By George Kassianos
Anyone for sparkling? A glass of Champagne? Forgive me for raising the price stakes but this is traditionally the time of year for Champagne. And there are Champagnes out there at good prices that do justice to the region.
One Champagne house I always have affection for is Moët & Chandon. I tasted my way through a bottle at a recent press breakfast and confirmed once again how well Champagne matches eggs and smoked salmon.
The Champagne highlight of 2014 was undoubtedly the Krug; sadly it costs more than €300 per bottle. But for some more moderately priced ones I have reviewed a few non vintage bottles.
R de Ruinart Brut, Champagne, France
A yellow colour with golden glints and a crystal-like brilliance. Fine bubbles that rise in an airy, long-lasting line. On the nose the wine is delicate and fresh. White-fleshed fruit (pear), dried fruits (almond), scents of white flowers (acacia) and aromas of fresh butter and Viennese pastries. The palate is perfectly balanced and fresh with an extremely long finish. R de Ruinart Brut NV is created using a precise blend of exceptional grapes. It is made of 40% Chardonnay from the Cotes des Blancs and 60% Pinot Noir from the Montagne de Reims. This Champagne from the oldest house is excellent on its own as an aperitif or ideal for an all-champagne meal. Also perfect with delicate dishes such as pan-fried scallops or sole meuniere. €46, La Maison du Vin
Jacquart Brut Mosaique, Champagne, France
Lovely lemon biscuit flavours. This is a very classy, dry chardonnay with the freshness of pears lingering on the finish. Full-bodied and mouthfillingly rich with the sweetness of ripe peach, the subtle earthiness of pinot and the pear. There are hints of ginger too on the front of the tongue later and a full rich creamy toasty flavour. Rich and toasty with great finesse. Earthy and rich with an intriguing hint of candied herb. This was a lovely bubbly for this time of the year. €32, Vassos Eliades Ltd
Moët &Chandon Rose Imperial, Champagne, France
On the eye the Imperial has an elegant golden straw colour with highlights of amber, the nose has an aroma of exotic fruits – yellow peach, plum, pineapple – with floral nuances (lime blossom) and elegant blond notes (brioche and fresh nuts). The palate is seductive and generous, combining intensity with roundness, fullness with suppleness, followed by a lively crisp finish to reveal the magical balance of champagne. Moet &Chandon Imperial can be served as an aperitif or with dinner as it pairs well with sushi, shellfish, white fish and white meats. It can also be paired with fruit salads as long as they are not too sweet. €28, Photiades Distributors
Laurent Perrier Brut, Champagne, France
Laurent-Perrier Brut L-P is the standard-bearer for the house style of Laurent-Perrier. Crisp, fresh and elegant, Brut L-P reflects the fundamental essence of its Champagnes. The colour is a pale golden hue, with fine and persistent bubbles. The nose is fresh and delicate, showing good complexity with hints of citrus and white fruit. Brut L-P’s light style has led the way to making Champagne the ideal aperitif drink. Its perfect balance, crispness of flavours and finesse also make it the ideal companion for fish, poultry and white meat. €33, KEO
Bollinger Special Cuvée, Champagne, France
Rich and full in style with lots of rich yeasty biscuity flavour and thrilling apple/pear fruit, the Champagne of choice for James Bond and no wonder, it is one of the best non-vintage Champagnes. Generally it has a golden colour, distinctive of black grape varieties. Very fine bubbles. On the nose it has a beautiful aromatic complexity, ripe fruit and spicy aromas, with hints of roasted apples, apple compote and peaches. On the palate, there is a subtle combination of structure, length and vivacity. The bubbles are like velvet. Flavours of pear, brioche and spicy aromas, notes of fresh walnut. Pair with all fish, especially sushi and sashimi, shellfish, poultry and white meat, cashews, parmesan or prosciutto. €56, Spectus
Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Ponsartin
First, Yellow Label looks beautiful, golden-yellow, with a foaming necklace of tiny bubbles. Next it is so pleasing to the nose: initially reminiscent of white fruits and raisins, then of vanilla and later of brioche. Note the fine balance between the fruity aromas coming from the grape varieties and the toasty aromas following the ageing in the bottle. The first sip delivers all the freshness and forcefulness so typical of Yellow Label with a symphony of fruit tastes following on. Here is a true member of the powerful Brut family, well structured, admirably vinous. The lingering aromas echo and re-echo, with each fruit or spice note distinct. €31, Othon Ghalanos
Ruinart Brut Rosé
The wine is a brilliant orange-yellow rose petal colour with a very fine, profuse and sustained mousse. The nose is characterised by small red berries, mainly currant. On the palate the wine is vigorous and well balanced. A fine, fresh, fruity wine with well-integrated tannins and a hint of spice on the lengthy finish. Ruinart Rosé is produced from a blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay from the best of recent vintages. All of the fruit is from premiers crus vineyards. Grapes from the estate vineyards in Sillery and Brimont (ancestral home of the Ruinart family) are joined by carefully selected grapes from other premiers crus vineyards in the Côte de Blancs and the Montagne de Reims. €59, La Maison du Vin
Taittinger Brut Reserve
aittinger Brut Reserve Champagne is a distinctively light Champagne. Pale with fine, strong bubbles the nose is of clean green fruit of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties. Dry yet refreshing – an excellent Champagne to drink with delicately flavoured food. Maturity is acquired during three and four years ageing in the cellar, reaching excellent aromatic potential. The brilliant body is golden yellow in colour with fine bubbles, the nose, very open and expressive, delivering aromas of fruit and brioche. It also gives off the fragrance of peach, white flowers (hawthorn, acacia) and vanilla pod. This is a delicate wine with flavours of fresh fruit and honey. Excellent with white meat, crayfish, mushroom quiche. €40, Fereos
Gosset Brut Excellence
While the rest of the Gosset range looks very distinctive in its elegant antique-style bottles, the entry level cuvée, even with updated packaging for 2014, looks different and in many ways is different. A blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier, the dosage is 11g/l and whilst it has plenty of crisp and appley aromas, it opens up on the palate with a hint of sweet peach and lemon zest zing. The appeal is fairly straightforward, and while not as distinguished as some in the portfolio, it has good balance and combination of approachability and refined, racy freshness. €36, Atticouris Enterprises