The Dominion Post
Have a bubbly Christmas
Wine writer John Saker chooses your best Champagne options for a merry time this festive season, from the expensive to the very affordable.
France’s Champagne region is a land inhabited by giants and much smaller creatures. The two co-exist happily. They’re largely in good heart, thanks to the global popularity of their region’s singular sparkling wine.
But the giants (aka the ‘‘grandes marques’’) tend to hog the limelight. They are helped in this by the fact their oversized production volumes and marketing budgets are so often not to the detriment of quality.
They may be big, but many of them still make a mean glass of fizz.
Most of the little guys fall into the ‘‘grower Champagne’’ category. That means they grow their own fruit from vineyards they own, which they then make into Champagne and market themselves.
Harnessing their passion and inherent flexibility, a lot of these boutique outfits are doing interesting, experimental work, for example single variety, single vineyard Champagnes.
Being small, visibility can be a problem. You won’t see these wines being hosed around a Grand Prix dais, or being advertised on the glossy pages of Vanity Fair. They rely mostly on good reviews and the bush telegraph to get the word out.
Each year, more of these feisty little Champagne labels emerge from the behemoths’ shadows.
A number have become trendy brands to be seen with. They’re being recognised as a latter-day Champagne version of French new wave cinema.
More grower Champagnes are entering the New Zealand market. Glengarry brings in a few, as do a number of small importers. It was one of these smaller producers that took out the No 1 spot at my Christmas Champagne tasting.
My co-tasters – top Wellington sommeliers Maciej Zimny and JP Henderson – and myself, fell under the spell of the Marion Bosser Premier Cru Millesime Extra Brut 2008 the moment we tasted it.
As the tasting progressed, its stock rose. It finished at the head of the 46 Champagnes of different styles we tasted blind.
1 Champagne Marion Bosser Premier Cru Millesime Extra Brut 2008 $78.95
This 50/50 pinot noir and chardonnay blend offers all the poise and harmony you could want from a Champagne. Classic white flower and fresh linen notes, with some toasty oak complexity, are underpinned by fresh, lively acidity. Astute winemaking and a terrific fruit core come together in this subtle, sensational wine. Go direct to threefrenchvines.co.nz.
2 Drappier Carte d’Or Brut NV $45
This is a bold style, with smoky, soy and licorice characters writ large. It has a juicy fresh, persistent finish. A great match for glazed duck.