Every celebration season folks who call me “Champagne Stan” ask what are my Top 10 selections? I’ve been sipping bubblies since my parents’ holiday parties when as a kid I stealthily drank next-day Tattingers while crunching cereal and watching cartoons as Mom & Dad slept.
Now as I make my grown-ass man holiday tour tasting bubbles in Cook, DuPage and Will counties (that includes exquisite sparklers from Spain, Italy, Armenia, South Africa, Australia, Corsica, England, Brazil, Argentina, the U.S. and my consistent favorite, France), this list is what floats my boat. I traveled from Oak Park where I live to Bolingbrook about 50 minutes away.
My favorite locations so far have been: Binny’s South Loop Champagne Gala (which had the best and most selections); Binny’s Oakbrook Champagne Gala (which has the most unusual offerings); Malloy’s Wine tasting in Lisle (which had the most servers of color & is owned by an Asian); Binny’s Elmwood Park and Binny’s North Riverside sips in my neighborhood where I chatted in Italian & French; Binny’s Bolingbrook Dec. 4 Champagne tasting; (where I’m expecting surprises); Famous Forest Park’s November Holiday Gala (which had the fewest selections but the most familiar faces, though their Dec. 7 event offered 40 sparkling wines); and Mainstreet’s Wine & Food Gala in Countryside (which hit all the right notes) and probably so will their upcoming Dec. 21 “Everything is Better with Bubbly.” Ain’t that the truth! Experts like author Neil Mathieson’s Champagne (Chartwell Books, 1999) explains: “What is known as Methode Champenenoise, or the traditional method, was probably first instigated by [Dom Perignon] and developed by experiments conducted by winemakers around the world.”
Mostly vintage high-end “big house” champagnes and middle-brow less expensive “grower champagnes” make my list. But there are lower-end delights like: NV Proseccos, sparkling Malbecs, and West Coast bubblies. I’m this/close to listing Franciacortas & Cavas, too. I don’t provide prices since for this reporter that might smack of advertisement, which would be unethical. I do show photos of my favorite places, people, purveyors & best values. Here are pics & picks:
Andre Clouet Brut Grand Reserve (affordable grower that’s toasty dry and fun)
Philipponnat Royal Reserve Brut (pricey grower with a fine brioche and tiny bubbles)
Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle (costly big house that’s so yummy it made me hum)
* Roederer Estate L’Ermitage 2012 Brut (overpriced Cali sparkler — perhaps the best U.S. bubbly)
Arnaud de Brignac Brut Gold (superb crisp citrus notes, very very pricey & a personal favorite)
Arnaud de Brignac Rose (even more pricey, fruity and the most expensive on this lovely list)
Etienne Calsac L’Eschappe Belle Extra Brut (tasty affordable grower and best all-around value)
NV Tapiz Sparkling Malbec Rose, Extra Brut (sensible plummy Argentinian barbecue bubbly)
Furlan Castelcosas Prosecco (inexpensive good go-to Sunday brunch bubbly)
Graham Beck Brut (South African bubbly served at Mandela & Obama inaugurals)