My interest in good and great bubbly is well known, so there are some crackers in my Top 10 Fizz this year. It’s dominated by Champagnes, which reflects both my preferences and the wines that I’ve been able to taste in the last year or so – but try as many as you can and make your mind up for yourself:
10. Champagne Beaumont des Crayères Fleur Blanche 2009
12.0%, RRP €47.00. Distributed by O’Briens.
Co-operative Beaumont des Crayères’ regular bottle is their Grande Réserve NV which is a very acceptable bottle itself, but this vintage Blanc de Blancs is a whole new level. For non-francophones, the name “Fleur Blanche” simply translates as “White Flower” which both hints at its composition and evokes its aromas. The palate shows evidence of extended lees ageing with lovely toasted brioche topped by citrus and stone fruit. 2009 is a very good vintage so this is something that you could lay down and enjoy a bottle every so often over the next decade.
9. Champagne Laherte Frères Extra Brut “Ultradition” NV
12.5%, RRP €53.00. Distributed by GrapeCircus. Also see related article here.
This Champagne is part of the Pinot Meunier comeback (more on which later) – the region’s third grape variety is somewhat unloved as it doesn’t have the cachet of the big two – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – nor, according to many, the same ageing potential. However, Meunier has plenty of character of its own which can really shine through when it’s done properly as in the hands of the Laherte brothers. The nose evokes flowers but the palate has both red and citrus fruit plus some nice leesy notes.
8. Champagne Leclerc-Briant Brut Réserve NV
12.0%, RRP €62.00. Distributed by Nomad Wines. Also see related article here.
Another Meunier dominated non vintage Champagne with an extra brut dosage, this is a lively, fruity little number that tastes fresh rather than dry – it has lots of red fruit but they tend towards redcurrant and even cranberry, a sign of zippy acidity. Depending on your personal preferences, this could be laid down for several years for it to round out and develop more complexity with bottle age – or just enjoy right now!
7. Champagne Salon Cuvée “S” Le Mesnil 2007
12.0%, RRP €530. Distributed by Pembroke Wines.
Salon is something of a legend in Champagne circles, but amongst regular and even enthusiast wine drinkers it is not well known – mainly down to the very small production volumes and minimal advertising (oh yes, and the price). All the grapes are sourced from one of the Côte des Blancs’ best Grand Cru villages, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. It’s a special enough place that master blenders Krug released their first single vineyard Champagne from there: Krug Clos Le Mesnil. Salon only produce a single, vintage wine and then only in very good years; 2007 is only the 38th release since the first in 1921, and the 2008 is only going to be released in magnum format (form an orderly queue please). So how is the 2007? Intense, bready, taut, young…almost raw in fact. But the inherent splendour can be guessed at – if you are prepared to wait a while then break open the piggy bank and stash a bottle or two.
6. Arcari + Danesi Franciacorta “Dosaggio Zero” 2013
12.5%, RRP €60. Distributed by GrapeCircus. Also see related article here.
This is the best Franciacorta I have tasted by a country mile. It has no dosage but doesn’t need one – there’s loads of juicy fruit sweetness without any extra sugar. Talking of which, Arcari + Danesi don’t even use sugar or the second alcoholic fermentation, but rather grape juice from their own harvest. If you’ve been underwhelmed by the Franciacortas available where you are (and I was) then this shows you how good they can be.
5. Nyetimber Classic Cuvée MV
12.5%, RRP €61.99. Distributed by Liberty Ireland. Also see related article here.
More and more English sparkling wines are coming to the market each year and the overall quality keeps getting higher, but for me Nyetimber are still top of the pops. So how do they stay ahead of the chasing pack? A relentless drive to improve has made their Classic Cuvée better with each subsequent release. Is there a ceiling? I don’t know, but it will be fun finding out!
4. Champagne Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis NV
12.0%, RRP £125.00 (magnum). Distributed in the UK by The Wine Society.
Alfred Gratien doesn’t receive the kudos that some of the big houses do, but their no-nonsense Champagnes have plenty of fans. This is a magnum of their top offering; with several years post-disgorgement it’s on the mature side (which is a good thing) but has plenty of years left (also a good thing). I’ve tried it twice in the past 18 months and it was even better the second time. If you can get your hands on some, do!
3. Champagne Gosset Grand Millésime 2004
12.0%, RRP €95. Distributed in Ireland by Mackenway and in the UK by BBR.
The oldest extant Champagne house, Gosset was founded in 1584 – before Champagne wines were even sparkling. They have a fantastic range, with the Petite Douceur Extra Dry Rosé and Blanc de Blancs also being big favourites of mine. I’ve been lucky to try the Grand Millésime 2004 several times recently and it’s truly magnificent – such finesse and complexity. It’s even found a fan in my dad who doesn’t normally bother with anything sparkling. The blend is 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, neither of which go through malolactic fermentation, preserving freshness. A minimum of six years’ ageing on lees before disgorgement is not as long as some prestige cuvées but helps to generate lots of interesting creamy, nutty and fruity notes. A real treat!
2. Champagne R&L Legras Cuvée Exceptionelle Saint-Vincent 1996
12.0%. Distributed in the UK by BBR. Also see related article here.
While this is also a treat, it’s not for everyone as it is quite mature in style (apparently, some people don’t like mature Champagne – what gives?). But I bloody love it! From the village of Chouilly, this is 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay. Quite tight and structured on release, a dozen or so additional years of bottle ageing have added layers of spice and baked apple onto the citrus and brioche framework. This is mature but far from tired, so don’t be in a hurry to drink it.
1. Champagne Dom Pérignon P2 2000
12.5%, RRP €420. Distributed in Ireland by Edward Dillon; retailed by SIYPS.
Even people quite familiar with Dom Pérignon – it is the best selling luxury cuvée, after all – might not be aware of the house’s P2 and P3 Oenothèque releases. The “standard” or “regular” (how inadequate those words sound!) Dom Pérignon 2000 was released in 2008 after disgorgement the previous year, so after six or so years on the lees. Some of the wines were held back and aged on lees for an additional nine years, apparently the wine’s second peak (or “Plenitude“). The result is not just more autolytic notes, but it’s a turbocharged Dom Pérignon, with nuts, cream, coffee, honey….the list goes on, as it stands as one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted (of any type). Yes, it’s just over double the price of the current release of DP, (around €200) but it’s not that much more than the DP Rosé which I think it is far better than. If you get chance to taste this, you must.
The Frankly Wines 2019 Top 10s:
- Top 10 Whites
- Top 10 Fizz
- Top 10 Reds
- Top 10 Sweet
- Top 10 Value Whites
- Top 10 Value Reds
- Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Ireland
- Top 10 Alsace wines tasted in Alsace