A Champagne Hipster’s Guide to Christmas 2016

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Fact – Australia is one of the world’s highest per capita consumers of Champagne

Fact – Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey (LVMH) and Pernod Ricard both control the lions share of Champagne distributed in Australia

Fact – Some of the world’s most consumed Champagne brands can be strangely difficult to find when compared to established brands like Moet Chandon and Veuve Clicquot

Fact – Moet Chandon (moh-wet chan-dowh) is the most mispronounced Champagne label in the country, second only to Billecart Salmon (bee-car sah-mowh)

Fact – Champagne is a region just north of Paris of which Reims is the largest town center.

Fact – Typically three grapes are used to produce most Champagne: the white grape Chardonnay and two red grapes (but without skin contact during fermentation) Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Luckily I’ve written a guide in case you want to broaden your Champagne horizons this festive season and get your Hipster Champagne on!

Champagne under $40

Dan Murphy has two that are a little on the tangy-side without much depth (Louis Auger and Aubert et Fils), but drunk chilled they will beat most domestic sparklings for that distinctive cold-climate taste. If BWS is close, try Bichat from which you can grab for $25-$30 a bottle. It has a fuller flavour without as much harsh acidity, but again, don’t expect a lingering finish.

If you want to spend a little more, Piper Heidsieck ($33-40) is probably a better bet and you’ll be rewarded with a little more depth at the finish.

At Vintage Cellars, you’ll find MoutardHenri Laurent and Cattier, which are all of similar quality and taste profile without being too heavy on your Christmas budget ($24-34). Look out for a half price $27 Baron de Villeboerg which was on special and is an absolute bargain. Some stores increased the price again however, so if you can still find it at that price, grab it now.

At Aldi you can find, Mosigny in two versions for $25 and $30 apiece. They both aren’t bad, but a little dry in style and of similar quality range to the cheaper Dan Murphy/BWS versions.

My pick in this range (if you are sick of Piper Heidsieck) is a boutique grower Champagne Choisel Pere & Fils which The Wine Emporium at Newstead (Brisbane) seems to have exclusively imported. The clean taste and depth of flavour for $35 which blows all of the above out of the water.

Champagne in the $40-60 range

I’ve seen Comte de Noiron in some IGA Liquors in Melbourne and at a handful of boutique liquor stores. Nice sweetness and decent length of taste, which you can typically pick up in the $40-50 range. If you like Pol Roger, you’ll be partial to this one and save a decent amount of money.

Pommery is a huge house the doesn’t have a large presence here in the stores because they mostly focus on restaurant supply instead. It can taste quite dry to some people so maybe have this one with food or as an aperitif and you can get this around the $60 mark. Try the Silver label for a great Blanc de Blanc or the lime green for a lighter Summer-centric blend.

Nicolas Feuillatte is one of France’s most consumed Champagne’s and only recently have I seen this being widely distributed (some Dan Murphy’s and boutique liquor stores). It should retail above $55 and is an easy drinking, solid little Champagne. Don’t try attempting the last name’s pronunciation without some French linguistic lessons behind you, but drop the ‘s’ on Nicolas if you want to impress.

Champagne in the $60-100 range

Louis Roederer is probably one of the more well-known brands I’ve listed here but is the cheaper cousin to famous Cristal brand. This great, delicate little number’s taste will linger after each sip. This brand is very highly distributed, so it should be easy to find at the big stores. Expect to pay $80-100.

Ayala was a small house before being bought by Bollinger, but their $70-80 Brut Majeur Champagne has great depth by blending in a lot of back vintage wine and it’s not as dominated with green acidity as some other larger brands. I’ve seen this at Vintage Cellars and a few other smaller bottle shops. (note the label below is the old one – new one is dark grey)

Charles Heidsieck can usually be found for $80-100 and is probably my personal favourite on this whole list due mostly to the fullness in taste. Like all of the above it is a non-vintage (NV) but the flavour in this bottle will rival 10-20yo vintage Champagnes. If you like Krug but want to save your pennies this Christmas, buy Charles Heidsieck. Not to be confused with Piper Heidsieck – they are miles apart.

Henroit Brut Souverain is also another more boutique Champagne which has huge flavour, freshness and a great combination of youth vs aged depth. Expect to find it at smaller stores, Vintage Cellars or online for around $80-100 per bottle.

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