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Champagne Taste-Test: The Winners

The pop of the cork, the brilliance of the bubbles, the grace of the flutes—no drink elicits as much fun and excitement as Champagne. And none creates more anxiety in the aisles of liquor stores.

When is it worthwhile to splurge? Are the familiar names as promising as they sound?

We asked three sommeliers—Vincent Feraud of Maestro in Tysons Corner, Kathy Morgan of 2941 in Falls Church, and David Bueno of DC’s Taberna del Alabardero—to join Washingtonian wine columnist Don Rockwell for a tasting of the best Champagnes.

Inexpensive

Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte-Anne NV ($29.99).A remarkably full-bodied, well-balanced Champagne for the price, the panelists agreed. It edged out the runner-up, Pierre Peters NV ($29.99), which they found yeastier and fruitier.

Midlevel

Chartogne-Taillet Fiacre 1999 ($61.99). The surprise is that the Fiacre retails for less than half what the Dom Pérignon ($149.99) does, which it narrowly beat. Said Feraud of the Dom: “It has a big reputation, but when you actually drink it, you can be disappointed. Without food to pair with it, I’d drink the Dom. With food, I’d drink the Chartogne.”

Panelists praised the Chartogne for its “personality,” particularly its “creamy richness.” Rockwell summed up the difference between the two: “The Chartogne drinks more like a wine, the Dom more like a sparkling beverage.”

Premium

Krug Grande Cuvée ($169.99) and Salon Le Mesnil ($299). The panelists were split between the two but unanimous in their disapproval of the popular Veuve Clicquot ($149.99), which Morgan said “tastes like sour milk.” Added Feraud: “This should be way better, considering the vintage.”

Of the Krug, Bueno said, “Everyone would like this even if they didn’t like Champagne.” Feraud said he would choose the Krug “for drinking tonight.” He believes the Salon—“a great wine for collectors, like drinking a great white Burgundy”—is better for the long term.

Morgan and Rockwell preferred the Salon for “drinking tonight” and far into the future. Said Morgan: “I’d rather drink the Salon, even in its infancy, than any other wine here.”

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