In this article, we mention what are the very best champagnes in the market and what is, each year, the very best champagne from the various champagne competitions. We also explain how to assess the quality of champagne, and what are some of our favorite top champagnes. But take all of this with a grain of salt; the best champagne is simply the one that you like the most.
Google tells us that, on average, its users search for the keyword “champagne” between 1M and 10M times each month, and for the world the keyword “best champagne” between 10K and 100K times. They also search for “best champagne brands”, “top champagnes”, and “most popular champagne.” It is clear that consumers want to have an idea of who is at the top of the champagne game.
Before we answer this question, we try to explain why there is no such thing as THE universal best champagne, but there are indeed a few champagnes that firmly stand at the very top and are recurrently top-rated by champagne and wine critics.
What does one mean by “best” champagne?
First, let’s look closer at the semantics of this question to be as precise as possible in answering it.
Best for what? Quality? And how do you assess and compare the quality of champagne, or wine in general?
Best for taste? And who decides one tastes better than another? Some of us like light champagnes, some prefer stronger and full-bodied ones. The same goes for wine and champagne experts who do the ratings.
Each of these is available in different vintages, and Krug in several very different blends that result in different organoleptic profiles–tough similar in style of course–and varying appreciation by wine critics and consumers. Unless they are so geeky to know the ins and outs of each cuvée or vintage, they are most probably referring to the style of the house, and to the average quality in the wines of each brand.
Quality and Price in Champagne
Let’s now look at quality, and price more in detail. In champagne, as in any other wine, its superior organoleptic features define its quality, namely: intensity, complexity, balance, and length (finish).
These result from the use of superior ingredients-the grapes-and the production process that may or may not include certain steps that add up to the wine and let it express its full potential, and sometimes sublimate it.
The quality of the grapes is paramount to craft superior champagnes. On this basis, one could think that using grapes only from grands crus will make great champagne, but things are not that easy. Indeed, some of the most acclaimed champagnes are made from grands crus only (Louis Roederer’s Cristal for example), but some others also include premiers and other crus (Krug’s Grande Cuvée). At the same time, some champagnes made of grands crus only (which is spelled without complexes on the etiquette) are clearly not grand at all.
But it is not because the champagne is deemed of high quality that you will necessarily enjoy it. And if you do, it just may not be your favourite, simply because it does not much your style of champagne.
As for price, it is true that, in general, the more you pay the better the quality of champagne, but once you approach or exceed the 100 euro mark (retail price in France), not necessarily the most expensive one is the one of the highest quality, though very high of course. Brand recognition comes into play and some less popular houses make impressive champagnes for which they cannot demand the price of champagnes of similar high quality made by more popular houses. Also, sometimes the non-préstige vintage cuvée of a house can be more appreciated than its préstige vintage cuvée. Interesting hu? Considering that a “normal” vintage champagne costs 1/3 to 1/2 of the préstige version, you have food for thought.
The Best Champagnes of 2020 and 2021
With all this in mind, what indeed are the best champagnes in the market today, that are consistently recognized as such by critics and consumers? Recurrently, these are prestige cuvées of the best champagne houses and brands that we have selected for you in this blog. Sometimes, they can be some of their other best cuvées.
But of all these super champagnes, which are the best, and which one is the very best?
Several contests and competitions with judging panels made of champagne experts answer this question every year. The actual winner varies at every contest and edition, but the top tier very often includes “the usual suspects”: Louis Roederer Cristal, Dom Perignon Vintage or P2, Krug Grande Cuvée or Krug Vintage.
