Exploring K&L’s Champagnes

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-04-2011

Everyone has heard of Dom Perignon and Cristal, but not many of us are willing to drop $200 on a bottle of Champagne. Last Sunday, K&L Wines held its annual Champagne tent tasting, featuring a wide range of prices and styles.

I’d never had the chance to try most of the high-end cuvees, so I decided to try the big-name Champagnes and then find a reasonably priced alternative in the same style.

There were four of these “luxury” wines available to taste when I was there – and below the fold, I’ve done my best to explain their style as well as a reasonably priced alternative for a similar experience.

1999 Salon – $299: Salon is a vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagne, and 1999 is the most recent release. The wine is dry and crisp, and I’ve never craved shellfish as badly as I did after sipping this, that is until I tried the “3210” Extra Brut by Philippe Gonet for just $42. Three vintages, two vineyards, one grape (Chardonnay), zero sugar at dosage. Both wines are spectacular, but it’s hard to justify the extra money for the Salon.

2002 Dom Perignon – $139: This was my first taste of Dom Perignon. The wine is definitely on the toasty side of Champagne, and it screams deliciousness, but a very similar experience can be had for one quarter the price with the Taittinger “La Francaise” NV Brut for $35. Where the “3210” is a geeky Champagne, this one is definitely a crowd-pleaser.

2004 Louis Roederer Cristal – $199: I wasn’t sure what to expect from Cristal with its recent pop culture associations, but the finish is like candy flowers and I immediately saw the obvious appeal of the wine. Even more appealing to my palate, however, is the Ruinart NV Blanc de Blancs for $60. I’d drink this every morning, afternoon, and night, and never want anything else in life. It’s that good, and it’s worth every penny.

1999 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill – $189: This is the only of the Champagnes I had tasted before, and it remains my favorite. The wine has a nutty, toasty, spicy complexity that I’ve rarely encountered and is hard to replace. For anyone looking for something truly special for the requisite holiday Champagne consumption this will be my recommendation. Pol Roger’s “White Foil” Brut – $39 – is a worthwhile substitute, but doesn’t come close to the awe that the Winston Churchill delivers.

Thanks to K&L for putting on this great tasting — I’ve gotten a head start on my winter Champagne stocking and I hope some of these wines find their way into your cellar (or wine fridge, in my case) as well.

John Maynard Keynes once famously said, “My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink enough Champagne.” I plan to instead to only regret drinking too much of it the night before.

Comments (5)

  1. I’m really surprised you compare the 2002 Dom Perignon to the N.V. Taittinger Champagne La Française Brut. In my experience, the 2002 DP has shown incredibly young, energetic and powerful while the Taittinger has a relatively simple, laid back style.

    Enjoyed your notes and glad you were able to attend – it’s an event that I’ve wanted to go to for some time now.

  2. Drink Grower Champagne Recoltant Manipulant

  3. I don’t know if they were pouring it but the closest I’ve come to the vintage Salon is the NV Delamotte. Pretty darned similar!

  4. Great post! I started drinking sparklers on a weekly basis earlier this year. I’ve learned they are great food wines,and I now look forward to enjoying them regularly…not just a hand-full of time a year!

  5. Alex, they were pouring the Delamotte – essentially their vintage Blanc de Blancs is declassified Salon so it is a great replacement, and their NV Brut was one of the best sub $40 wines in the lineup. It’d be too easy to recommend a wine by the same producer though!