Popping bottles! With New Year’s Eve almost here, it’s time to start picking out what champagne you’re going to toast with while saying, “Out with the old and in with the new!”
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With so many selections of bubbly on the market today, however, it can be difficult to decide which bottle is best to pop at midnight. Luckily, famed sommelier Allegra Angelo, who has been working in the restaurant business since she was just 15 years old, has cultivated the perfect list of the best champagnes to drink while saying goodbye to 2020.
Angelo’s selections are rooted in decades’ worth of knowledge and experience — she has developed more than 20 unique wine and spirit programs across the country. She is also Vinya’s current in-house sommelier, has worked wine harvests in Burgundy, Tuscany and Spain, and received a number of major accolades and awards in the field, including the 2016 winner of TopSomm.
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According to Angelo, there are five top champagne brands and bottles that you should try as you wave 2020 farewell.
First is the Originel Brut NV ($45+) by Vincent Cuillier. “This Pinot Meunier-forward champagne is from a small family-owned winery and offers exceptional value,” she revealed. “I like Pinot Meunier-forward Champagne wines because they are floral and juicy on the palate and reminiscent of a dry Riesling. Total people pleasers.”
The sommelier called her No. 2 pick, Charles Heidsieck’s Brut Reserve NV ($60+) her “go to for a richer style of champagne” for any occasion.
“This pinot noir champagne uses a high percentage of reserve wines (about 40 percent), which gives this champagne those big, yummy flavors of warm bread, croissant and roasted nuts,” she said.
Angelo identified Pierre Cellier Brut Prestige NV ($38+) as the third choice for any New Year’s Eve festivities. “One of the best values on the market, this champagne is made by winemaker Pierre Gonet (of the well-known champagne brand Philippe Gonet),” she explained. “It’s a pinot noir forward style with lush orchard fruits but the 30 percent of Chardonnay lifts the palate with brioche, preserved lemon and cold white stone.”
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For a sense of winter citrus and spring flowers that “feels luxurious, yet incredibly soft on the palate,” Angelo pointed to Blanc Des Blancs by Perrier-Jouët Brut NV ($89+).
“Perrier-Jouët does chardonnay right; it’s the cornerstone grape of the brand,” she said. “A fairly new release for PJ, I would choose this over their big competitor, Ruinart Blanc des Blancs.”
Angelo’s final pick is a vintage champagne called La Grande Année by Bollinger 2012 ($180+).
“When you have the budget, nothing beats Bollinger. Generous and decadent, yet supremely soft and elegant, Bollinger is the timeless and fashionable, black cocktail dress,” she said, noting the drink is made exclusively in barrels and aged “under cork” as opposed to crown cap. “This pinot noir-forward champagne is made in true select years (the last vintage was 2008). It’s the benchmark for creaminess, and always hangs out a little bit longer (than the others) on the palate.”
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