Festivities and champagne form an inseparable pair. Sebastien Laderman reviews a few prime European champagnes for Switzerland’s Bilan.ch.
Whether sparkling wine or “mousseux,” it hardly matters. When it comes to champagne, the benefit of a worldwide protected designation of origin serves as a reference. Supreme incarnation of a certain idea of luxury, champagne saw its overall production grow beyond reason, with its image insuring the sale of products increasingly standardized, and ultimately trivialized. Some may even go as far as to claim that the champagne is now desecrated.
Yet there are excellent examples from the northernmost lands of France that showcase exceptional vintages in compliance with a rich but challenging tradition. Here are three of the better vintages.
Salon Brut blanc de blancs 2002
Tip: One of the greatest champagnes produced only during exceptional vintages (37 wines in a hundred years).
Obrecht Brut. Grapes: pinot noir, pinot meunier, syrah. Dosage: extrabrut. Note: located not far from Landquart in Grisons.
Gosset Celebris Vintage 2002 Extra Brut
Gosset Celebris Vintage 2002 Extra Brut. Grapes: 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir. Dosage: extrabrut. Notes: Gosset, which dates back to 1584, is the oldest Champagne house wine.
Outside the Champagne region but still in France, it is worth mentioning wines that do not carry the famous name but -- coming from regions with an historical know-how in this field -- offer beautiful and sparkling alternatives: Crémant de Limoux (Domaine Les Highlands), Alsace , Jura, Saumur (Rocks Newly--Domain) and the sparkling wines of Vouvray. The best of them combine the highest quality at a reasonable price, with lots of fruit and immediacy.
Further even, Italy (Sorelle Bronca), England (Nyetimber Vineyard Camel Valley), Australia (House of Arras Tasmania) and the USA (Roederer Estate, Domaine Chandon, Schramsberg) offer enough value to attract the attention of fans seeking quality bubble in new horizons.
Many Swiss producers also offer interesting alternatives, such as sparkling wines produced the traditional way, with bottle fermentation.
For those who are not big fans of the bubbly and have more “traditional” tastes, there are numerous high-quality, hand-crafted spirits distillers around the world. In the United States, for example, Portland Oregon based Eastside Distilling produces a quality lineup of labels from natural ingredients in small batches for unparalleled quality and taste.
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