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The holiday season is already here, and this year, more than never, we need to fill it with good and relaxing moments with family and beloved ones. While different people may have different traditions to follow during the end of the year celebration, champagne became much more popular than in the past. According to Forbes magazine, over 300 million bottles of champagne are produced every year and sold globally. Why has this French beverage become so popular across the years? There is for sure a festive and surprising facet of champagne that makes it so special.

According to Gérard Liger-Belair, a researcher at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, there are generally 100 million bubbles in one single bottle of champagne that rocket off the surface around 8 meters per second as bubbles burst. If more and more people are consuming champagne nowadays, choosing the right one becomes a true challenge. There are around 260 champagne houses and over 100’000 champagne labels. Imagine yourself at the restaurant with a menu containing so many dishes! Very hard to choose.

Finding the right champagne for you is a personal matter. There are no right or wrong answers. It all depends on your personal taste, the occasion you wish to taste it and even the period of the year. Nevertheless, let’s try the impossible, which is trying to bring you some inspiration by proposing my top 5 champagne bottles you should definitely try during the holiday season. Life is pretty tough right now, so we all deserve to treat ourselves with only the best.

1- Lelarge-Pugeot les Meuniers de Clémence extra brut 2013

Photo: Lelarge-Pugeot

The Lelarge-Pugeot family history in the wine business goes back to the 18th century, and since then, it has remained truthfully to the state of the art champagne know-how. Since 1990, they stopped using pesticides and herbicides in their domain, growing the wine plants in harmony with nature. Thanks to a much more respectful way of farming, grapes come in the winery at a higher sugar level, which allows the winery to produce a Coteaux Champenois Rouge, a still red Pinot noir. The history of this beautiful Champagne house is punctuated by hidden treasures you need to discover. In 2010, they bottled the first 100% Meunier (the ancestor grape of the region). In 2013 the first vintage of Blanc de Meunier was bottled. A white wine made from a red grape. Outstanding! And year after year, the Lelarge-Pugeot family produces true wonders in the world of Champagne.

This holiday season, I can only advise you to discover their Extra brut 2013. This is very much a rarity – a 100 per cent, hand-harvested Pinot Meunier wine. This champagne is made with minimum intervention to ensure the bottle’s purity of flavour and age. This is wonderfully balanced with intense, crisp, mineral, orchard fruit and citrus flavours and a fine and delicate mousse—a great wine for both an aperitif and fine seafood. Check the company website to learn more about this amazing Champagne house:

2- Dom Pérignon Vintage 2012: An explosive harmony

Photo: Dom Perignon

For Dom Pérignon, the blend is the main meeting place for winemaking with champagne. The creative gesture from the vineyard, through a search made of intuition and creation, will bring into play contrasts and paradoxes, oppositions and complementarities, and thus reveal the own truth of each vintage.

Dom Pérignon Vintage 2012 is a brilliant and unique illustration of this creative process. With heavy precipitation and hailstorms, summer heatwaves and a mild, dry fall heat, the unpredictable seasons of 2012, their strength and generosity have shaped an exceptional olfactory landscape imbued with remarkable variety.

The nose is full and changeable, mixing flowers with fruits then vegetal and mineral. The bouquet is tactile. Powdery white flowers with the sweetness of apricot and mirabelle plum. From the freshness of rhubarb and mint to the minerality of ash. White pepper. It is the energy that dominates in the mouth. After a welcoming opening, the wine vibrates quickly. The effervescence is revealed, the sensation is invigorating. Channelled by acids and bitter, the finish tightens. It leaves its mark: ginger, tobacco, roasted. Visit the brand website and discover amazing vintage champagnes:

3- Dom Ruinart Blanc des Blancs 2009: Heaven in a glass

For those who do not know, the label “Blanc de Blancs” designates champagne composed at 100% of Chardonnay, mainly harvested in a specific region of Champagne called “La Cote des Blancs”. These champagnes are recognisable by their aromas, recognizable by the colour of their pale yellow crystalline dress, especially when they are young. As the champagne ages, the colour takes on golden hues. Ruinart is the oldest established Champagne house, exclusively producing champagne since 1729.

Entirely composed of Chardonnay Grands Crus, 82% from the Côte des Blancs (Cramant, Avize, Chouilly & Le Mesnil-sur-Oger) and 18% from the northern slope of the Montagne de Reims (Sillery), the wine will wait nine years in the depths of the chalk pits of the Ruinart House, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While Dom Ruinart Blanc des Blancs is pretty subtle in the nose, you will be surprised by the explosion in the palate. Very fresh and fruity notes mixed with floral tones of citrus, nectarines and yellow plums. I personally see as well a small Lilly of the valley facet. Then, the olfactory story continues with several green notes and a precise spicy and woody structure. Chech the champagne house website for more information:

4- Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2013: Intense and precise

Photo: Louis Roederer

Jean Baptiste Recaillon, from Wine Cellar, said about this champagne: “Cristal rosé 2013 is as pure as nectar, a distillation of delicate perfumes with dense, concentrated aromas. Could it be perfection?” – Who am I to contradict Mr Recaillon?  This is, indeed, by far one of the best Rosés I have ever tasted in my life. It is definitely in my top 3.

Let’s remember that 2013 was a special year in the Champagne region. I was a particular late growing cycle. Winter was never-ending, and the wine plants started blossoming only in July! Fortunately, summer was glorious, which helped the ripening of Pinot noirs and Chardonnays. Late harvesting around a cold October brought freshness and elegance to the grapes. The Cristal Rosé 2013 is for sure a state of the art champagne.

The first immediate feeling you will get is a truly refined bouquet of fresh red fruits and citrus notes. The more you smell it, then you start hooking into fresh almonds, bread and spicy notes. Once you taste it, the story goes further into something more vertical and intense. The wine structure liberates a beautiful harmony thanks to the roundness and delicacy of its creamy bubbles. Check the Champagne house website for more information:

5- Philipponnat Clos de Goisses Juste Rosé 2006: Fine & Rare.

Photo: Philipponnat

Philipponnat crafts its wines using exclusively first press juice from the finest grapes, mainly from Premier and Grand Cru plots. It is committed to harvesting grapes when they reach greater maturity than the average in the Champagne wine-growing region. A portion of the wines is fermented or matured in casks, which is exceptional for Champagne; ageing in wood gives them greater complexity without coarsening them. 

Known for its focus on Pinot Noir, Phillipponat’s Juste Rosé hails from the house’s famed Clos des Goisses vineyard, celebrated for its wine’s concentration, power, and longevity.

Created by adding a small percentage of still Pinot to its Clos des Goisses blanc, a blend of 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chardonnay, barrel ageing adds texture and weight to its notes clementine, blood orange, papaya and hawthorn blossom. Please check the house official website for more information:

Many other beautiful bottles of champagne exist. This extraordinary know-how perpetuates a true love for the Champagne terroir and most of the times, there are outstanding talents working every single day to please your palate and surprise you at every glass you would taste. Cheers!

José Amorim
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