Friday Tastings

The Champagne Taste Test

In which we sample seven essential varieties in order to rank them on taste, value, and all-important baller status. Happy New Year!

The countdown to the new year has begun, and if you’re anything like us, you’ll be more concerned with which bottle you’re taking along to the big party than how you’re planning on getting back into shape/earning your first million/quitting smoking. To that end, as a favor to you, our dear reader, we held an extensive champagne tasting at the Gilt Man offices last Friday with a host of brands, and ranked them all on such scientific categories as taste, value, and baller status. These were the results.

Ruinart Blanc des Blancs
The world’s oldest champagne house was a favorite among tasters for its light taste, fat bottle, and historical significance — without this guy, we might not have been having this conversation right now.
Taste: 4.5
Value: 3.5
Baller Status: 3 (But only because it didn’t have the name recognition of the more famous brands.)

Veuve Clicquot Brut
The house that Madame Clicquot built — and which can be credited for removing the yeast sediment from the bottom of bottles resulting in the clean drinking champagne as we know it today — was an instant hit with our tasters. It figures — Clicquot is America’s number one selling champagne.
Taste: 4
Value: 4.5
Baller Status: 4

Moet & Chandon Imperial
America aside, Moet is the world’s favorite champagne, and it was also the cheapest of all the varieties we sampled. For that reason, many people would be quite happy to take it to a party (the instant name recognition doesn’t hurt), but several of our tasters said they weren’t as impressed by its flavor as some of the other varieties.
Taste: 3
Value: 5
Baller Status: 4

Dom Perignon Vintage 2004
Because every rapper ever can’t be wrong, Dom most definitely won in the baller status department. That said, the storied champagne polarized our tasters when it came to actually drinking it, with many selecting it as either their favorite or least favorite of the lot. (According to our resident expert, Bernadette, it has a larger flavor than all the other champagnes, which accounts for its polarizing effect.)
Taste: 3.5
Value: 2
Baller Status: 5 (If price isn’t an issue, this bottle’s a surefire hit at a party.)

Krug Grande Cuvee
At a mere 170 years of age, Krug is a comparatively young Champagne house, but each bottle of its Grande Cuvee takes at least 20 years to create — in order to get a uniform taste across all the years it’s made, approximately 120 varieties of wine from 10 or more vineyards are blended together by a master winemaker. Krug ranked consistently high by our tasters, who liked its flavor, complexity, and mouth-feel.
Taste: 4.5
Value: 2.5
Baller Status: 4.5

Taittinger Brut, La Francaise
Fun fact 1: Taittinger supplied all 450 bottles of champagne drank at Truman Capote’s famed Black & White Ball, held at The Plaza in 1966. Fun fact 2: One of the Gilt Man team members used to date a granddaughter of Pierre Taittinger, who founded the house in 1932. (Rest assured they remain on friendly terms.) Tasters enjoyed the price, flavor, and name recognition of this champagne, and felt that as far as value for money goes, it was a good option to take to a party with a less obvious brand as Moet or Clicquot.
Taste: 4
Value: 4.5
Baller Status: 4

Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvee
Domaine Carneros was our one wild card entry in the tasting — given that it’s made in California as opposed to the Champagne region, and chooses to name itself a sparkling wine despite the fact that the United States allows its winemakers to label their wares champagne, whereas the rest of the world does not. Carneros is owned by the Taittinger family, and is made in the same tradition as its French offering, but has a sweeter flavor due to its Californian grapes. Tasters enjoyed this variety immensely, and felt its price ($28 per bottle) was excellent.
Taste: 4.5
Value: 5
Baller Status: 2 (It’s not a capital-c Champagne, after all.)

Conclusion: You’d be good to go with any of these bottles, but our money’s on the Ruinart; if it’s easy drinking at a fair price you’re after, it can’t be beat.

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