Laurent-Perrier was founded in 1812 but that doesn’t mean it refuses to move with the times. The la cuvée was already one of the world’s best-selling champagnes when they discontinued the popular fizz and introduced a new version, determined to make it even better.
Fizz now comes in many forms, including the ever-popular prosecco and the widely acclaimed English sparkling. However, champagne remains the most prestigious bottle to pop if you’re really out to impress.
Champagne is only allowed to be labelled as such if it adheres to strict rules. Every bottle is made in the region of the same name, in the northeast of France. It can only be made from three grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – and has to be produced using the labour-intensive methode traditionelle. This refers to the secondary fermentation process that happens inside the bottle when yeast is added to create the bubbles and flavours we associate with champagne. This process of maturation on lees takes at least 15 months for the wine to be called champagne, though the very best bottles are often matured for a lot longer.
The quality of the grapes, the climate they were grown in, the maturation period and the expertise of the winemaker will all affect the taste and quality of the finished product. “When considering which champagne to go for, the first decision is ‘vintage’ or ‘non-vintage’,” explains Jeremy Howard, CEO of Cru World Wine. “A ‘NV’ comprises a blend of different years, some of which won’t be the very best, whereas a ‘vintage’ champagne ensures all the grapes come from the same year, and a great year at that.”
Remember, you don’t need to buy a pricey bottle from a big name, either. Most supermarkets produce their own champagne now, while smaller producers make some of the most interesting and unique champagne currently on the market. We got sipping, to find out favourites.
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How we tested
We chilled each bottle we tested and tried every one on its own and with a variety of foods, including simple nuts, canapes, strawberries and cream and (our favourite) good old-fashioned fish and chips. For each one, we judged its aroma, colour and the size and quality of the bubbles. We also looked for dominant flavours and whether the champagne was light and fresh or had stronger toasty or fruity notes and finally considered if the bottle was good value or one best saved strictly for a special occasion.
The best champagnes for 2023 are:
- Best champagne overall – Laurent-Perrier la cuvée brut: £48.99, Waitrosecellar.com
- Best big-name champagne – Taittinger prélude grands crus NV: £58, Amazon.co.uk
- Best food-friendly champagne – Barons de Rothschild brut NV: £50, Waddesdonwine.co.uk
- Best small-scale champagne – Frerejean Frères brut grand reserve: £37.81, Honestgrapes.co.uk
- Best own-label champagne – Selfridges selection champagne brut NV: £34.99, Selfridges.com