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It’s Time To Pop Some Corks — The Best Champagnes For Late Summer Sipping

Champagne gets talked about a lot around the holidays — New Year’s Eve especially — and then sort of drops off the radar for a lot of folks. Not us. Around these parts, it’s always champagne time. Seriously, you should have a bottle of champers in the fridge year-round ready to be popped at any time. Especially during the dog days of summer, as champagne is the ultimate thirst-quenching summer refresher.

Today, I’m calling out ten bottles I like to keep on ice this time of year. But before we dive in, some context — champagne is a sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. And since real champagne is an appellation product (legally tied to a region), there are some serious rules that make the sparking wine “champagne.” Very generally, the grapes have to be either Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, or Pinot Meunier grapes. After barrel aging, the juice needs to age in a cellar for a year and a half (at least) of secondary fermentation in the bottle with more yeast and rock sugar added. During that time, the bottles need to be “riddled” or rotated daily to help the wine mature properly.

Naturally, there are bazillion other minutiae level rules that apply. But that’s a good start for now.

For this ranking, I’m simply going on taste. And, look, I’m a Bollinger ride-or-die fella. I have a bottle of their Brut and Rose in my fridge pretty much 365. I guess that’s a bit of a spoiler alert for later. That said, I enjoy a lot of champagne in between my everyday pours for a lot of different reasons (from making cocktails to breaking the monotony of sipping whiskey over and over). So let’s dive right in and find you a great bottle of champagne for some late summer sipping!

Also Read: The Top Five Cocktail Recipes of the Last Six Months

10. G.H. Mumm Grand Cardon Champagne

G.H. Mumm Grand Cardon Champagne
GH Mumm

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $52

The Champagne:

The Mumms (a German wine-making family from the Rhine) moved their whole operation and family to Champagne to make this now iconic sparkling wine back in the early 1800s. Today, Mumm Grand Cordon sources around 100 crus from the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Meunier fields around Champagne, France. Those wines are mellowed in large oak vats until they reach just the right point of aromatics and texture.

Tasting Notes:

The nose on this one is like walking through a peach and apricot orchard on a warm summer day with hints of vanilla, dried yeast, and a little fresh honey. On the palate, stone fruit dries out a bit as a tart and an almost creamy sense of pineapple drive the taste towards a fruit salad vibe. The finish is fruity, slightly dry, and bright.

Bottom Line:

This is the ultimate entry-point champagne for anyone looking to dip a toe in. The juice is very baseline with a good dose of fruitiness that helps this shine as a summer sipper. It’s fresh and bright and very easy-going.

9. Veuve Clicqout Rich Blanc

Vueve Cliqout Rich Blanc
Vueve Cliqout

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $68

The Champagne:

This expression from the massive Veuve Clicquot line is all about the soft and sweet summer vibes. The juice is inspired by the Russian court’s love of sweeter champagne and was crafted with the help of the world’s top bartenders. The wine is created by blending 45 percent Pinot Noir, 40 percent Meunier, and 15 percent Chardonnay with a dose of rock sugar when bottling.

Tasting Notes:

That sugar rises to the top of the nose and dampens the drier yeasty edge, allowing the brioche and apricot jam to shine through. The palate leans into a lemon meringue pie with rich citrus curd, plenty of creamy vanilla, and a hint of butter with a whisper of clove. The finish is sweet and creamy with a faint echo of white wildflowers and white pepper.

Bottom Line:

This is devised for refreshing champagne cocktails. Pour it over ice and add in a bit of grapefruit oil, hibiscus, or even Earl Grey. It’s the perfect summer cocktail.

8. Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Exclusive Rosé

Nicolas Feuillatte Réserve Exclusive Rosé
Nicolas Feuillatte

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $67

The Champagne:

Nicolas Feuillatte Rose is a summertime classic with deep roots in the Champagne region’s cooperative of winemakers. This is also a fairly new brand (relatively), dating back to the 1970s only. The juice in the bottle is made from 45 percent Pinto Noir, 45 percent Meunier, and a scant ten percent Chardonnay wines.

