Tiny Bubbles: Champagne

Although the wines of Champagne are all too easy to sip, they are actually quite difficult to make. Yet these adversities are partly responsible for the creation of the sparkling wines that have come to define this cool countryside, which lies east of Paris. Historically, Champagne’s cold climate—unlike that of any other major wine-producing region—would often prematurely halt the fermentation of wines, leaving them to sit in the cellar until spring, when warmer weather would reawaken the yeasts. This second fermentation gave the wines the sparkling character we prize today.

Billecart-Salmon 2000 Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart Rosé

The house was established in 1818 and is now headed by François Billecart, who crafts elegant wines inspired by his personal maxim: “Tradition is meaningless without great quality.” Intense nuances of quince, bing cherry, and toast round out this delicious wine. ($160)

Dom Pérignon 2002 Warhol Épernay Champagne

Möet & Chandon is one of the world’s largest Champagne producers, and the firm’s flagship producer, Dom Pérignon, remains, in the minds of connoisseurs, the region’s standard of highest excellence. Holiday spirits will rise with the bubbles in this blend of 45 percent Chardonnay and 55 percent Pinot Noir. Notes of white pepper and gardenia define the wine’s nose, while hints of dried ginger and pear dance on the tongue. ($160)

Krug 1996 Clos d’Ambonnay Blanc de Noirs Reims Champagne

This single-vineyard blanc de noirs Champagne—a sister wine to the house’s famed Clos du Mesnil blanc de blancs—comes from Pinot Noir vines on a small property in the village of Ambonnay. Three members of the Krug family—Henri, Rémi, and Olivier—combined their incomparable talents to create this effervescent violet-scented treasure, whose elegant flavors of kirsch, brioche, and almond pour forth generously from the glass. ($2,500)

Laurent-Perrier NV Grand Siècle Champagne

The name of this special Champagne and its curvaceous 17th-century-style bottle pay homage to the reign of Louis XIV, whose support for the careers of numerous influential French artists gave rise to a “great century” of artistic experimentation. This wine displays rich notes of honey, hazelnut, and grilled bread, and hints of chalky soil. A single sip will treat the imbiber to sensory splendors every bit as rich as those of the Sun King’s court. ($150)

Louis Roederer 2005 Rosé Reims Champagne

Founded in 1776, this estate in Reims was bequeathed in 1833 to Louis Roederer, who brought the property to international prominence. Although the firm—which also owns estates in Bordeaux, Provence, Portugal, and California—produces the coveted Cristal Champagne, this fine rosé measures up to its most opulent offerings. Fabulous flavors of strawberry, pear, and roasted almond make this one of the most delicious sparkling wines available. ($80)

Ruinart NV Blanc des Blancs

Founded in 1729 in Reims, Ruinart is the oldest producer of Champagne. This wine is crafted entirely from Chardonnay and is redolent of raspberry and wild strawberry; flavors of lemon cream pie drive it to its lengthy finish. ($60)

Taittinger 2000 Artist Series Rauschenberg

One of the classic producers of Champagne, Taittinger has created a special vintage Champagne honoring artist Robert Rauschenberg. In the glass and on the palate, this wine is a work of art that features delicate aromas of freshly baked bread, lemon peel, and granite. ($375)

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