Champagne is the undisputed king of the sparkling wines. Vintners in Champagne, France have been perfecting the art of bottle fermentation for hundreds of years and though similarly styled wines are made all over the world, there isn't any sparkling wine that tops a really good Champagne.
France has stringent regulations about what kind of grapes can be grown in what regions. In Champagne, there are three types of grapes that can be grown, Chardonnay, a white wine grape, and Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, which are both red wine grapes. Blanc de Blanc Champagnes are always made from Chardonnay, while Blanc de Noirs are usually made from a majority of Pinot Noir that can be blended with the other two types of grapes.
Once the grapes have been pressed and the wine fermented, it is bottled with some of the yeast. The yeast finishes turning sugar into alcohol while sealed in the bottle, releasing carbon dioxide as a byproduct. Since there's nowhere for the carbon dioxide to escape to from a sealed bottle, over time, the wine becomes carbonated.
You'll notice the terms dry, extra-dry, or brut appear on each bottle of Champagne. These terms describe the amount of residual sugar in wine, with dry having the most sugar and brut the least. Occasionally, Champagnes may also be labeled extra brut and brut nature, which are drier than brut. Champagnes also have a year or the letters NV, printed on the bottle. NV stands for Non-Vintage, which means that the wine is blended from grapes harvested over a number of different years. While many NV Champagnes are very well made, NV Champagnes are not considered to be the highest quality. This means you can buy them for less than you'd spend on a vintage wine. If you're set on getting the best Champagne out there, make sure you buy a wine from a year when the harvest was excellent. 2004 was the best recent vintage in France.
Best Champagne Overall:
Champagne is the perfect drink to toast a special occasion, which is why this French sparkling wine is popular around the world. True Champagne comes from the French provence of the same name, and is made from any mixture of the three varieties of grapes that grow there, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. An excellent Champagne can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but there are plenty of top-quality bottles available for under $200. The wines that made this list may be pricey when compared with quality domestic wines, but are all on the reasonable side for fine Champagnes. We selected Champagnes that were either non-vintage, meaning that they're blended from multiple harvests, or vintage 2004, which was an excellent year for French wines. 2004 is also a current vintage, meaning that it's readily available at liquor stores and wine shops. When selecting the best Champagnes, we chose only wines that score very well with critics, are easy to get hold of, and aren't priced through the roof.
A bold Champagne with an incredible complexity, Krug Grande Cuvee is widely regarded to be one of the best Champagnes. It's blended from around 120 different wines, bottle-aged for no less than six years, and is esteemed by critics as an excellent example of how good a non-vintage Champagne can be. Read Full Review
If you're hoping to impress guests with an excellent Champagne from one of the most well-known labels in the world, Dom Perignon '04 is an great choice. This wine is bold and complex, with notes of smoke, white fruit, honey, and spice. Read Full Review
A full-bodied, fruit-forward wine, Joseph Perrier Champagne Josephine '04 is one of our favorite Champagnes. Made from around 90 percent Chardonnay, this wine has notes of tropical fruit, apple, and buttered toast. The bubbles are explosive and the finish long, making this an excellent Champagne to pair with rich shellfish dishes. Read Full Review
A classic brut with notes of stone, spice, and bread, Bollinger Grande Annee Brut '04 is an excellent Champagne. It's big and bold and will definitely benefit from at least a few years in the cellar, though there's nothing wrong with enjoying a bottle right away. Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it has a richness and complexity that's earned it high marks from professional wine critics. Read Full Review
A blend of all three Champagne varietals, Taittinger Brut La Francaise is an excellent non-vintage Champagne. It has a great balance of fruit, floral, and spice notes, and a crisp mouthfeel that brings out notes of fruit and honey. It's also bold enough that it can benefit from a few years of cellaring. Read Full Review
Best Cheap Champagne:
If you like to celebrate a special occasion with a glass of Champagne but you don't want to shell out a hundred dollars or more per bottle, we have some great news. There's no need to pay through the teeth for an excellent bottle of genuine French Champagne. We took a look at reviews from wine critics and wine enthusiasts alike to assemble this list of the best cheap Champagnes. These Champagnes are all non-vintage, meaning that they flavor profile doesn't change from year to year, so you can count on incredible consistency. They also all retail for less than $40. Though this is more than you'll pay for many sparkling California wines or Italian Proseccos, the wines that made this list are all real Champagnes, from the French provence of the same name.
