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Typically made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier, the beloved bubbles of Champagne are often perceived as luxuries reserved for special occasions. While it’s true that few things liven up a celebration quite like sparkling wine, Champagne’s high acid and range of styles make it a versatile and sophisticated selection for a wide variety of foods, from fried chicken to fresh seafood.
To prove that Champagne can be more than a budget breaker, VinePair enlisted the advice of wine professionals to give you the lowdown on the bottles that offer the best values for your money. Keep reading to find the Champagne that is destined to become your new favorite dinner pairing.
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“Le Brun Servenay ‘Melodie en C’ Extra Brut is my go-to Champagne for value. Actually, it’s my go-to Champagne. I love the interplay between its taut palate and supple aromatics — where nervy minerality and crisp bubbles play against a nose of white flowers and pears. The balance of bold and subtle in this wine always gets me. There are also tart citrus notes which play well against the bready lees character and white pepper that pulls everything together on the finish. We serve lots of raw seafood at Grand Army, and this Champagne kills it with oysters and other shellfish. It would also be amazing with sushi.” — Brendan Biggins, Beverage Director, Grand Army, Brooklyn
Donate: Food Issues Group (FIG) Venmo; Service Workers Coalition.
Brendan also recommends resources here and here offering information on groups providing wine training to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.
“The trick to Champagne on a budget is finding a small, independent house that doesn’t have the footprint of the larger houses. The big guns can trade on their name — and, of course, quality — and they know it. Small grower houses are where it’s at for the thrifty Champagne drinker. A couple I keep in my back pocket are Gatinois and Roland Champion, both grand cru and grower Champagnes. You’ll find them at nearly half the price of the better-knowns, and it’s worth the search to track them down.” — Matthew Emborski, Sommelier, Hilton Norfolk The Main, Norfolk, Va.
“We all know that wine is about stories, and there isn’t a better wine to drink while reading a good story than Champagne. Stuyvesant Champagne has an exceptional story, and it’s one of the few Champagne brands owned by an African American woman, and named after her hometown neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.” — Jamie Harrison Rubin, Former General Manager, Ambra Restaurant Group, Philadelphia
Donate: Jamie Harrison Rubin Venmo
“Grower Champagne — meaning Champagne made from producers who grow their own grapes — offers the best quality and value for Champagne, in my opinion. One of my particular favorites is Chartogne-Taillet’s Cuvée Sainte Anne. It’s a blend of mainly Pinot Noir with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier from the village of Merfy. It has a beautiful balance of richness, minerality, and complexity.” — Marianna Caldwell, Assistant General Manager and Sommelier, Cassia, Santa Monica, Calif.
Donate: The United Sommeliers Foundation
“Bérêche et Fils ‘Montagne’ Grand Cru Brut Champagne 2002: In terms of bang for buck, vintage Champagne always delivers. The subtle brioche, acidity, integration and length of this wine grows with every successive year — this is truly worth the cost and the wait.” — Henry Rich, Owner, The Oberon Group, Brooklyn
“I enjoy Pol Roger — it’s a rich-and-luxurious-style Champagne, complex with bright acidity, very accessible, [and] around $50. Great with all foods from savory to sweet!” — Carrie Lyn Strong, Wine Director/Sommelier, Casa Lever, NYC
Donate: Carrie Lyn Strong Venmo
“I love Champagne, full stop. I could list a dozen great values from Champagne today, but I am in love with Pierre Paillard ‘Mottelettes’ Blanc de Blancs 2014 or the ‘Maillerettes’ Blanc de Noirs 2014 for something a bit more savory.” — Rusty Rastello, Wine Director, SingleThread, Healdsburg, Calif.
“Voirin-Jumel Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs NV from the village of Cramant. A small grower Champagne that represents incredible value for grand cru bubbly. Fresh flowers, citrus, and mineral[s] with incredible energy and texture. Retails around $35.” — Matthew Pridgen, Wine Director, Underbelly Hospitality, Houston
“J. Lassalle, Cuvée Préférence, Brut, Champagne, France NV. This non-vintage hits well above its weight class and is as versatile on the dinner table as a bottle of Champagne can be.” — Jhonel Faelnar, Wine Director, Atomix, NYC
“L. Aubry Fils is always my go-to for exceptional Champagne that doesn’t hurt your wallet. The 1er cru Brut is mainly made up [of] Pinot Meunier, but it also includes a small bit of Arbanne, Petit Meslier, and Pinot Gris. The base wine has about half of reserve wine that dates back to 1998. This makes for an insanely complex Champagne. It retails between $40 [and] $45. Not many Champagnes deliver that amount of pleasure in that price range.” — Etinosa Emokpae, Wine Director, Friday Saturday Sunday, Philadelphia
“Champagne Lombard & Cie, Champagne 1er Cru Extra Brut NV [retails for only] $35. High-quality grapes from the best premier cru vineyards in Champagne can only make an excellent wine, in this case very well priced, too. This cuvée by Lombard & Cie, [a] blend of the well-known three musketeers of Champagne, is bright and tense, yet rich and aromatic. Deep, complex, and full-bodied. This family-owned operation sources the grapes from sustainable and organic vineyards. Any pairing recommendation would be limitative; I would drink it anytime, any day, anywhere!” — Mariarosa Tartaglione, Head Sommelier, Ai Fiori at The Langham, NYC
Donate: Mariarosa Tartaglione Venmo
“Philippe Fourrier Blanc de Noirs, grower-producer Champagne made from 100 percent Pinot Noir. Pink grapefruit and hazelnuts on the palate… It definitely favors fruit notes over yeasty, bready notes often found in Champagne. Try it as an aperitif or by the pool.” — Emmanuelle Massicot, Assistant General Manager, Kata Robata, Houston