10 Best Champagne and Sparkling Wine Brands 2022
We should drink sparkling wine at all times. Or so thinks Amy Racine, named Esquire’s Beverage Manager of the Year for her far-reaching wine list at Iris in New York (an Esquire Best New Restaurant of 2021). According to her, sparkling wine is “the Red Bull of wine” because while it doesn’t give you wings, it lifts you up and fills you with good spirits. I can’t think of a hotter commodity than good spirit these days.
Champagne, by definition, is a sparkling wine made in a certain way by only certain people in a certain region of France: Champagne. You probably know that. You can get some fancy old bottles of champagne that are quite expensive, and these vintages certainly have their merits. You can also get the labels from big brands you recognize, and while a geek like Racine might notice inconsistencies from bottle to bottle, they’ll look pretty good to you. (A dry brut can work wonders as a champagne cocktail, no matter how mass-produced it is.) But Racine’s take on bubbly goes beyond the Moëts and Bollingers of the world. At Iris, an Aegean restaurant, she pours a Greek bubbly called Amalia Brut. Spain bottles cavas that it considers comparable to champagne. And she has her eye on British sparklers – who knew? – which tend to have the tangier, more mineral side of things.
Moral of the story: Pay attention to small champagne producers when you can: “a first and last producer name in French is probably a good way to start, rather than a house name,” advises Racine, and never ignore the bubbles of non-Champagne origins. Any sparkling wine is better than no sparkling wine. Before you head to your specialty wine store, here are the brands of champagne and sparkling wine that Racine finds most intriguing right now.
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Champagne Vueve Clicquot
“Veuve Clicquot is one of the most recognized brands in the world. It’s up there with Puma and Nike,” says Racine. And labels can say a lot. Veuve Clicquot sells bottle after bottle of its Label Jaune brut, as well as extra brut, to its special cuvées and La Grande Dame, a bottle inspired by the woman who propelled the champagne house to greatness in the early 1800s, Madame Clicquot.
Shop From $58, drizly.com
Champagne Dom Perignon Vintage
You are probably also familiar with this label. “The Dom Pérignons of the world, the vintages, are classic and iconic, and I think they’re very good,” says Racine. Vintage champagnes as a category are rare, expensive, and remarkably interesting on their own, regardless of brand. “If you get, say, a very aged vintage champagne and it’s a few years old, it can be almost still and have really deep, flavorful characters.”
Shop From $239, reservebar.com
This is one of Racine’s favourites: a blanc de blancs champagne (meaning: made only from white grapes) that is also a Grand Cru (meaning: grown on prime French estate) . Producer Aurélien Suenen practiced professional basketball before taking over the family business in Champagne.
Shop $80, thewhiskyexchange.com
Champagne André Heucq
Racine calls the sustainably produced Assemblage champagne that André Heucq bottles “a great non-vintage that’s probably a really good place to start.” That means it’s complex, but not that incredibly expensive, and it will inspire you to learn more about sparkling wines.
Shop $44, living.eco
Philippe Foreau Vouvray Brut
Racine categorizes Philippe Foreau’s Brut Vouvray as a “bang for the buck” that isn’t made in Champagne – Vouvray is another region of France – but is still dry and delicious. In general, she describes the sparkling wines of Vouvray as “still very dry, but with honey-chamomile flavors”.
Champagne Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée
“In Champagne, it’s like the only place in the world where it’s okay to make a rosé by literally cutting red wine with white wine, rather than the rest of the world, [where] if you want to make a socially acceptable rosé, you do something called bleeding, which means “to bleed,” Racine explains. This “bleeding” consists of letting the skins of red grapes soak in the juice to give it a dewy hue, and Champagne winemakers are not supporters of this method because it is so difficult to cultivate. grapes in their climate in the first place. But Champagne Geoffroy is taking the not easy route, using the bleeding method rather than the blending method, “and I think that’s really cool,” says Racine.
Shop $72, totalwine.com
Pierre Sparr Crémant D’Alsace Brut Reserve
East of Champagne, the Alsace region of France produces some dry sparkling wines to watch out for. Pierre Sparr is one such producer, and his bottles of brut are not expensive at all.
Shop $19, totalwine.com
Juvé and Camps Cava
Cava makers follow the same moves as champagne makers, except they make it in Spain and use Spanish grapes. “Juvé y Camps cava is also a good sparkling wine that could be found in a good wine merchant”, explains Racine. Its cavas range from blends to single varietals, with Reserva de la Familia being the most widely available.
Shop From $19, drizly.com
Caraccioli Caves Brut Cuvée
Look to California if you want to stay in the United States with your bubbly. Racine considers Caraccioli’s sparkling vintages from the St. Lucia Highlands among the “great”.
Shop $52, caracciolicellars.com
Champagne Louis de Sacy
Racine will drink a glass of Louis De Sacy champagne to celebrate the new year at Iris. The producer’s selection includes his classic Cuvée Originale and a few vintages.
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