In 2021, Fine Champagne Magazine released for the 10th time, together with the wine information platform Tastingbook.com, their list of the Top 10 Champagnes:
- Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2008
- Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle No. 24 NV
- Dom Pérignon 2010
- Maison Mumm Cuvée Lalou 2006
- Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs 2007
- Moët & Chandon MCIII 001.14 NV
- Louis Roederer Cristal 2012
- Rare Champagne Rosé Millésime 2008
- Laurent-Perrier Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV
- Palmer & Co Vintage 2012
The winners in the previous years were:
2020 Dom Pérignon 2008
2018 Dom Pérignon Rosé 2006
2017 Moët & Chandon MCIII 001.14 NV
2016 Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle NV
2015 Ruinart Dom Ruinart Rosé 2002
2014 Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2002
2013 Charles Heidsieck Vintage 2000
2012 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2000
2011 Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002
2010 Armand de Brignac Brut Gold NV
Another credible champagne ranking is the one by Essi Avellan (MW). In her Top 10 New Champagne of 2020, she gave the same top rating of 95 points to three champagne: Dom Pérignon Vintage 2010, Krug Grand Cuvée (168th Edition) NV, and Bollinger Grande Année 2012. Her full top 10 list is:
- Dom Pérignon Vintage 2010: 95/100 points
- Krug Grand Cuvée (168th Edition) NV: 95/100 points
- Bollinger Grande Année 2012: 95/100 points
- Charles Heidsieck Millésime 2012: 94/100 points
- Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé 2012: 94/100 points
- Bollinger PN VZ15: 92/100 points
- Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2009: 92/100 points
- Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Louis Salmon Blanc de Blancs 2007: 91/100
- Philipponnat La Rémissonne 2009: 91/100
- Ayala Cuvée No 7 2007: 90/100
There are other recurrent competitions and rankings of the best champagnes which will guide you further. For example the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships of Tom Stevenson which gave the title of Supreme World Champion 2019 to Dom Pérignon 2004.
Going wider in the world of wine competitons, wine and champagne expert James Suckling released his list of 100 top wines of 2020, which includes two top champagnes: Henri Giraud Argonne 2012 at 56th place with 99 points, and Dom Pérignon 2010 at 100th place with 98 points. In the same year, he also gave 100 points to Billacart-Salmon Le Clos Saint-Hilaire 2003 super-prestige cuvée.
But don’t take any of these ratings as rules written in stone, but rather as suggestions, because they are far from being objective. They reflect the preferences in style of the tasting panels and are based solely on the cuvées that were supplied to them by the participating houses.
Our advice to you is to drink as much good champagne as you can, and find out what is the best champagne for you. As Margaret Henriquez, president and CEO of Krug, puts it: “The best champagne is the one you like and gives you pleasure.”
The BestChampagne Top 10 Cuvées (+2)
We have developed our ongoing favorite champagnes list. We indicate our favorite vintage (excluding non-vintage cuvées), but don’t worry: all their vintages great buys.
- Krug Grand Cuvée (non-vintage)
The ultimate expression of what great champagne is: a majestic blend of many different wines for generosity and finesse in incredible balance.
2. Dom Pérignon P2 1995
Refined intellect at its purest state; so elegant, complex and greatly balanced just like its creator (until 2019), Richard Geoffroy.
3. Rare Champagne 1998
4. Dom Pérignon Rosé 2000
5. Henriot Cuve 38 (non-vintage)
An amazing blanc de blancs made from four grands crus in the Côte des Blancs (Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Chouilly, Avize, and Oger) that are blended using the perpetual reserve method for great complexity, generosity, elegance, and consistency.
6. Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2006
Another superior and mesmerizing blanc de blancs, launched by former Chef de Cave Hervé Deschamps.
7. Deutz Amour de Deutz 2008
A very successful and delicious blanc de blancs. It is the brainchild of President Fabrice Rosset.
8. De Venoge Louis XV 2006
A champagne of refinement and complexity, great freshness, and vinosity, it remains approachable and joyful, just like President Gilles de la Bassetière.
9. Drappier Millésime Exception 1998
This is not their prestige cuvée, called Grande Sendrée, but their vintage champagne. Generous and complex like President Michel Drappier, with the je ne sais quoi of the Aube.
10. Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame (2008)
In 2008, former Chef de Cave Dominique Demarville decided to spice up this prestige cuvée. He drastically increased the proportion of pinot noir in the blend from 53% in 2006 to 92% and reduced Chardonnay from 47% to 8%. The result is a champagne of great taste, precision, and charisma.
I include two additional prestige cuvées that are not necessarily my favorite, but I still enjoy them very much and both are great commercial successes. You should try them too as they are two very different and interesting interpretations of the concept of top champagne.
11. Louis Roederer Cristal 2008
For many, the best champagne in the market. It has intensity, elegance, precision, and plenty of taste.
12. Armand de Brignac Brut Gold (non-vintage)
Celebrated by many for it is Jay-Z’s champagne, appreciated by some for its quality, disregarded by others for its bling connotation, it is a controversial champagne of great fame for uncomplicated great taste and pleasure.
But there are so many beautiful champagnes, many of which are more affordable than prestige cuvées, that it would be a pity to just focus on these. Again, taste as much as you can, from as many producers as you can, of different styles, to identify your preferences, while training your palate. It will be a beautiful journey of discovery, pleasure, and nice surprises.