A few years ago I was in Bordeaux as Bastille Day was approaching, only to find the locals had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned it. “Oh, you mean July 14,” someone finally said, noting that’s how the French reference their national holiday.
We have 10 Champagnes for consideration here, mostly from brands you wouldn’t have heard about 10 years ago. The exception is our old friend Bollinger. One could do worse than being on a desert island with a few bottles of Bollinger R.D.
The elephant in the room is Armand de Brignac, the super-super “Ace of Spades” luxury brand created by Cattier and purportedly owned partially or wholly by Jay Z, its most-prominent fan. There is also an array from Besserat de Bellefon, a producer whose wines have been under-rated in the past, but a new friend that will be welcomed in the future.
But enough talk. Let’s gently pop the corks and, in unison, “Allons, enfants de la Patrie!”
Forget-Brimont Premier Cru Brut NV ($42). Rich and satisfying, with savory but also fresh flavors — yeasty with very mellow apple notes.
Besserat de Bellefon Blanc de Blanc Brut NV ($44). A touch of grapiness, rounded, but not full, with lingering notes of sweet apple.
Besserat de Bellefon “Cuvee des Moines” Brut NV ($48). Rich and satisfying, with tart apple flavor and a crisp, long finish.
Besserat de Bellefon “Cuvee des Moines” Extra Brut NV ($65). Rich and slightly tangy, with lots of “golden” flavors and hints of dried fruits and yeast.
Besserat de Bellefon Grand Cru Blanc de Noirs NV ($70). A tight, very focused wine with lots of apple flavors and considerable minerality.
Besserat de Bellefon Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc Brut NV ($70). Very satisfying — tart and tangy, with a mixture of tropical and citrus fruit flavors.
Bollinger Rosé NV ($70). A manly but nuanced wine, rich and full, with good balancing acidity and flavors of cherries — yes, cherries — and brioche.
Besserat de Bellefon “Cuvee des Moines” Brut 2006 ($72). A quite nice vintage sparkler with rich, golden, plump raisin notes —full-bodied with savory richness.
Michel Gonet “Prestige” Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru 2004 ($87). An absolutely fabulous sparkler — rich, complex, and long on the palate, with notes of apples, toast, and baking spices.
Armand de Brignac Demi-Sec ("Ace of Spades") NV ($332). A complex bubbly with flavors of mellow apples, yeast, light caramel, a little white melon, and even citrus — a wine that demands attention with its complexity, good acidity and mildly sweet, but not candied, finish.