A Champagne that consistently rates over 90 points by wine critics, Piper Heidsieck Champagne Brut is an excellent cheap Champagne. This wine doesn't compromise on flavor or texture. It has a toasty nose, lots of fruit, and a crisp, dry finish with a fine bubble. Read Full Review
A fruit-forward, heavily perfumed Champagne, Nicolas Feuillatte Brut is one of our favorites. It's complex, with honeysuckle and pear on the nose, and a perfectly clean, light finish. It has been aged for at least two years and will hold up to a few more in the wine cellar. Read Full Review
A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Canard-Duchene Champagne Brut is a classic French Champagne with excellent character. This wine has a bold green apple flavor that's well-complemented by notes of yeast, butter, and biscuit. It has an excellent bubble and consistently scores well with wine critics. Read Full Review
Made from a fairly even blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay, Moet & Chandon Imperial is a classic French Champagne that won't cost you an arm and a leg. It has an excellent bubble, a clean finish, and plenty of bright fruit that doesn't overpower the palate. Read Full Review
Best Champagne for Mimosas:
If you want to turn a party into a celebration by mixing a few mimosas, you'll want to make sure to use a real French Champagne rather than a sparkling wine from somewhere else in the world. Of course, there's no reason to bring out an expensive bottle of bubbly if you're going to blend it with orange juice, and in fact, Champagne connoisseurs might be offended if you do. Instead of wasting the good stuff, we recommend a low-priced Champagne that lacks the complexity of a well-crafted wine, since you won't be able to pick out the intricacies of a fine wine anyway. Since orange juice is naturally sweet, mimosas are usually made with dry Champagne that can balance out that sweetness. All the best Champagnes for mimosas are brut, which is one of the driest ratings, or dry, which has just a small amount of sweetness. Aside from price and dryness, we also looked for Champagnes that were very bubbly so that the mimosa will have plenty of carbonation, even if you mix it half and half with a flat orange juice.
The crisp, dry flavor of Moet & Chandon Imperial makes it our favorite Champagne for mimosas. This wine is reasonably priced, very bubbly, and as a non-vintage wine, consistent from year to year. It's also well-regarded by professional wine critics and bold enough that you can taste it even when it's mixed with orange juice. Read Full Review
An incredibly bubbly Champagne that continues to release tiny beads of carbonation for a long time after you pour, Montaudon Brut is an excellent Champagne for mimosas. This wine is dry, with flavors of citrus and flint that help to balance out the sweetness of orange juice. It's also very inexpensive for true Champagne, though it is highly regarded by professional wine critics. Read Full Review
For a fruit-forward Champagne that won't add any sweetness to the already sweet mimosa, Champagne Cuvee Victoire is an excellent choice. This wine is made from a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier and has bold notes of mango that helps it pair incredibly well with orange juice. Read Full Review
A crisp, grapefuity, slightly bitter Champagne, Veuve Clicquot is an excellent choice for mimosas. The bitterness helps to cut the sweetness of the orange juice, and the long finish allows some of the flavors to come out even when blended half and half with juice. Though this Champagne ages well, for mimosas it's best to drink it while it's still young. Read Full Review
A classic brut Champagne, Canard-Duchene is a well-regarded wine that's a great choice for mimosas. It's crisp, bubbly, and has a bold mineral finish that isn't lost when mixed with juice. It's also incredibly consistent from year to year since the winemakers blend this year's Chardonnay and Pinot Noir harvests with wines going back many years. Read Full Review