Have you noticed that your local wine store is busier than normal? That’s right, New Year’s Eve is coming and it’s amateur season at your champagne shop. Sick of slaloming between floor stacks of Korbel, we turned to Kimi Kiviranna of Lincoln Fine Wines in Venice Beach, California for some help. She suggested five great producers and bottles that deliver some serious bubbles for the buck.
Champagne Marguet — Benoit Marguet is the natural wines darling of Champagne. His family worked for Krug as growers for generations, but when Benoit came of age in 2006, he decided to go solo. His current work reflects both the traditional skills he learned from his father and the philosophies of his mentors, natty wine pioneers, David Leclapart and Georges Laval. Marguet has really embraced the philosophies of the latter pair. His vineyards are plowed by horse, 100% biodynamique, and 100% organic. Much of his winemaking is inspired by his time with a Peruvian shaman; he even had 1000 pound crystals flown into the estate (for positive energy, of course). And, Marguet claims that when he knows when a vine is in trouble because he has a stomach ache. Whatever your opinion of his new age spiritualism, there is no disputing that he makes phenomenal wine.
Bérêche et Fils — Brothers Raphaël and Vincent Bérêche are now at the helm of their family vineyard, founded in 1847. The siblings are renowned for the meticulous care that they shower up on their tiny nine hectares holdings spread over Ludes, Ormes, Mareuil le Port, Trépail, and Mailly. The small parcels account for a remarkably wide range of wines, but our favorite is the Reflet d’Antan. The Champagne is a one-third each blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay pulled from a thirty plus year-old solera. Annually, the Bérêches draw two-thirds of the 600 liter barrel reserve for bottling and replace it with juice from the latest vintage. The final taste delivers nice bubbles and a crisp flavor; just your basic baller champagne.
Marc Hébrart — Herbart is not easy to find, but it your local wineshop landed a piece of the coveted allocation, snap up a bottle immediately. In 1964, Marc Hébrart started making Champagne and by the time his son Jean-Paul took over in 1997, the family name commanded respect amongst oenophiles. J-P now farms 65 plots spread over 6 villages in the region. He makes a little bit of a hardier, richer style of Champagne. (Think Krug.) The flavor is really biscuity and toasty.
Tattinger Prelude — Prelude is Champagne superpower Tattinger’s entry into the recently disgorged category and it’s a winner. The extra time in the lees really, really comes through delivering a beautiful flavor. The juice is a 50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir, non-vintage blend sourced exclusively from Grand Cru vineyards. Prelude is still under the radar at only $80 a bottle with a taste that could command more than double that price.
J. Lasalle Cachet d’Or — Finding a quality Champagne that retails under $40 is rare, but if you can get your hands on a bottle of Cachet d’Or, it delivers. Jules Lassalle founded the house in 1942, but for the last 28 years it’s been run exclusively by his female progeny. They operate under the slogan “une femme, un esprit, un style” (one woman, one spirit, one style). The Cachet d’Or is a one-third each blend of Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. It offers lots of stone fruit and a nice complexity making this an excellent starter Champagne.