Top 10 Dry Champagnes
Most of the famous names in Champagne are “houses” that buy grapes from dozens or even hundreds of small farmers throughout the region. Some are huge (Moët & Chandon, for instance, makes millions of bottles a year) and some are quite small, but the overall approach remains consistent. And because the winemaker (or chef de cave) doesn’t rely on a single vineyard, it’s easier to fashion a wine that consistently expresses a house style year in and year out—something particularly important for dry (brut) nonvintage blends, like the 10 spectacular bottles above.
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve
Although the name suggests one man is behind this house, in actuality Feuillatte is a union of over 5,000 individual family growers. Its immense scale is one reason this delicious, chalky cuvée can maintain such a modest price.
BUY IT: $35; wine.com
The key thing to know about Delamotte is that it’s the sister house to the wildly expensive, super-limited Champagne Salon. But while it shares similarities—Chardonnay from grand cru vineyards makes up the core of its wines, which are impeccable—it’s far more affordable.
BUY IT: $44; wine.com
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve
This formerly sleepy house re-created (and enriched) its basic nonvintage blend several years ago, partly by upping the age of the reserve wine (most NV Champagnes are a blend of the current year with older ones). It’s a standout in a full-bodied, creamy style.
BUY IT: $70; wine.com
Great Champagne producers tend to have a house style, a sort of signature or character present through all their wines. Brut La Française is a spot-on example: If you like its delicate flavors and citrus notes, you’ll probably like everything that Taittinger makes.
BUY IT: $50; wine.com
Philipponnat Royale Réserve Brut
The single-vineyard Clos des Goisses from Philipponnat is the kind of rare wine that collectors lust for. But the house’s minerally, seashell-scented Royale Réserve is impressively complex and subtle, too; it’s also a lot easier to track down.
BUY IT: $50; wine.com
Duval-Leroy Premier Cru Brut
This smaller house shines not just for its quality, but also for the fact that both its owner and winemaker are women—unique within the region of Champagne. Duval’s basic cuvée, earthy and pear-scented, is impossible to resist.
BUY IT: $59; wine.com
Ruinart Blanc De Blancs Brut
Ruinart concentrates on Chardonnay—hence this flagship bottling, gorgeously balanced and made with 100 percent Chardonnay (as all Blanc de Blancs Champagnes are; those made with 100 percent Pinot are called Blanc de Noirs).
BUY IT: $80; wine.com
Bollinger Special Cuvée
Full-bodied, luscious and almost chewy, Bollinger’s intro-level bottling could be the definition of a house style that’s rich rather than delicate. Partly this is due to a high percentage of Pinot Noir in the blend; partly it’s because a portion of the wine is initially barrel-fermented, which adds texture.
BUY IT: $60; wine.com
Krug Grande Cuvée Brut
Krug’s legendary Grande Cuvée isn’t exactly a nonvintage brut like the rest of these wines. Instead, it’s a blend of over 100 different wines aged for as long as 10 years, extraordinarily complex and lasting. If you need a splurge gift for the season, this one is it.
BUY IT: $190; wine.com
Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve "Red"
This holiday season, Billecart is donating $5 from every sale of this special-label edition of its floral Brut Réserve to RED, an international charity that helps fight the spread of AIDS throughout Africa.
BUT IT $48; sherry-lehmann.com