With Bubbly’s biggest night* behind us for another year, I’m pausing to assess the three sparklers—fittingly, all of French origin—we drank over the holidays. Here is the line-up:
• Gruet Brut “Champenoise” Gold Label – This New Mexican star held center stage on Christmas Eve, paired with a meal of one fish/two ways (chilled shrimp cocktail followed by garlicky shrimp scampi)—my modest take on the traditional Seven Fishes feast. $16 at Sherry-Lehmann.
• Roederer Estate L’Hermitage Brut 2003 – To accompany an array of cheeses and charcuterie, we started the December 31 festivities with this Anderson Valley, California, offspring of venerable French Champagne house Louis Roederer. Priced around $40-$45, depending on the retailer.
• Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Brut 2004 – Saving the best for last, we popped the cork at midnight on this Veuve Clicquot classic from Champagne’s stellar 2004 vintage. A deal while it’s still in stock at Buy-Rite in Jersey City for $120.
The Gruet family brought their Champagne-making experience with them from France to the New World in the 1980s, after discovering promising, high-altitude, inexpensive terroir around Albuquerque. Like all of their sparkling wines, the Gruet Brut is aged for a minimum of 24 months. Tasting of apple cider, it’s not a complex wine but stands up well with food. At this price point, I’ll have it again—and seek out Gruet’s other sparklers.
L’Ermitage along with L’Ermitage Rosé are the high-end lines of family-owned Roederer Estate, produced only as single-vintage cuvées. The 2003 earned high marks across the board from the usual critics: Wine Enthusiast 96, Wine & Spirits 94, Wine Spectator 93. If you can’t find this vintage, look for the 2005. My first sips were peach-infused, then a hard-candy lemon-drop flavor settled in. The minerality was just right.
La Grande Dame was the favorite Champagne of a now-deceased friend and oenophile, but since we’d somehow never tried it, this was the obvious choice for ringing in 2015 when we spotted it in Buy-Rite’s Champagne cabinet. The 2004 is a refined Champagne, with lemon and minerals on the nose and the palate. The initial uprush of bubbles after opening was misleading, as it quickly subsided into a gentle effervescence. Wine Spectator conferred 92 points on this beauty.
These three wines span a range of price points, from everyday to special-occasion, and I can recommend landing on each one of them. Cheers!
*While New Year’s Eve is unlikely to be dethroned from its perch as the time of maximum sparkling-wine consumption, why not resolve in 2015 to drink more of it more often?