rest of the night.”
—Greg Van Wagner, Wine/Beverage Director of Jimmy’s (Aspen, CO)

Arlaux Brut Grande Cuvée. I love the rich Chardonnay expression in this wine that pairs nicely with our food and also a lovely drink by itself.”
—George Thomas, maitre d’ of L’Appart (NYC)


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