Need a last minute winning fizz? MARY DOWEY has quite the selection of her FIVE MOST STYLISH CHAMPAGNES of the year …
No drink is half as festive as top-notch champagne. Nor half as useful around this time of year – for Christmas Day, or New Year’s Eve, or as a gorgeous, generous gift. Have you bought yours yet? I’ve written a good deal recently about inside-track champagnes from smallish producers, but last-minute shoppers may not have time to seek them out. Instead, you’ll want to make a quick dash to the nearest wine shop and grab a ritzy bottle that’s reliable.
Here come five big-name champagnes, all long-standing favourites of mine, that should be easy to track down. They are all non-vintage but don’t let that put you off: better by far an NV champagne of the highest quality than a vintage version from a less impressive house. Special offers running at the moment may shave away quite a chunk of the recommended retail prices quoted.
1. First, Bollinger Special Cuvée (€65), a splendid champagne that has maintained its fine reputation decade after decade through a rigorous approach to every aspect of production. The Bollinger style is super-rich with toasty, savoury notes and a lingering, almost salty finish. It’s especially delicious with smoked salmon, but if that’s out of the question serve it with cheese puffs or cheese straws. It needs to lean its weighty body up against a little bit of food.
2. Next, Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve (€65), another finely judged, full-bodied, food-friendly champagne with glorious depth of flavour. It’s a pleasure to see the Charles Heidsieck name, once popular in Ireland and then missing for a while, back here on form in such a memorable way.
3. I’ve always loved Pol Roger Brut Réserve (€55), often referred to as White Foil because of its white neck collar. Its hallmark is reviving freshness built into a creamy, biscuity body, carrying all the way through to a lipsmacking finish. PR is the perfect pre-lunch pick-me-up (especially after a late night), but slips down with graceful ease at any time. Louis Roederer Brut Premier (about €60) is another beautifully poised middleweight with a refreshing vein of citrus running down its spine.
4. Finally a more delicate champagne, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs (€80) – finely textured, precise and exhilarating, making it a dream aperitif. Having re-sampled all five of these beauties at an autumn tasting of the Champagne Academy, I can promise you that my impressions of them are bang up to date.
5. Going back to small-scale, inside-track bubbles just briefly, my most exciting pre-Christmas discovery has been Champagne Larmandier-Bernier. Working biodynamically since 1999, fastidious producers Sophie and Pierre Larmandier hand-craft champagnes with exquisitely pure, vibrant flavours – every one a treat (€59.50-€89.50). You’ll find them at Terroirs, Donnybrook, Dublin 4 (which, by the way, stays open until 7pm on Christmas Eve).
Mary Dowey @MaryDowey
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