(2019) Brut Réserve is hte cornerstone of Taittinger's extremely impressive portfolio: indeed the selection of Grande Marque Champagnes featured in this report includes many of the best and most reliable 'standard' Brut wines from the major houses, and that certainly includes Taittinger. It's also widely available in supermakets and indepedent merchants, and for Christmas many have offers on, bringing the price down to around £27/£28 which is an excellent price for the quality. It's an approachable and crowd-pleasing style with its upfront, fragrant aromas of peachy fruitiness, floral notes and biscuit, the 40% Chardonnay and three years on the lees enhancing that (also 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier). The palate is on the sumptuous side, expansive and creamy, a level of sweetness making it feel rather luxurious, thought that's not at the expensive of excellent acidity and clarity in the finish. On offer in Ocado until the 2nd January 2020, but use the wine-searcher link for many other stockists and plenty of festive discount prices.
(2019) Arlaux is a Champagne grower, the family having farmed only Premier Cru vineyards in the Montagne de Reims since 1852. The Grande Cuvée spends a full three years on the lees (this bottle disgorged 3rd July 2017 according to the label), and is a blend of the three Champagne grapes. It is immediately appealing, the toast and depth of nutty autolysis melting into a deep orange fruitiness, a little spice and the zest of lemon completing a very alluring picture. The palate does not disappoint, both ripe and relatively full-bodied, creamy and toasty depths of flavour shot through with fine salt and lime freshness of acidity. Long and very beautifully balanced, this is my first experience of Alaux, and most impressive it is too.
(2019) From a fantastic vintage, the Chardonnays for this wine are sourced from villages of the Côte des Blancs, Sézannais, Montgueux and Montagne de Reims. It was aged for eight years in bottle and has a dosage of around 8g/l, so towards the drier end of the Brut scale. The pale gold colour also shows plenty of tiny bubbles, and the nose has biscuit and pastry, and a delicate yeastiness to baked apple pie fruit. There's a lighter touch of floral character in there too. In the mouth it is racy and long, a really good, elegant and dry core of white fruits, a roundness and hint of richness and a long, shimmering finish. A lovely 2008. Apparently this is also in John Lewis in a fancy neoprene carry-bag, but at time of review I saw only the straight vintage (not Blanc de Blancs) on the JL website.
(2019) A terrific traditional method sparkling wine from the organic and biodynamic estate of Dirler-Cadé. The blend is 45% Pinot Gris, 35% Auxerrois and 20% Pinot Noir, in a 'zero dosage' wine with a negligible 0.9 g/l of residual sugar. It is immediately sheer and glacial, the cool, crisp fruits on the nose joined by subtle nuances of nettles and herbs, a tiny hint of the yeasty character from its time on the lees. In the mouth it is intense and invigorating, not at all tart of mean, but just riven with it zippy acidity and bold fruit concentration.
(2019) From a house on the up, its wines much improved over the last decade or so, this is a Chardonnay-dominated cuvée (50%), and has around 30% of reserve wines in the blend. That along with extended ageing for three years on the lees does nothing to blunt the wine's vivacious fruitiness and freshness, but adds enough biscuit and brioche to be truly satisfying. Nicely balanced in the mouth between nutty dryness (less than 8g/l dosage) and zipping citrus fruit and acidity, it's a dependable and widely available Champagne, so there will deals around.
(2019) Made from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and aged on the lees in bottle for 11 months before release, there's an attractive peachy-pink hue here, and good moderately small bubbles. On the nose some hawthorne and blackcurrant and a pastille/confectionery brightness. In the mouth there's a flattering sweetness to this, emphasised by its relatively soft acidity that gives it copious easy-drinking, summery charm. Down to just over £10 at time of review, that's the target price for this excellent party fizz.
(2019) I have a soft spot for this wine, first tasted just after visiting Masi's lovely properties in the north of Italy, and seeing the drying lofts where grapes are dried for their Amarone and other wines. This is a blend of Verduzzo and Pinot Grigio, the Verduzzo having been dried, and though made by the Prosecco method it ends up tasting really quite different, much more herbal and slightly 'wild' character, less pristine and less simple than most Proseccos, some concentration and pithy lemon acidity giving a bit of weight and seriousness.
(2019) For me one of the absolute 'banker' Grand Marque Champagnes, of excellent quality and yet widely available and often on discount. Shop around to find it for £23-£25, and that's exceptional value. It's £23 in Tesco until 18/12/2019. It's a superbly refined blend of mostly black grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with 15% - 20% of Chardonnay and 9 - 10g/l of dosage. Around 10% -20% reserve wines give depth and a certain biscuity richness, but it is a direct, focused wine with wonderfully clear fresh-cut pear fruit quality and pristine acidity. There is nuttiness and a fine line of smokiness into a long tapering finish that is very elegant, classy, but also fruity and terribly easy to drink.
(2019) Fabulous and a bit of a rarity, I confess this bottle came from my own collection where it had been cellared for five or six years, so although bottles on sale now will have a more youthful character, I couldn't help but include it in this round up. Krug Rosé is a blend of the three main Champagne varieties, from a wide range of years with a high proportion of reserve wines, and it is an 'assemblage', made by blending still Pinot Noir before at least five years ageing in bottle at Krug’s cellars. It has a moderately deep pink colour and a wonderfully expressive nose: strawberry shortcake aromas of berries and buttery pastry, floral highlights adding lightness. In the mouth more of those red berry and vanilla flavours, decidiely smooth and refined, the acidity making its presence felt ever so subtly, giving this an effortless freshness too. Majestic stuff. Most retailers are charging between £210 and £250 per bottle.
(2019) The flagship of the entire English wine industry, Nyetimber's Classic Cuvée is a blend of the three main Champagne varieties with 25-35% reserve wines in the blend. All Nyetimber bottles bear a code that you can punch into the Nyetimber web site for detailed information: this bottle for example, disgorged in July 2019 after a full four years in the cellars, is based on the 2014 harvest (70%) but with 4% 2013, 6% 2011, 9% 2010, 10% 2009 and 1% 2008 reserve wines. 10g/l of dosage gives an easy approachability. Biscuit, nutty almond and sweet apple aromas move on to a wonderfully zesty palate, with an infill of pastry and vanilla, but a shimmering brightness to the finish. A bargain at £27 on offer in Waitrose until 2nd January 2020, and some indies also have it for less than £30.