Tasting Notes:

This is a berry bomb from the nose to the finish with ripe raspberry brambles mingling with tart black currants, woody huckleberries, and soft strawberries on the nose and on the palate. The palate does build out further towards a dry hay vibe with a hint of apple stems and creamed butter (but it’s super faint). The end boils everything down to a red berry jam with a nice balance of tart, sweet, and dry that’s a little light-handed.

Bottom Line:

This is the perfect berry-forward champers for summer. This is the epitome of a backyard sipper. It’s a little light on the finish and kind of just fades away but that’s being really nit-picky.

7. Champagne Pol Roger Reserve Brut

Champagne Pol Roger Reserve Brut
Champagne Pol Roger

ABV: 12.5%

Average Price: $63

The Champagne:

Pol Roger goes back to the mid-1800s (like so many on this list). The wine was so beloved that it received a “royal warrant” to become the official champagne of the court of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That tradition carries on today as it now has the “royal warrant” for the British Crown, in large part thanks to Winston Churchill insisting that he only drank this champagne for decades.

Translation: It’s really good stuff.

Tasting Notes:

The champagne draws you in with this medley for bright wildflowers next to a brioche folded with stewed apple and a touch of vanilla and jasmine. The palate revels in apricot jam, stewed plums, and more vanilla before a bright and slightly burnt orange oil arrives with hints of figs, anise, and beeswax candle wicks.

Bottom Line:

There is a little deeper/heavier vibe to the flavor profile, I love using this one for cocktails. That said, I love this ice-cold on a hot day too. It’s a versatile and refreshing pour, is what I’m getting at.

6. Louis Roederer Brut Premier

Louis Roederer Brut Premier
Louis Roederer

ABV: 12.5%

Average Price: $60

The Champagne:

Louis Roederer is one of the oldest Champagne houses that also happens to be one of the few fully independent shingles. The wine really made a name as the champagne of the Russian Royal Court pre-revolution. As those royals ran for their lives in the early 20th century, they spread the love of Louis Roederer to Paris, London, New York, and Shanghai, helping make the wine a truly international brand.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a real sense of an orchard full of stone fruits next to lightly roasted nuts with a hint of a warm croissant on the nose. That butter and yeasty bready fades as ripe apricot and gooseberries counterpoint a deep dryness and light bubbles. There’s very little sweetness at play as a touch of oaky vanilla pops on the very end to counter the dry yeast notes.

Bottom Line:

This is crisp, crisp, crisp. It’s also a favorite order of mine when sitting outside my favorite bar on a hot summer day. A bottle of this with friends as the sun sets is sublime.

5. Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut (Non Vintage)

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut
Perrier-Jouët

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $67

The Champagne:

Perrier-Jouët (pronounced with a soft “et” at the end) is a classic wine house that dates back to the early 1800s. The wine has a storied history of royalty and British Prime Ministers loving the wine over the years — like so many wines on this list. The juice in the bottle is 20 percent Chardonnay with 40 percent each Pinot Noir and Meunier.

Tasting Notes:

That Chardonnay really comes through on the nose with a rush of buttery brioche next to apple blossoms and fresh honeycombs with a hint of pineapple upside-down cake with plenty of real vanilla in the mix. The palate lets the butter from the brioche create an extra creamy mouthfeel as apricot jam on scones mingle with wildflowers and orange-laced honey. The end is crisp and full of citrus-laced creamy butter.

Bottom Line:

This will transport you to an orchard on a sunny day with a beautiful piece of cake in front of you as your lounge under a shady fruit tree. It’s refreshingly light yet deep with a brightness that’s hard to deny.

4. Champagne Lallier R.016

Champagne Lallier R.016
Champagne Lallier

ABV: 12.5%

Average Price: $58

The Champagne:

Lallier dates back to 1906 and has since become the heart of Aÿ — a village in Champagne that has been designated a Grand Cru region in part thanks to this wine. The sparkling wine in the bottle is a 2016 vintage containing 44 percent Chardonnay, and 56 percent Pinot Noir.

