With the festive season fast approaching we’re increasingly receiving phone calls asking for champagne recommendations, for both gifting and drinking. In this article, we outline our top picks for Christmas 2018, highlighting some of the best new releases, award-winning cuvées, sparkling magnums, and a selection of the champagnes that we’ll be sipping next to an open fire this year.
🎄 New Releases 🎄
There have been a number of exciting new releases this year, including brand new cuvées and groundbreaking new vintages.
Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Blancs NV is an entirely new champagne, released earlier this year as a tribute to the legacy of Chardonnay at Charles Heidsieck (they first produced a Blanc de Blancs in 1947).
This year saw the first examples of the much-awaited 2012 vintage hit the market, including Taittinger Brut Vintage 2012 and two from Louis Roederer: Brut Vintage 2012 and Rosé 2012. All three have received scores of >93/100 from Essi Avellan MW and serve to reinforce the already sky-high expectations for this vintage.
On the prestige cuvée front, the biggest release this year was undoubtedly Louis Roederer Cristal 2008. Chef de Cave Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon declared it “the most Cristal of all Cristal’s” and the critics widely agreed, with many awarding it top marks on release. Pandemonium in the market ensued, with demand far out-stripping supply for the first few weeks. This is indisputably the star champagne of 2018 – make sure it’s on your wish list!
Other prestige cuvée releases of note include: Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2008, which the house described as their best ever vintage; Bollinger R.D. 2004, which has undergone more than 11 years ageing on the lees; and the history-making Nyetimber 1086 2009, the first prestige cuvée English sparkling wine, which presents a formidable challenge to the best cuvées from across the Channel.
⛄️ Award Winning Champagnes ⛄️
As always, champagne has been sweeping the board at wine competitions the world over this year. With official endorsement from some of the most experienced palates in the industry, you don’t need us to tell you that these champagnes should be in your cellar this Christmas.
At the CSWWC 2018, Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2009 picked up the gong for World Champion Classic Brut Vintage Blend; Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV Magnum scooped the trophy for World Champion Classic Blanc de Blancs; but by far the biggest winner was Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV Magnum, which was awarded no less than 5 major trophies, including Supreme World Champion. And at less than £80 per magnum, Brut Premier is perhaps the most affordable World Champion champagne ever.
The next-most celebrated champagne this year was Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002, which picked up the top prizes at both the International Wine Challenge 2018 and the Decanter World Wine Awards 2018. A simply stunning champagne that wins gold medals year-on-year; this is a must-have drink for Christmas 2018.
🎁 Magnums 🎁
We are long-time advocates of magnums – they are aged for longer on the lees, creating more textual pleasure and share the same neck size as a 75cl bottle, exposing the same amount of oxygen to twice the volume of liquid, which slows the oxidation process and keeps magnums tasting fresher and younger. They are also great for gifting!
Some of the best magnums available on the market currently include: Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime 2005 Magnum; Bollinger La Grande Année 2007 Magnum; Louis Roederer Rosé 2010 Magnum (which was awarded World Champion Classic Rosé at the CSWWC 2018); and Billecart-Salmon Nicolas François Billecart 2002 (which has frequently been the highest rated champagne at recent TFB tastings and offers great value for a magnum of 2002).
For something a bit different, try Nyetimber 1086 Rosé 2010 Magnum, the first prestige cuvée rosé English sparkling wine; and for something special try Lanson Vintage Collection 1995 Magnum, a late-release from Lanson with 20+ years lees ageing.
🎅🏻 Nick’s Christmas Champagnes 🎅🏻
TFB founder Nick Baker is fortunate enough to taste an extraordinarily large range of champagnes in both bottle and magnum throughout the year – the following champagnes are some of his personal favourites and the ones he’ll be drinking over the Christmas period.
Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs NV Magnum – this pure-Chardonnay blend of grapes from 100% Grand Cru rated villages is intensely elegant, even more so from magnum.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV Magnum – currently based on the stunning 2012 vintage, this is one of the best value non-vintage magnums on the market.
Piper-Heidsieck 2008 – rich and full of complexity, the Mytik Diam technological cork ensures each bottle is as outstanding as the next.
Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 166 NV – with the highest reserve wine content of any Grande Cuvée this century, Edition 166 is abundantly rich and complex.
Palmer & Co 2008 Magnum – from one of the best vintages of this century and costing less than £130 per magnum, this flawless example of 2008 is not to be missed.
Piper-Heidsieck Rare 1998 Magnum – voted Best Champagne of 2018 at The Drinks Business 2018 Champagne Masters and World Champion Library Vintage at the CSWWC 2018, Rare 1998 is a consistent classic.
Charles Heidsieck Cuvée Royale 1981 – released as part of the first Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères, Cuvée Royale 1981 has been kept under perfect conditions in the chalk cellars in Reims; an extra special Christmas treat for anyone wanting to be wowed.