It’s hard to go wrong with Champagne. Few drinking experiences provide the same excitement as the pop of a cork and the fizz as bubbles settle, prolonging the wait to take the first sip. But the fun begins when buying bottles.
When shopping for Champagne, selections can’t be guided solely by price point (though if cost is a barrier, we’ve got you covered.) Like a well-stocked wardrobe, Champagne has options for every occasion — and every palate’s preference. There’s blanc de blancs for white wine lovers, while demi-sec steps up to the plate for those with a sweeter tooth. With prices in the category ranging from around $50 to several hundred dollars, there are chances to splurge if you’re aiming to impress; and also quality options for when the random urge for French fizz hits.
Here are the 10 best Champagnes for every occasion.
Best Splurge (Wine Geeks): Krug Grande Cuvée 168ème Édition (168th Edition)
Krug provides definitive proof that the best bottles to come out of Champagne aren’t always vintage expressions. Crafted every year using 120 wines from 10 different vintages, this is as opulent as wine gets. Everything from the intensity of aromas and flavors to texture, concentration, minerality, and finish are dialed up to 11. There’s a distinct oxidative character — almost a saltiness — that transpires from age. Wine geeks will love it, especially manzanilla drinkers. There are more famous legacy bottles at this price point, but few, if any, turn the heads of professionals and aficionados like Krug. Average price: $184.
Best Splurge (Mass Appeal): Louis Roederer Cristal Millésimé Brut 2012
First created for a Russian Tsar, Cristal is synonymous with extravagance. Dripping in gold, from its label and foil to the wrapping that encases the clear bottle (this,to protect the wine from UV damage), it oozes ostentation. But the wine inside tells an utterly different story. Rather than decadence, Cristal has a subtle charm. The blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, made only in the best vintages, delivers a graceful wine with a familiar profile — only better. The fruit character is fresher and crisper than regular Champagne, the acidity is brighter, and the texture is finer and more velvety. Sampling Cristal after drinking standard brut non-vintage blends is like switching a display from standard definition to 4K. Average price: $273.
Best to Buy a Case (Wine Geeks): Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Réserve
Made using 100 percent Chardonnay from grand cru villages in the Côte des Blancs, this non-vintage grower Champagne contains reserve wine from a solera started more than 30 years ago. The quality of the fruit is instantly apparent by the freshness of its apple and citrus notes. The reserve wine adds complexity and richness, which is further compounded by the toasted brioche imparted during its time spent on lees. Rarely does Champagne of this quality arrive at such a relatively affordable price point. Average price: $63
Best to Buy a Case (Mass Market): Champagne Taittinger Brut La Française
A Chardonnay-driven blend that spends three years in cellar prior to release, Taittinger Brut La Française is as good as it gets for widely available non-vintage Champagne. Racy, fresh, and delicate, it offers the definition of balance. The perfect bottle for kicking off an evening, it also lends itself to a range of food pairings, from green salads to creamy pasta dishes. Such is its versatility, we advise keeping a healthy stock on hand. Average price: $51.
Best Aperitif Champagne: Pol Roger Pure Extra Brut
First released in 2008, the Pure Extra Brut added an extra dimension to Pol Roger’s already impressive lineup. With its crisp, mineral-rich profile, it is the perfect wine to stimulate the palate. Aromas of freshly baked pastries and caramelized apples belie a palate that is at once bone dry and bracingly acidic. This Champagne demands canapés, which can be anything as simple as a salty cracker with aged hard cheese, and maybe a strawberry or two. Average price: $64.
Best Rosé Champagne: Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée Brut Rosé
This majority-Pinot-Noir rosé contains a small portion of Chardonnay and a blend of reserve wines dating back to 1985. Following three years aging on lees, and a further five months in bottle, it is released to market with bright, fruity exuberance and seeping in red berry notes. Everything from its color to flavor profile will delight regular rosé drinkers, but its soul is unmistakably Champagne. Average price: $65.
Best Blanc de Blancs Champagne: Champagne Delamotte Blanc de Blancs
The Chardonnay grapes for this non-vintage Champagne come from grand cru vineyards located in the chalk-rich soils of the Côte des Blancs. The wine spends up to five years on lees prior to release, developing delicacy and grace and rounding its profile. The fruit remains fresh and pure, with green apple notes weaving seamlessly around driving acidity. Average price: $71.
Best Vintage Champagne: Champagne Henriot Millésimé 2008
Made using grapes from 10 premier and grand cru villages, the 2008 vintage marks the milestone 200th anniversary of Maison Henriot — and what a celebration it is. This Champagne is alluring and lively, serving intense aromas of stone fruit and buttery baked goods. The palate adds rich, creamy character and serves helpings of fresh and dried fruit. Elegant but bold, this Champagne is only improving with age. Average price: $89.
Best Esoteric Champagne: Billecart Salmon Sous Bois
Billecart Salmon Sous Bois is by no means a typical Champagne, nor will it appeal to every palate. But fans of complex, aged white wines will absolutely love it. Due to lengthy aging — up to seven years on lees — this wine has a rich, oxidative character that hits like concentrated saline solution. It bears much in common with fino sherry, including electric acidity. There’s no lack of fresh fruit, but there’s just as much savory character. This is incredible esoteric wine. Average price: $87.
Best Sweet Lovers’ Champagne: Laurent-Perrier Harmony Demi-Sec
Sweet wine is the perfect pairing for dessert. But sometimes, after a heady meal, you may want to skip the final course altogether and reach straight for the wine. This bottle allows you to do either. With all the richness of a lemon tart, it serves full and creamy sips, with a light, refreshing finish. While the sweetness is essential for pairing with desserts, the acidity comes into its own when the wine is the dessert. Average price: $47.