New Year’s Eve dinner is the moment for enjoying the best wines, and at the pinnacle are Prestige Cuvee Champagnes.
The term Prestige Cuvee Champagne applies to the finest wine from a Champagne house. Typically the wine is aged six to eight years in the producer’s cellar, made only from the best chardonnay or pinot noir grapes, and only in excellent vintages. Capturing Prestige Cuvee Champagne’s complex aromas and flavors requires serving it in a white wine glass.
These Champagnes usually have unique names, and are packaged in artistically-designed bottles and elaborate boxes, making them special holiday gifts.
Two weeks ago, I tasted an array of Prestige Cuvee Champagnes at the holiday luncheon of the New York-based Wine Media Guild. Here are my favorites.
Taittinger 2000 Comtes de Champagne: Taittinger is a great Champagne house, and its Comtes de Champagne is aged from eight to 10 years. Made only from chardonnay(called blanc de blancs in the Champagne lexicon), its rich fruit flavor and slightly nutty taste is magnetic. Substantial acidity guarantees a 20-to 30-year life for the 2000 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. Approximately $130.
Perrier-Jouet 2002 Fleur de Champagne. Its iconic Belle Epoch flower bottle is the most beautiful bottle in the wine world. Inside is a refined, elegant blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and a touch of pinot meunier, the three grapes of Champagne. The 2002 is a great Champagne vintage, and the Perrier-Jouet Fleur de Champagne will gain complexity and length during the next 25 years. But few will be able to resist its current charms. It comes in a stunning jewel-box presentation with two matching flower bottle glasses. About $140.
Piper-Heidsieck 2002 Rare is the perfect name: Its only been made five times since 1979. Aged for at least seven years, Rare is a blend of mostly chardonnay with some pinot noir. It’s a mouthful of fruit flavors with substantial body and crisp acidity in the finish, a first-class wine with great aging potential. And the gold tiara on the bottle is removable, making it a fitting hairpiece for that rare person sharing this great Prestige Cuvee. Around $175.
Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle is one of the very few non-vintage Prestige Cuvee Champagnes. It is also one I always seek because its rich fruit flavors and full body carries a very long pleasing finish. Champagne is very sensitive to light and temperature; the challenge for consumers is knowing how long a non-vintage bottle has been sitting on a retailer’s shelf. My suggestion: Buy it from a store that turns its Champagne inventory often. Expect to pay about $125.
Pol Roger 1999 Cuvee Winston Churchill is as full-bodied as the man for which it is named. It has explosive fruit and brioche aromas, and is as rich as any wine you’ll ever drink, with perfect balance and astounding aging potential. This is a wine drinker’s champagne. I love it, even at $190.
Henriot 1995 Cuvee des Enchanteleurs is a magnificent champagne. It billows with fresh bread and toasted nut aromas, intense fruit flavors and caramel, and a crisp acidity and a clean finish. I adore Henriot’s entire champagne portfolio and everyone I’ve introduced to Henriot has become enamored with its style. About $165.