Top 15 Big House Brut Champagnes

December 29 2012 - 1:35 PM

Initially this season was to include a blind tasting of bubbly. We’re putting that on hiatus, waiting for a few more entrants, and wondering if it might become a reader event. Instead we’re putting a toe into the pool of big marques of the Champagne region. These are the big old houses which have been dedicated to making consistent bruts year after year. While grower champagnes can reveal wonderful differences in the region, they can be inconsistent.

I am putting these in order of personal preference, and that said, I tend to like big malo-lactic and Chardonnay-dominant wines. So take it all with a grain of salt. I would welcome and go out of my way for ANY of the wines on this list.

Also, by no means is this a comprehensive list, but one that includes bruts are also available in Chicago with prices found online as of this post- do double-check prices and availability, there are a couple sale prices that are not typical.

Next time maybe we’ll work on Prestige Cuvees!

1. Bollinger – $47.99  Wine Discount Center est 1829. At this price, it’s almost impossible to beat this big robust champagne. Enjoy it with nearly anything. This is my favorite big house.

2.Ruinart Blanc de Blanc – $68.99 Binny’s est. 1729. Unabashed chardonnay with hints of toast, butter and mild citrus. Without getting into prestige cuvees this is at the ceiling of blanc de blancs.

3. Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve – $49.99 Binny’s est 1818. I’ve always preferred the brut to their iconic rosé.

4. Lanson Black Label – $39.99 Binny’s est 1760. One of two non-malolactic bottles on this list, Gosset being the other, Lanson has a ripe apple/citrus quality that rolls up a wonderful yeasty, toasty finish. As it ages, it will mellow. It’s one of the few Brut Champagnes that I would consider cellaring for even up to 5 years with the hopes that it mellows the fruit and provides an authentic oxidated buttery finish.

5. Charles Heidsieck – $53.99 Binny’s est 1851. They recently reformulated and while that’s relatively unusual for big house bruts, it works extremely well. As far as I know there’s more Pinot and Meuniere and less Char… but I may be wrong about that.

6. Laurent- Perrier – $54.99 The Wine Cellar. est 1812. That’s not a great price on this bottle but it may be due to the fact that it’s Kosher? Not sure. In any case it’s a solid bottle that I believe typically runs just under $40.

7. Gosset – $65.99 Binny’s. est 1584. The other non-malolactic Champagne on this list is reserved with hints of sweet spices tinting notes of citrus.

8. Henriot Blanc de Blanc – $49.99 Binny’s. est 1808. A great wine to start a dinner. It stands out as a Champagne especially fit for food-paring. It’s crispness and mild floral citrus come out depending on each pairing.

9. Pol Roger– $49.99 Binny’s, est. 1849, this toasty, almost nutty bubbly with enough fruit to keep it honest, is a great sparkler with food or without.

10. Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top – $28.99 Wine Discount Center. est 1785. It’s certainly a bottle that stands out with it’s blue and yellow label/top. The wine stands out too as it’s a rounded and full brut with a valued in flavor that exceeds it’s price.

11. Perrier Jouët – $25 at Binny’s. est 1811. Probably the best deal on the list. I’d stock up! It lists around $45 but is always on sale in the high $30s. Binny’s is looking to move some. If you’re party hopping a few bottles should make you a welcomed guest.

12. Veuve Clicquot – $39.99 at Binny’s. est 1772. Chicago’s most popular Champagne. I was told once that this is their biggest US market. Considering the amount of time I see this at parties, as gifts, on special, etc. I’m not surprised. That said I always want a glass.

13. Tattinger – $34.99 at Binny’s. est 1734. It’s hard to go wrong with Tattinger, especially at this price. Toast, cream and all the usual suspects are well-balanced here. Also, a little known fact is that the Champagne expert at the now closed Sam’s on Marcey street, Charles Stanfield, was knighted by Tattinger.

14. Mumm Cordon Rouge – $35.99 Binny’s. est 1829. One of the first bottles I fell in love with. You used to be able to get magnums of Rouge for I want to say $69. Sheesh. Those were the days. The label’s changed since then but little else has. It’s a great house.

15. Pommery $29.99 at Binny’s.  est 1836, Pommery is known for being run as of 1860 by Louise Pommery. She decided to cellar her wine in chalk pits… thank you Wikipedia! With Pommery POP and several other labels in the market, Pommery is working to spread the affection for the bubbly. It’s effervescent with more yeast than toast and a bright feel to it.