2017 Top 100

Top Champagne

James Halliday by James Halliday

From 54 wines submitted and 12 wines selected.

The amount of money being spent in Champagne is mind-boggling and it’s coming from France, not China. New press houses are being equipped with whizz-bang electronic recording processes (Bollinger can track every bottle it makes with encryption systems). Dated cuveries are either being razed to the ground or given extreme makeovers. And good vineyards can’t be purchased for love or money.

NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve
94 points, $80

Its complexity comes from 40% pinot meunier, 30% each of pinot noir and chardonnay. the reserve components are 45% of the total, the outcome brioche and spicy/toasty nuances at one extreme, red berry, citrus and bright acidity at the other, all displayed on an unbroken stream from start to finish. domainewineshippers.com.au

NV Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut
95 points, $80

Second only to Krug Grande Cuvee in its complexity, reserve wines contributing 50% to 60% of the total, sourced from 750,000 magnums and wines held in barrel, the blend 60% pinot noir, 25% chardonnay and 15% meunier. It’s creamy, rich and honeyed, dried and fresh white peach come with riveting acidity. hofw.com.au

NV Deutz Brut Classic
94 points, $80

Deutz has gone on a pending spree since its acquisition by Roederer in 2000, with a new press house and winery. This is a blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay. Yellow flowers and ripe spicy stone fruit are the leaders, providing line, length and balance, with a farewell of pink grapefruit. qedwines.com.au

NV Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Cuvee Cuis 1er Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs
93 points, $80

A hands-on business, Gimmonet brothers Didier and Oliver making 100% estate-grown wines. Attention to detail sees 40 stainless steel fermenters sized for the 40 plots owned across the Côte de Blancs. The reserve wines are held in magnums, the result zesty, lively, long and pure aperitif Champagne. negociantsaustralia.com

NV Alfred Gratien Brut Rose
94 points, $90

Acquired by German Henkell Group in 2004, but continues to barrel-ferment and mature its base wines in old barriques (in a new winery). Its bright pink hue is heightened by the clear glass bottle, but it’s no gimmick. Its vibrant, juicy, wild strawberry flavours are infinitely seductive. roguewines.com.au

NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve
96 points, $99.95

Charles Heidsieck might be nicknamed Poor Man’s Krug given the astonishing number of vintages in the reserve wines, their age (10 years in tank), and the seven years the wine spends on lees once blended and bottled. It is an exceptional wine in the mouth, supple, layered, complex and long. robertoatley.com.au

NV Jacquesson Cuvee No. 740
94 points, $115

NV in name, vintage in body (80% base wine) with a micro-dosage of 1.8g/l. A blend of 43% chardonnay, 30% pinot meunier and 27% pinot noir, it is tight and firm on release, with a citrus sherbet under gently sweet fruit, balance its saviour now, and in full flower in five years hence. cellarhand.com.au

2008 Pol Roger Vintage Brut
97 points, $150

I have always loved Pol for its luminous, polished flavours and mouthfeel. Add the glorious ’08 vintage, its usual blend of 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay seems reversed. It’s full of beautifully balanced stone fruit and citrus, achieved with a modest 7g/l of dosage after seven years on lees. negociantsaustralia.com

2009 Dom Perignon Vintage Brut
96 points, $279

It’s shocking that Dom is so far below price leadership. Two (of many) reasons are its sheer volume produced, and the confusion of five to seven vintages on current release. In the midst of this the new vintage sails calmly on, supple, delicate and long, and oh so easy to enjoy. moet-hennessy-collection.com.au

2004 Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill

98 points, $355

Pol was Churchill’s house Champagne. It is predominantly pinot noir (no meunier), and all the vineyards are Grand Cru and in bearing in Churchill’s lifetime. The wine has slippery acidity and literally soars with its amazing concentration and complexity, the length and aftertaste second to none other than Krug. negociantsaustralia.com

2004 Krug Vintage

99 points, $449

Krug is the greatest Champagne. It is, as others (including myself) have said many times, Champagne’s answer to Burgundy’s Romanee-Conti. It is superbly poised, the flavour and texture as complex as a Beethoven symphony played in a great concert hall under the baton of a great conductor. 

2006 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rose

97 points, $450

A rare but compelling sibling of Taittinger’s revered Comtes Blanc de Blancs. Rich salmon-pink, it is 70% pinot noir (12% made as red wine) and 30% chardonnay. Spiced strawberry flavours are uppermost, pomegranate somewhere in the mix; a decade on lees has given it yet another coat of complexity. mcwilliams.com.au