Tasting Notes:

White peach and yellow pears lead the way on the nose with support from almost creamy hazelnuts and almonds with a hint of clove and orange and this very distant echo of sweet balsamic. The palate is lush with stewed plums and creamy caramel just touched by vanilla and orange oils. The end is soft and carries a hint of limestone and maybe even wet slate countering the ripe peaches and pears laying in green grass after falling from the tree.

Bottom Line:

This is special stuff. There’s a deeply rooted sense of the terroir (ground, place, plant) in the sip that’s never overpowering but just … there.

3. Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial

Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial
Moët and Chandon

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $84

The Champagne:

Moët & Chandon (also pronounced with a soft “et”) is iconic. The wine goes back to 1743 and the court of Louis XV and remains one of the most popular and largest producing winemakers to this day. The wine in their Rosé Impérial is around 40 to 50 percent Pinot Noir, 30 to 40 percent Meunier, and ten to 20 percent Chardonnay with 20 to 30 percent of the blend coming from reserve wines.

Tasting Notes:

Bing cherries, white strawberries, red currants, and a twinge of gooseberry lead the way on the nose. The palate adds in some peaches and cream with a flake of salt as a hint of pepper lurks in the background. The end really leans into the brightness of the fresh red berries with a nice balance of tart, sweet, and lush as a final note of fresh mint sneaks in.

Bottom Line:

This is incredibly well-rounded and then goes a little past just being a fruit bomb thanks to that mint and spice. And it’s those notes that make this a great summer sipper with real complexity — hence, its ranking in the top three.

2. Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve
Champagne Billecart-Salmon

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $59

The Champagne:

Billecart-Salmon is a mid-sized, family-owned Champagne house that dates back to 1818. Since then, Billecart-Salmon has become one of the most respected and awarded champagnes on the market. This expression is made from 40 percent Pinot Meunier, 30 percent Pinot Noir, and 30 percent Chardonnay and includes up to 60 percent reserve wines in the blend.

Tasting Notes:

This is all about the balance on the nose and palate with an opening full of soft notes of scones, creamed butter, apricot jam, raspberry jam, and fresh floral honey. The palate is all about green pears with a bite to them next to green apple skins, a dash of buttery vanilla, and a hint of allspice (and maybe some nutmeg). The end leans into the floral side of the honey with more bright and ripe pears and peaches popping on the finish.

Bottom Line:

This is bright but soft. It’s super easy drinking and feels like summertime in a glass. The spice notes are a little more nuanced than the last entry but not overpowering in any way. This is just a good sip of champagne.

1. Bolllinger Rosé

Bolllinger Rosé
Bolllinger

ABV: 12%

Average Price: $92

The Champagne:

Bollinger is the other champagne from Aÿ that helped the region become so revered. It’s also one of the most celebrated wines in the world from royal courts to the pages of James Bond adventures. The juice in this bottle is hewn from 62 percent Pinot Noir, 24 percent Chardonnay, and a mere 14 percent Meunier with over 85 percent of the wines coming from Grand crus and reserves. The achieve the faint rose color, about five percent red wine is added. Lastly, this wine is aged twice as long as the average champagne in general and every other one on this list.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a distinct subtly at play that’s damn near divine as notes of wild strawberry mingle with mild woody and savory salal berries, sour cherries, tart black currants, and seedy blackberries as minor notes of red peppercorn and fern leaves sneak in. The palate has a hint of soft oak that’s dipped in a tart blackberry cordial before a thin line of cherrywood drives the taste toward more salal and huckleberry with a dash of allspice lurking in the background. The end is pure silk with a tart brightness, a whisper of dryness, and a twinge of that woody and savory forest berry.

Bottom Line:

This is like walking through the woods and picking berries on a sunny day. It’s just freaking delicious and fresh and a little funky. This is the champagne you should be drinking right now.

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