Who makes the best champagne? New York’s in-house panel of tasters, headed by Kevin Zraly of Windows on the World Wine School, blind-tested six brands in three separate “ﬂights.”
We chose two different bottles representing each of the three champagne categories—non-vintage, vintage, and “prestige”—all widely available at New York wine stores. Just for fun, we also called around to find the highest and lowest prices for each bottle.
Pol Roger ’96
This brut reserve “smells like my grandmother’s house,” said one panelist. The least liked of the champagnes, it was deemed one-dimensional. “I’m paying for fruit,” Zraly said, “and what I get here is total dryness.”
Chambers Street Wines: $57.99
Park Avenue Liquor Shop: $70
Cristal Roederer ’97
Smells like cookies (that’s the yeast), but “it tastes like Sour Patch Kids!” said one taster. “This would be tough to have a couple of glasses of, because of the acidity compound,” said Zraly. “I don’t think it’s typical of a Roederer Cristal. They usually have more depth and body.”
Garnet Wines & Liquors: $165
Taittinger Brut Non-Vintage
A strong, smoky scent, smooth taste and a rich, full body made this a favorite. “The fruit on this is unbelievable,” said Zraly. “It’s powerful. I’d have it with a ﬁrst course, like a Dover sole.”
Sherry-Lehman Wine & Spirits: $29.95
Union Square Wines & Spirits: $35.99
Veuve Clicquot ’96
One of the strongest bouquets tested, a vanilla scent, had panelists salivating—“I would pick this on smell alone,” said one. Zraly deemed it elegant and soft, with good ﬁzz.
Union Square: $54.99
Park Avenue: $60
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Non-Vintage
Won praise for its nose, reminiscent of freshly bitten green apples; one tester called it “steely.” Zraly pronounced it “extremely well-made, light, easy,” with a very good balance between acid and fruit. Perfect for an apéritif.
Union Square: $ 27.99
Because it’s one of the few champagnes to be both aged and fermented in oak, Krug is “a cult wine,” explains Zraly: “It’s like Dead Heads. People have Krug parties.” Not surprisingly, this was the richest and heaviest of all the champagnes tried, with a slightly nutty taste. Everybody loved the pleasant eucalyptus smell, too.
Union Square: $199