The Internet is packed to the rafters with gift guides for Valentine’s Day. So here is one more.
Except this one is better than most of the others. Because the benefits of a spa treatment will be completely eradicated by the stress of getting stuck in traffic on the way home. A piece of jewelry is likely to get tossed into a box and forgotten. And some sort of fancy underwear may (or may not) be only mildly appreciated in all its lacy, be-ribboned glory. But champagne knowledge? Inside info on the most luxurious, glamorous, giddily-enjoyable drink on Earth? Now that is truly the gift that keeps on giving. That is a gift that will continue to inform, long after the bottle has been drained and the golden buzz forgotten. And these champagnes, in particular, are intended to be a step forward for most people. These are the next level for those on who are on a continuing journey into the world of wine enjoyment. This is a guide for when you’re ready to put down the Korbel and go for the good stuff.
So, without further ado: 10 Luxury Bubblies For Valentine’s Day (presented without irony, even though this blog mostly talks about wines under $25).
This is a non-vintage champagne, which means several harvests from different years have been blended into the bottle (which is different from several harvests from different vineyards in the same year. If it all comes from the same year, that year is the vintage). This is a fairly standard practice for champagne, unless the year was particularly outstanding and is able to produce a noteworthy wine with only the grapes from that year. Think of it like perfume: Sometimes there is enough of a single flower to produce a true, lasting, bountiful amount of oil, and the resulting fragrance is divine. But other times, there might be more of this or that plant, (and less of another), so the perfumer blends these lovely oils together to create something that is a little different than the single fragrance, but can be just as – if not more! – sublime.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but maybe you get the idea.
Danielle Francoise Fournier of DFF Wine Consulting offered the Gimonnet as one of her top picks. It’s made from 100% Chardonnay, and Danielle describes it as “SUAVE and silky with a bit of creamy richness over clean and fresh minerality. Perfect with a sushi dinner.” It’s got a bit of lemony citrus, some stony mineral and the faintest touch of ginger. The bubbles are fine and delicate.
2. NV Gosset Brut “Grand Reserve” ($45 – $55)
Here we have another non-vintage sparkler, also in the ~$50 price range (and worth every penny). In 2009, the House of Gosset celebrated their 425th birthday, so they’ve had some time to figure out how to make good juice. The traditional Gosset style is rich, substantial and weighty, making it ideal to pair with your most decadent Valentine’s Day cream sauces and caviars, yet the apple, fresh bread, and orange zest flavors make this something that can be equally enjoyed on its own.
3. NV Bollinger “Special Cuvée” ($50 – $65)
James Bond enjoys the best of everything: the finest clothes, the most sophisticated cars, the prettiest women. So there is no way the guy would skimp on his champagne. If you’d like to consider yourself your own James Bond of sorts, you can start with the NV Bollinger “Special Cuvée.” $50 – $65 hardly seems too much to spend to elevate yourself into “International Wo/Man of Mystery” status. Especially when the rewards are so rich: Velvety bead, golden hue, firm structure and gripping acidity. Mostly estate fruit (about 60% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier) produces flavors of ripe apple and pear, white flowers, hints of peach and hazelnut, and a pastry finish that lasts and lasts.
Bollinger keeps a vast library of wines under cork, and these are what go into their non-vintage blends. This means complex layers of reserve wines are in every bottle. For the price, it’s almost like you’re in one of those heists from the movies.
Champagne Taittinger has been around since 1734 and they’re currently one of world’s most renowned estates. The “Nocturne” is a sec or sweeter champagne, made from 40% Chardonnay and a mixture of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier (about 30/30). The blend comes from more than 30 different vintages, and is aged four years before being released. The pale yellow, delicate-beaded nectar makes for a lovely evening treat, as the name suggests. You’ll enjoy a nice balance of tartness, and lovely peach, apricot, and white flowers. On the whole, the wine is smooth and mellow and perfect for those who prefer wines that lean a little toward dessert.
