Every sommelier has their favorite under-the-radar Champagne producer, usually a terroir-driven, small-production house that can offer a great value because of their lesser known status. As the year draws to an end and all minds turn to bubbly for New Year’s Eve, we’ve rounded up some leading sommeliers to share their thoughts on favorite boutique Champagne producers. Salut!
Alexander LaPratt, Sommelier at NYC’s DB Bistro Moderne and winner of the 2nd Annual StarChefs.com Somm Slam, recommends Pierre Moncuit, Blanc de Blancs, Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger, Grand Cru 2002. These Champagnes are made annually from a single vintage—a diversion from the typical blending of reserve wines. The single grape gives a clear expression of each particular growing season, leading to more personality as the wines age. This Grand Cru village is in the Côte des Blancs region, neighboring the great Salon & Krug vineyards of Le Mesnil, and its chalky limestone Kimmeridgian soil and Chardonnay grape blend perfectly in an elegant, mineral-driven pour. It’s refreshing, with lemon citrus, green apple, and under-ripe pear, but also proudly bears a signature minerality and terroir. “When you taste this wine, you immediately know that it could only have come from this single place in the entire world,” says LaPratt.
Wine Director Thomas Pastuszak of Colicchio & Sons, also in New York City, has two boutique Champagne suggestions. First up is Pierre Peters Cuvée de Réserve NV, a 100 percent Chardonnay also from the village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. A beautiful balance of acidity and minerality, this Champagne offers big apple, citrus, and yeast characteristics for those looking to drink Salon on a budget (at a friendly average price of $57). The Cuvée de Réserve is an extraordinary value, and their single-vineyard “Chetillons” is made only in great vintage years (most recently 2004, 2002, and 2000), making it a bottle that’s worth grabbing up when you can.
Pastuszak’s second recommendation is biodynamic producer Larmandier-Bernier’s Terre de Vertus NV, another Blanc de Blancs, from the Premier Cru village of Vertus. The surprise on this single-vineyard expression of their greatest terroir is the lack of a final dosage of sugar, leaving the Champagne ripe and big on the nose, contrasting the complex and taut mouthfeel. Flinty, chalky, and stony aromatics play against citrus, papaya, and apricot for a ripe and generous wine that has the capacity to age beautifully.
Michel & Fils Brut Tradition is the New Year’s pick for Brent Kroll, wine director at Adour in Washington, DC. A Champagne from Moussy that's made from 70 percent Pinot Meunier and 30 percent Chardonnay, this bottle offers notes of candied nuts and dried cherries. Kroll finds the Pinot Meunier often outspoken and aggressive, but combined with the Chardonnay it finds balance. “Pinot Meunier kind of reminds me of a rebellious teenager with Chardonnay being Dad and Pinot Noir being Mom,” says Kroll.
From 2011 New York Rising Star Sommelier Nick Adams Robinson at New York City’s Tocqueville,we get a rosé suggestion, a great pairing option for sushi or crudo. Robinson suggests a Premier Cru sparkler from Veuve Fourny & Fils, also produced with hand-picked Pinot Noir grapes. Just as a little vanilla can make chocolate cake more chocolately, a little Chardonnay in the mix reveals the red and black fruit here; yet it’s still a dry and crisp Champagne.
Finally, Julian Mayor at Bourbon Steak in Washington, DC, loves to pour Diebolt-Vallois from the Côte des Blancs. “While technically not a grower, Diebolt-Vallois produces a small quantity of hand-crafted wines in the Grand Cru village of Cramant,” says Mayor. “One of my favorites is their Blanc de Blancs.” This 100 percent Chardonnay is a lively, crisp, and bright pour with an elegant finish, full of fresh green apple and citrus aromas and a racy, chalky palate. “It’s perfect as an aperitif or paired with oysters, lobster, and crab,” says Mayor.