2014 Best Champagne

I normally resist choosing a Champagne in successive years, notwithstanding it must still be available today. But two wines were as irresistible as they are remarkable: the ’94 Dom Perignon and ’95 Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millenaires. While the prices at the top end may seem high, Grand Cru Burgundies from 2010 sell for up to $4000, making Grand Cru Champagnes twice their age (or more) selling for less than $300 cheap.

  • 46 wines submitted
  • 12 wines selected

Veuve Fourny Blanc de Blancs Brut Vertus Premier Cru NV

95 points, $65

Veuve Fourny is a small family-owned estate business offering great value for money. The (chardonnay) grapes come from several plots within the estate vineyard Les Mont-Ferrés; 25% fermented in barrel, 75% in tank. Three vintages plus older reserve wines spend 2½ years on tirage, with a low disgorgement dosage. A flowery bouquet with citrus zest, hints of spice and toast; a long, intense palate with some nutty/biscuit notes before a vivid, fresh finish. This is a lovely, lissom Blanc de Blancs.


Champagne Devaux Cuvee D NV

94 points, $69

Devaux is owned by 800 growers, with 1400ha of vineyards, giving it unsurpassed grape resources. This is a blend of 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay, not remarkable. What is remarkable is the reserve wine (40% of the total) provided by a perpetual solera commenced in 2002, and the five years on tirage. Small wonder there is a plethora of spiced, dried and fresh fruits, balance and freshness provided by a surge of citrussy acidity on the finish. And aftertaste.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV

94 points, $118

Billecart-Salmon has a disporoportionately large share (in comparison to its total production) of the Australian market, because Australian winemakers don't think twice if they want a rose to drink there and then: this is their universal choice. A blend of 40% chardonnay and 30% each of pinot noir and pinot meunier, a small part of the pinot noir was made as a red wine and added for colour. Pale salmon hue, it has a glorious infusion of strawberry, rose petals and cut pear in its bouquet and palate. The precise dosage engineers the long, cleansing finish.


Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2004

97 points, $140

I have long held the view that Pol Roger consistently offers the best value for money of all the great Champagne houses, the only agonising question was how to choose between this and the 2004 Vintage Brut. The Blanc de Blancs is 100% Cote des Blancs Grand Crus, and the wine spends nine years on tirage, with hand-riddling (almost extinct these days). Pale quartz-green, this sets the heart racing with its super-finely chiselled purity and elegance, flavours of citrus wrapped in a wedding veil of minerally acidity.


Dom Perignon Vintage 2004

98 points, $218

Little has changed since last year, except I have tasted – indeed drunk – it several times, and enjoyed its message more and more. It still sends shivers up my spine, shimmering in its purity and intensity, lemon citrus the first and last flavours, with nectarine, pear and spice on the mid-palate. For the record, it is 52% pinot noir and 48% chardonnay, and if properly cellared, has a 20-year life ahead. There will be late-disgorged releases over that period at far higher prices.


Piper Heidsieck Rare Millesime 2002

97 points, $230

This is only the eighth vintage since 1976, the smallest hit rate of any major Champagne house. It is a blend of 70% chardonnay and 30% pinot noir, extra time on cork post-disgorgement adding to the complexity – and harmony – of the marriage between the zesty grapefruit flavours of the chardonnay and layers of creamy/honeyed brioche ex the time on tirage and the pinot noir component. The farewell of lively acidity attests to the quality of the vintage.


Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2002

98 points, $295

A suitably monumental wine for a monumental man in most vintages, here scaling the peak of magnificence, the 14th release since 1975. It is predominantly pinot noir (Tom Stevenson speculates 70-80%), and is 100% Grand Cru. Straw-coloured, it brings another dimension of flavour, texture, length and depth into play; still tightly wound up after 10 years on tirage, fruit, honey and citrussy acidity are folded together in perfect balance. If you want to cellar one of the greatest champagnes of the present day, this should be a the head of your shopping list.


Krug Grande Cuvée NV

98 points, $299

The ID number on the back label (here 412050) guides you to the history of this exact wine, disgorged late 2012. It is composed of 134 parcels from 12 vintages spread between 1990 and 2005, 44% pinot noir, 37% chardonnay and 1% pinot meunier – the last always part of Krug, whether NV or vintage. Sheer, absolute perfection, elegance and complexity equally important, flavours ranging from white fruits to nougat cream, exotic spices, toast and brioche. It is the very essence of Champagne, its greatest non-vintage wine.


Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995

98 points, $320

Yes, I marvelled at the continuing availability of this wine in last year’s Top 100, changing to disbelief this year. Yet there aren’t any tricks other than the perpetual youth of the wine, not released until 2010. It has a stunningly complex, gloriously rich, almost unctuous, mid-palate, yet steps up a gear with the twist of citrus peel on the finish before the lingering aftertaste takes you back over all that has gone before. If you question the perpetual youth of the wine, try to find the Blanc des Millenairs 1983, released after 30 years’ maturation.


Veuve Clicquot Cave Privée Blanc 1989

96 points, $339

Veuve Clicquot has always laid down a portion of each vintage wine for its late-disgorgement programme, but hasn’t released much (if any) here, certainly, I haven’t previously tasted one. It is a 67% pinot noir, 33% chardonnay that spent 21 years on tirage, and Veuve says that it has 20 more years in front of it. I don’t know about that, but its honey, toast and dried fruits are counterbalanced by the surge of acidity on the long finish and aftertaste, providing the all-important balance and length.


Louis Roederer Cristal 2006

97 points, $375

Three different versions of the blend (all emanating from Roederer) stipulate 62%, 60% or 55% pinot noir, the remainder chardonnay. Part barrel (20%) fermentation adds to the complexity of the base wine, the crisp finish reflecting the high acidity of the vintage, and the suppression of any malolactic fermentation. It is a wine with aromas of spring/white flowers, even a hint of honeysuckle, then a supple, silky and graceful palate, at once creamy and fruity. It effortlessly stamps its impact through its sheer length, and long-lingering aftertaste.


Bollinger R.D. 2002

98 points, $380

A great wine whenever made and released, but few better than '02, appropriate given it marks the 50th birthday of RD (the first '52). It has the two outstanding features of R.D.: complexity and freshness. Pale gold, the bouquet is a cascade of honeyed brioche, spice and exotic fruits, the palate extraordinarily powerful, and staggeringly long, lemon citrus and minerally acidity providing the freshness. Bollinger has remained tightly family owned, but able to match the frenzy of expenditure on press houses and fermentation cellars of the region’s best producers.


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