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  • Writer's pictureMelissa L. Smith

My Top 5 Champagnes of the Year, and Why

I have no shortage of love for a glass of bubbles. In fact, at a dinner for wine enthusiasts in which I was caught up in a conversation with someone seated near me, I heard someone ask my husband what my favorite wine to drink was. While I was taking a moment to ponder that answer, he immediately exclaimed, "Champagne!" (And he would know, he brought two bottles to Baker Beach to propose to me with.)

As much as we in the industry love to talk about Champagne not being just a celebration beverage (and it's true, it goes with just about everything you can think of), it remains incredibly special and symbolic of a good time. It can be simple and celebratory, or it can be incredibly rare and complex, and there is a sea of options in between those two. So in honor of a truly special year, these are the top five Champagnes that brought me the most joy in 2022.

Eisenhower Residence in Reims

Moet & Chandon splits: Oh yes, the vending machine is quite the gimmick, but it's also what dreams are made of. With a custom gold coin, and a topper that doubles as a way to sip champagne straight from the bottle, passing up the opportunity to slip a bottle in your bag on the way to an impromptu adventure would just be silly. And if you end up in Tiburon, The Caviar Co has one right inside. Simple, bliss filled bottles.

Splits of Moet from Caviar and Co while kayaking in Sausalito

Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose: Every year my family has me saber a bottle of bubbly for Christmas morning toasts. After using a chef's knife with varying degrees of success for the last decade or so, I finally got myself a true saber, and wow does that make a difference! After having lunch with the Laurent-Perrier Vice President of sales, and long time associate, Naomi Smith recently, she generously gifted me a bottle of the LP Cuvee Rose. Made with 100% Pinot Noir from 10 different crus from the North and South areas of the Montagne de Reims, as well as the famous village of Bouzy. Grapes from carefully selected plots are meticulously sorted and de-stemmed before going into the vats, and the controlled maceration helps with the color extraction and the development of the full aromatic richness of the Pinot Noir. It had been quite a while since I tasted this rose, and I was floored at how delicious it was. It was wonderful to share it with my family as we ate our traditional breakfast (after my husband and dad scoured the yard for the cork, which would join all of the others in gold boxes that my bonus mom had collected and dated).

Annual Christmas Champagne Sabrage

1971 Piper-Heidsieck Hors-Serie: For those of you that follow my escapades on Instagram, this one will come as no surprise. Emilien Boutillat opened this stunner from his private collection for me to try during my visit to Reims in July. Fifty years on the lees and it was truly mind blowing. Just opening it was a gesture that brought tears to my eyes. At only 34, his experience in wine brought him all over the world and working with top wineries (including Chateau Margaux, Peter Michael, and Armand de Brignac). In 2021, Emilien earned the award for the best sparkling winemaker in the world. He is as charming as he is talented.

1971 Piper-Heidsieck from Emilien Boutillat's private collection

2007 Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires: After an extensive tour of the ancient Roman caves, we sat down to taste the entire current lineup of Charles Heidsieck with Cyril Brun (two time award winner of the best sparkling wine maker in the world), who joined the Champagne House of Charles Heidsieck as ‘chef de cave’ in May 2015. Every bottle was absolutely marvelous, and learning the history of "Champagne Charlie" combined with the history of the chalk caves that served as underground cities during the wars, made this perhaps one of the most fascinating tastings I've ever had the privilege to join.

2007 Charles-Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires

2008 Rare Millesime Rose: Rare Champagne is from a noble origin dating back to 1785 when Queen Marie Antoinette tasted the Champagne house’s first cuvee. Limited-production and unabashedly exclusive, Rare Champagne is a regal rejection of convention and an extraordinary occurrence, with only 11 vintages having been released in the last 4 decades: 1976, 1979, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2008 and Rare Rosé Millésime 2007 and 2008. While I was being hosted at the private Eisenhower Residence, I was treated to several glasses of several vintages while enjoying the grounds, and then again at lunch as their chef prepared a three course meal perfectly paired to the wines.

2008 Rare Champagne Rose at the Eisenhower Residence

While this was my first visit to Champagne, it certainly won't be my last. After spending eight weeks in a private cellar filled with the world's most sought after Champagne upon my return to the US, my passion for Champagne, both the beverage and the region has been ignited in a whole new way. Look forward to more content and opportunities with Enotrias and various Champagne producers and content in 2023 and beyond.

Wishing you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

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