Of the many things I've had to celebrate this year, one is having been able to drink some excellent Champagnes in high-falutin’ places — Krug at its Reims with headquarters with Olivier Krug and his cellar team, and the new Rothschild line in New York with director Philippe de Sereys de Rothschild over breakfast at the St. Regis. So if you’re looking for something extravagant and delicious to drink this New Year’s holiday, read on, then grab some of these bottles and call out the pop-arazzi!
A Krug Solo. Krug does not truly have an entry level Champagne, but it does have the multi-vintage Krug Grande Cuvée Brut, its only non-vintage bubbly that most houses would love to have as their tête de cuvée. The two words that best describe GC are “richness” and “elegance,” because there are flavors of fresh and dried fruits, marzipan and toasted almonds matched with a firm, long structure that continues the taste so that you are still enjoying it even between sips.
Verdict: If this is your introduction to fine Champagne, it’s like having your first date with Charlize Theron (about $150).
A Laurent-Perrier Duo. L-P may not be in the same price category as Krug and Rothschild, but it is a well-respected upper-case Champagne. Perhaps we can consider it a great sorbet between courses. The 2002 Laurent-Perrier vintage is a lovely, lively wine with haunting fruit aromas. On tasting, it reminds the palate of a liquid lemon pastry (citrus and brioche), and it is still somewhat tight, adding to its refreshing finish. By contrast, the Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosé is more about the present and a few remembrances of things past — beautiful, dried apricots with a touch of cream, yet not a lot of acidity or a compelling length.
Verdict:Go for the Rosé is you’re having a short and cozy evening, but latch on to the 2002 vintage if you’re planning to party well into the 2012 morning. ($50 for the vintage, $70 for the rosy.)
A Rothschild Trio. It’s fitting that the Rothschild family’s first joint venture of its three branches (Châteaux Mouton, Lafite, and Clarke represent each) is Champagne and features three non-vintages. A vintage may come later, but for the present, there are three stellar non-vintages that have just been launched in the U.S. — so you may have to do some hunting to find them. The NV Rothschild Brut is well-rounded with a touch of toastiness, lingering apple flavors and good minerality. The Rothschild Blanc de Blancs is fresher, cleaner and more-elegant, while the Rothschild Rosé is fuller with a touch of gaminess.
Verdict: These three Rothschild NVs provide a great check for choosing your own dominant Champagne preference – rich and toasty, lean and elegant, or a bit boisterous – but all from a good family. (All about $125.)