This is another of Danielle Francoise Fournier’s picks. It’s a powerful but medium-bodied champagne, with flavors of nuts and buttered toast and some orchard fruit. Fournier says, “Vilmart is a magnificent producer making complex and rich champagnes. This blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir is aged in oak for 10 months, resulting in a grandiose, yet precise wine that can only be described as SEXY. Perfect with anything fried–from chicken to po’ boy sandwiches.”
6. NV Ruinart BrutRosé ($70 – $90)
If you haven’t experienced the pleasure of a crisp glass of Ruinart champagne, this Valentine’s Day would be a great time to do yourself a solid and see what all the fuss is about. Ruinart has been making delicious juice since 1729 and call themselves “the first established house of Champagne.” They’ve been making wine longer than the United States has been a thing. I’ll let that sink in for a second. While we’re waiting, you might want to go grab yourself a bottle…
The blend is around 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay. This is a slightly orange-colored rosé, with flavors of baking spice and red berries. On the back end, a bit of citrus can be detected, mingled with a wisp of smoke. The bubbles are light, the acidity is firm, and the finish is long and stony.
7. NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé ($75 – $90)
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé serves as its own clever pneumonic device. The label is salmon-colored, the wine is salmon-colored, the name is, well, Billecart-Salmon.
Additionally, Billecart-Salmon is a champagne house built on love! It was founded in 1818 when Nicolas François Billecart married Elisabeth Salmon (and it continues to be family-owned, which is no small feat for a medium-sized Champagne estate, as they’re increasingly coming under the ownership of mega corporations).
So, if you were looking for a sign that this fruity, yeasty, briny, creamy treat should be in your glass this Valentine’s Day, this is it.
Despite the red fruit, you won’t find a lot of sweetness here. The full body and fresh acidity works better without it. The mousse is lacy the finish is long, the experience is even better when paired with food.
8. Laurent-Perrier “Grand Siècle” Brut ($110 – $120)
The best grapes, from 12 of the region’s 17 best vineyards, from the very best years. That’s what you’ll find in the “Grand Siècle,” Laurent-Perrier’s top wine. It’s always been non-vintage, and it continues to be remarkable.
The blend tends toward 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This champagne is quite dry, despite notes of honey and pastry dough. There is unmistakable smoke on the finish. The bubbles are tiny pinpricks in the mouth, but the overall experience is satiny and polished.
As with the other NV wines on the list, don’t let the lack of vintage dissuade you from giving this a try.
Pierre Peters is a small, family-owned and operated champagne house, established in 1919. For six generations, they’ve been growing their own fruit and transforming it into bubbly that should be on everybody’s list.
The 100% Chardonnay grapes used in the 2006 Speciale Les Chetillons come from three Grand Cru vineyards, and have produced a distinctly mineral-imbued, yet lip-smackingly fruity champagne, with enough acid to keep the slight bit of sweetness under control. Lots of bright lemon and green apple, a little stone fruit, and a nice, long finish.
Veuve Clicquot “Yellow Label” is a veritable fixture at some of the world’s most glamorous celebrations. The combination of being an infinitely approachable bubbly, a true French champagne, and – not to be discounted – marketed by geniuses, has helped Veuve become the go-to for many who are ready to dip a toe into spendier waters. But “Yellow Label” is only the start of the story. “La Grande Dame” is named for the widow of François Clicquot, son of the winery’s founder. It’s one of the only champagnes named after a woman, and it’s also Veuve Clicquot’s tête de cuvée (the best wine from a house or producer). The 2004 is a particular stand-out.
This vintage blends fruit from eight Grand Cru vineyards. The result is a complex champagne, with full body, creamy mousse, and lovely fruit-forward flavors. You’ll taste grapefruit and peach, some smoky minerality and salinity, and a bit of biscuit on the long finish. All-in-all, “La Grande Dame” is a departure for those who have only experienced Veuve’s entry-level. No matter the occasion, it’s is sure to make the celebration feel that much more special.