"I spent the better part of this year, and many previous, convincing folks about the rare qualities of Champagne-and all sparkling wines, in relation to general application at the table, ease of use, and selfless joy these wines bring forth. But here at year end, with ersatz normalcy, we celebrate. And here is where we're all on the same page. These wines ARE celebratory and scene setting while also delicious, sincere, inscrutable and well... Instagrammable.
There is a veritable sea of well-made, focused and specific sparkling wine from around the world. From French Cramants to Spanish Cavas to German Sekts, English Sparklers, Italian Spumantes and Pet Nats from everywhere, we have plenty to choose from.
However, there is all of that, and then there's Champagne. Nowhere else does sparkling wine reach its apotheosis. The confluence of grape varieties, climate, soil, exposition, history and know-how is unmatched anywhere in the world. Champagne can be intricate, layered and surprising, with juxtaposed opposites being ethereally close to one's inner workings, or simply straightforward, honest and delicious. Under any guise, these wines, more than others, are meant to be enjoyed in company, at occasions happy and not, always portending something better ahead. That's how I look at it anyway. I hope you do too.
The following are two of my favorites. One, an unknown sleeper hit, the other almost at cult status. They are both delicious and represent what champagne historically was and also what it can be in the future."
Caillez Lemaire Eclats Extra-Brut
Broad and expansive with a richness and gravity rarely seen in like-minded juice. Brioche, honeycomb, lime zest, baked pears and vanilla all work in unison and highlight the power and precision of ripe and well grown fruit.
Vinified mostly in oak this represents an uber classic style. All three Champagne grapes are utilized with chardonnay occupying half the blend with the Pinots Noir and Mounier equally splitting the remaining portion. The oak is integrated and acts as a frame in which all flavors find their proper focus.
This is a Vinous being, almost reminiscent of Burgundy but Champenois to the core. Warming, rich, and spicy...there's a comfort here that is always pleasant, especially if you're with family this holiday season.
Chartogne-Taillet "Le Rosé" Brut
Is there any wine anywhere that combines joie de vivre with elevated excellence than a properly made rosé champagne? This one is my absolute favorite. While the house excels at expressing the nuances of their various plots of land, this wine is a testament to the art of blending.
60 percent chardonnay and 40 percent pinot noir, with 8 percent of the pinot being still red wine, there is much to unpack here but it's all besides the point.
It's eerily delicious, almost hauntingly so. Smoked raspberries, almond skin, herbs, cooling spices, red apple skin, earth, mineral richness with a fine mousse, it's striking in its immediacy and tension while retaining a composure that speaks of lofty breeding.