By Rick Riozza

Well folks—so this is Christmas…Hanukkah…Kwanzaa…Ōmisoka…Boxing Day, you name it. As this tumultuous year comes to an end—we’re up for a delicious cheer! and we toast to the new hopeful year!

Throughout the pandemic year, our column has hopefully provided its share of tasty wine recommendations to be found at a reasonable price or even at a great deal of the day. We’ve even recommended wines priced at $3 a bottle: The Gallo Sauvignon Blanc and the Aconga Red Blend, both scoring a solid 86 points.

But as is our tradition at this time, we highlight the best Champagnes to consider—no matter what the cost. And while many of us quaffers will tend to spend the extra bucks for the well-deserved holiday treat, we all will be enjoying these wines described below—if only in our dreams. Following, in quotes, are Wine Spectators top reviews:

Bollinger Brut Champagne La Grande Année 2012 ($175) 97 points. I forget now the occasion in which we opened the 1996 Grande Année, six years ago. But as we know, opening a great bottle of wine is the occasion. And the ‘96 Année was one of the best Champagnes I’ve ever had: Although its color was turning from bright to a touch darker hue, the liquid tasted fresh, complex, great mouth-feel and finish. We could tell that Champagne could age well for a couple decades. Bollinger makes great stuff.


“[the 2012 La Grande Année] goes from zero to 60 right out of the gate, with an intense spine of acidity driving tightly meshed flavors of crushed black currant, ground coffee, candied grapefruit peel, and toasted almond. The profile expands on the palate, carried by the fine, raw silk-like mousse. Richly aromatic and expressive from start to lasting, spiced finish…drink now through 2037.”

Krug Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne Clos du Mesnil 2006 ($1050) 97 points. As many wine enthusiasts know, Krug has been the Champagne of royalty and gazillionaires for years. And the Krug’s single vineyard, Clos du Mesnil is hallowed ground. A bucket list for top Champagne collectors and cultists.

“A stunner, displaying all the lithe grace of a ballet dancer that belies the underlying powerful musculature. Sleek acidity creates a mouthwatering impression throughout, seamlessly knit, with the fine, creamy texture. Expressive lime blossom and spice aromatics are layered with fruit flavors of poached apricot, dried cherry and a touch of passion fruit coulis. Long and minerally on the racy finish, echoing rich, savory notes of grilled nut and espresso …drink now through 2036.”

Louis Roederer Brut Champagne Cristal 2012 ($279) 97 points. Of course, Cristal has its own Facebook page and was the rage of many folks who wished to display their wealth at restaurant dining. But hey! It’s always been a delicious Champagne—and who wouldn’t want a glass of that bubbly?! I did have a glass and it was fab!

“A classic beauty, fresh-faced and focused today, but with a harmonious grace of form suggesting a long career ahead. There’s a creamy, viscous quality to the mousse that swathes the palate, carrying finely detailed flavors of poached quince, Mandarin orange preserves, toasted almond and pickled ginger. Mouthwatering throughout, with a pleasing, soft zestiness to the mineral-laced finish. Drink now through 2035.”

Krug Brut Champagne Grand Cuvée 168ème Édition NV ($160) 95 points. Krug again! A seamless bubbly “of racy acidity with a detailed range of crème de cassis, raw almond, toasted saffron, and candied ginger flavors; salty mineral and rich hints of coffee, toasted brioche and Mandarin orange peel. Drink now through 2030.”

Pierre Péters Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne L’Etonnant Monsieur Victor Edition MK.13 NV ($289) 94 points. A Champagne-House always under the radar. The Pierre Péters estate, situated in the heart of the “Côte des Blancs” in the village of Le Mesnil sur Oger, has been a family house for six generations and has produced Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs since 1919.

“This classy Champagne packs a lot into a svelte and finely knot frame, defined by sleek, mouthwatering acidity and driven by an underpinning of salty mineral, with flavors of pear tart, salted almond, pastry cream and Mandarin orange peel unfolding on the palate through lasting finish. Drink now through 2027.”

For you folks who’d love to try a Pierre Péters Brut Blanc de Blancs Cuvée de Reserve NV ($60) 92 points, to experience the quality of their terroir, check out: “Sleek and mouthwatering, with a fine, satiny mousse and a fresh panoply of crunchy pear, grapefruit sorbet, pickled ginger and spring blossom notes. Bright and finely knit, with rich hints of toast and mineral echoing on the finish. Drink now through 2025.”

G.H. Mumm Brut Champagne Grand Cordon NV ($45) 91 points. “Bright and graceful, with a lively bead and delicate flavors of Granny Smith apple, grated ginger and toast point. Lacy, citrus-laced finished. Drink now through 2023.”

Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne Cuvée NV ($47) 91 points. “Bright and lively with citrusy acidity enlivening rich hints of crème de cassis, toasted almond and crystallized honey. Accents of minerally smoke and saline linger on the creamy finish. Drink now.”

Moet & Chandon Brut Champagne Imperial NV ($44) 90 points. “Lively and balanced, offering a round and accessible mix of juicy tangerine and ripe blackberry fruit flavors underscored by toasted brioche, grated ginger, graphite and spice. A fresh crowd-pleaser. Drink now through 2023.

Tattinger Brut Champagne La Française NV ($49) 90 points. A toasty Champagne in an aperitif style, creamy on the palate and showing flavors of poached apricot, preserved lemon and grated ginger underscored by a hint of smoke. Drink now.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne NV ($49) 90 points. Lightly toasty on the nose, will grilled nut and smoke notes underscoring poached pear and pasty cream flavors. Rapierlike acidity keeps this fresh and focused. Drink now. And cheers to you all!