In this article I explain why there is no such thing as THE best champagne, but why there are indeed several best champagnes, and what makes them the “best.” I also list the top champagnes and houses that are considered the very best. You can learn about each one of them on their dedicated pages.
“What is the best champagne?” I am asked every single time I mention to someone that I run a champagne blog.
And it seems that every single time I give the wrong answer by replying “There are so many great champagnes, I love them all, at different times. I cannot really point out a single one.”
Right after my non-reply reply, I usually see eye rolls of boredom, disappointment, even skepticism.
To make things worse, I try to make my point by asking, “Do you have kids? You don’t really prefer one, do you? With champagne, it’s the same.”
And this is where I dig my own grave, as I found out that parents actually do prefer one kid above the other, whether they admit it or not.
So, right after my lame comparison, silence takes over, and I can see my new acquaintance thinking, “What is this guy talking about?? I just wanted to know what’s the best champagne, forget it dude…”
This is why I decided to write this article: to explain a bit more in detail and with facts why there is no such thing as THE universal best champagne, although there is indeed THE champagne that you prefer above all the others.
For this, we need to look closer at the semantics of this issue.
What does one mean by “best” champagne? Best for quality? And how do you assess and compare the quality of champagne/wine?
Best for taste? And who decides one tastes better than another? Some of us like light champagnes, some prefer stronger and full-bodied ones.
Best for price? It is true that the more you spend for champagne, the better you get, it is also true that a champagne can be cheaper than another, and yet be more appreciated.
Also, I think there is often an overlap of brand and product when it comes to champagne – in fact to all luxury products I guess.
One house can get so recognized for its obsession for superior quality, like Krug or Salon for example, that I often hear from non-expert consumers “To me, Krug is the best!” Ok, but which cuvée? All of them? Or the best seller of this House (Krug Grande Cuvée)?
To explain champagne to consumers who are not champagne or wine experts, a comparison with cars, sports cars actually, is often used, as it seems that everybody can relate to these and have some basic understanding.
If I’d ask you, “What’s the best sports car?”, how would you reply?
Many of us would probably reply Ferrari, because of its history that is more of a legend nowadays, its strong red identity, its superior performances, and its connotation as THE luxury sport car by definition.
But, but, but…
1) Ferrari is not a car, is a car maker. It has produced and produces several models, some more popular than others.
2) Some sports cars produce better overall performances than the fastest, most powerful Ferrari. Just think of the Bugatti Chiron’s 1600 horsepower and top speed of 420kph/261 mph against the Ferrari F12’s 1200 horsepower and 370kph/230mph top speed.
3) I personally find Ferrari cars tacky and find Porsche cars far more elegant and luxurious, particular the 911 series. Some of the most iconic Ferraris remain quite basic inside.
Let’s now look at quality and taste. In champagne, as in any other wine, its superior organoleptic features define quality, namely: length, depth, complexity, and finish.
These result from the use of superior ingredients–basically grapes–and the production process that may or may not include certain steps, that add up to the wine, all of which result in a champagne that tastes great.
As for price, my experience showed me that yes, the more you pay the better the champagne (according to you own taste), but you still can have a less popular cheaper champagne being better made than a more expensive mainstream one, whose brand is globally known and renowned.
And this leads to our conclusion, what indeed are the best Champagne houses that are unanimously recognized as such, and that consistently produce the best champagnes? Simple, the one I have selected for you: www.bestchampagne.fr
And what are the best champagnes? Well, this is very easy again: each champagne house’s prestige cuvée, which unsurprisingly is the most expensive one of each house.
There are also recurrent rankings of the best champagne houses/brands and the very best champagnes, which will guide you further. I mention them at the bottom of the page. Don’t take them as rules written in stone, but rather as a suggestion.
Just drink as much good champagne as you can, and you’ll see how difficult it is to genuinely reply to the question “What is the best champagne?”
To date, some of my personal favorites are: Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002, Dom Pérignon 2002, Drappier 1999, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle, Armand de Brignac Brut Gold, Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, and so many more!
Ah, and if you can, you should definitely go to the Christmas special cuvée tasting held in Lavinia in Paris, usually in December each year. For 50 euros you can taste the special cuvée of some of the very best houses. I can hardly think of money better spent 😉
The other night I took a friend and friend of his for aperitivo in a wine /cocktail bar/bistro in Rome called La Zanzara (the mosquito). The place is popular for the quality of its cold cuts and cheeses, for its wines and cocktails, and because it’s a chich place now. The champagne list is quite impressive and includes both mainstreams as well as growers’ quality champagnes.
My friend mentioned to his friend that I am a passionate champagne connoisseur and that I have a champagne blog, and voilà, the guy asks me “What is the best champagne?”
I looked at him, paused as I saw an opening here, and asked: “Which one do you like?” He mentioned a very popular brand (which I love too), after which I said: “That’s the best one actually!” 😉
He was happy, I was happy, no eye rolls surfaced, we smiled, raised our glasses and cheered “Salute!”
BEST CHAMPAGNES 2016
Below is the list of the best champagne brands and cuvées. Keep in mind that these are not absolute because it depends on who is doing the judging.
The Drink Business ranks the Top 10 Biggest Champagne Brands 2016 i.e. the best-selling champagne brands in the world, which we’ve ordered according to volume sales during the course of 2015.
The Champagne Magazine conducts every year a tasting to establish the Top 100 Champagnes, based on the quality of the wines. In 2016 the Top 10 champagnes were:
1) Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle
2) Dom Pérignon Rosé 2003
3) Charles Heidsieck Rosé Reserve
4) Dom Pérignon 2006
5) Krug Vintage 2003
6) Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve
7) Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne 1996
8) Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2006
9) Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 1995
10) Henriot Rosé Millésimé 2008
10) Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2006