James Halliday's Top 100 wines of 2021

Top Champagne

James Halliday by James Halliday

20 Nov, 2021

Champagne shouldn’t be reserved for special occasions – especially when priced like this year's selections. These exceptional examples represent some truly outstanding styles.

"Given the world-wide demand for top-quality wine exceeding supply, it’s a break for consumers to find half the Champagnes on offer for less than $100. Try to buy a half-decent Burgundy for $100 and you’ll come away empty-handed. But gather the rosebuds while ye may: official news from Champagne for this year’s vintage is a harvest down 36 per cent on last year."

The following wines were chosen from a total 54 submitted.

Champagne bottles

NV Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut
Full straw-green; fresh and lively, though the colour suggests some time in bottle (post disgorgement). Impressive palate length and composition, grapefruit and apple dominant; crisp acidity makes light of the 9g/l dosage; 50/30/20% pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. Base wine vintage ’17; 20% reserve wines from the preceding 5 vintages, disgorged October ’20.
91 points | $60 | 12% | Robert Oatley 

NV Champagne Ayala Brut Majeur 
Toasty, wild flower aromas; a particularly complex palate, in both texture and flavour; ripe Meyer lemon/white peach ex chardonnay; toast and brioche ex pinot noir/pinot meunier. 45/35/20% chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier; average 3 years on lees, disgorged October ’20, 7g/l dosage. An old house that came in from the cold when acquired by Bollinger in ’05.
91 points | $70 | 12% | House of Fine Wine 

NV Champagne Vve Fourny & Fils Blanc de Blancs Vertus Brut Premier Cru 
As ever, one of my favourite – indeed most favourite – budget-priced champagnes. The flavours of ripe white peach, grapefruit and fig and brioche follow on the lead of the bouquet, and do not waver on the long finish and lingering aftertaste. 100% chardonnay, ’17 base year, 20% reserve from 3 consecutive vintages; disgorged February ’21, 5g/l dosage.
93 points | $80 | 12% | De Bortoli Wines 

NV Champagne Taittinger Brut Réserve  
Particularly well balanced; a mix of white fruits, flowers and honey on the one hand; red fruits and spice on the other; a very consistent NV, noted for its freshness. Great by the glass. 40/35/25% chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier; base year ’17, 30% from reserve wine, held on lees for 3 years; disgorged August ’20, 9g/l dosage.
92 points | $82 | 12.5% | Mezzanine Wines

NV Champagne Franck Bonville Grand Cru Rosé  
A rare combination of grand cru chardonnay and grand cru pinot noir, the latter coming through with an unexpectedly powerful rip of red cherries, yet in no way obscuring the 90% white flowers and honey ex the chardonnay. Great value. 90%  chardonnay from Avize, 10% pinot noir red wine from Ambonnay, made by Paul Déthune; disgorged July ’20; 6.6g/l dosage.
93 points | $85 | 12.5% | Howard Park

NV Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvee 
Spectacularly complex ‘Poor Man's Krug’, a Catherine Wheel of spice and apple aromas and flavours; superb structure and imposing length. Surely the greatest value champagne of all. More than 300 parcels from more than 85% grand crus and premier crus, 15% of the base wine fermented in old barrels; 60/25/15% pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.
96 points | $90 | 12.5% | House of Fine Wine 

Champagne bottles

2013 Champagne Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Extra Brut 
Vintage dated wines account for just 1% of the annual production of Moët & Chandon. Well made wine; very good vintage, noted for its acidity, well above the 10-year average, and reflected in the white grapefruit bite on the finish. 41/38/21% chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier; 6 years on lees; dosage 5g/l; disgorged September ’19.
92 points | $110 | 12.5% | Moët-Hennessy 

NV Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rosé Brut 
100% pinot noir; 10 crus; 50/50% base year/previous vintage; 5 years on lees; 8g/l dosage. The unique vinification of the base wine in oak sees destemmed grapes macerated fro 48 to 72 hours, and fermentation of virtually free run juice. The result is a pale salmon hue, aromas of rose petals and spices and a supple palate driven by red berries and cherry, and a crisp, clean finish.
95 points | $130 | 12% | Nelson Wines

NV Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois 
The complex bouquet reflects the primary fermentation in oak casks; the palate no less so thanks to the quality of the premier and grand cru reserves, also matured in oak. But it’s all a question of degree; there’s a core of citrussy acidity underwriting the freshness and length of the wine. 7 years on lees; disgorged December ’20, 7g/l dosage.  
95 points | $160 | 12% | Domaine Wine Shippers  

NV Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée  
What can one say? Magnificent; all this power with all this finesse, elegance and freshness, from the first whiff to the aftertaste. Apple, grapefruit blossom, dried and fresh fruits and spicy pastry. One glass is never enough, with or without food. 169ème Édition; 146 wines, 11 different years ’00-’13; 43/35/22% pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.
99 points | $329 | 12.5% | Moët-Hennessy 

2012 Champagne Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Yayoi Kusama  
Lightness and freshness are the immediate reaction; then purity; then pink and white grapefruit on a palate of exceptional length, reflecting a vintage saved by the last weeks up to harvest. 90/10% pinot noir and chardonnay, largely grand cru. FYI Madame Kusama is Japanese artist.
97 points | $330 | 12.5% | Moët-Hennessy 

2013 Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal
Sheer, frightening intensity; pure unsweetened citrus. It’s a wine notorious for improving on cork in the years following release, but this will take longer than most. 100% estate-grown, 60/40% chardonnay and pinot noir, one-third each Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côtes des Blancs; 6 years on lees, disgorged September ’20.
98 points | $475 | 12%| Red and White 


Full list of Top 100 wines.

James Halliday’s Top 100 features in The Weekend Australian Magazine on November 20. 

Some wines in this year's selection also feature on this site with notes by other Tasting Team members, as reviewed for Halliday Wine Companion