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The best sparkling wine for Christmas

Trying to decide on a sparkling wine for the festive season? We asked the fine wine experts at Oeno to choose five of their favourites so we could put them to the test

It’s not often that you get to pit five top champagnes against each other in the name of gustatory research.

That’s why the Square Mile team jumped at the chance to sit down with Oeno’s fine wine experts for an exceptional tasting in the decadent surroundings of Park Chinois in Mayfair.

Here’s our report on the market’s finest fizz courtesy of Daniel Carnio, co-founder of the fine wine investment company OenoFuture, and French native Olivier Gasselin who heads up the group’s trade sales.

ARMAND DE BRIGNAC BRUT GOLD

This clubland classic immediately owns the table with its flashy gold metallic wrapping and hefty pewter label. Colloquially known as ‘Ace of Spades’, the brand is owned by Jay-Z with the wines produced by 12th and 13th generation champagne makers Jean-Jacques and Alexandre Cattier. The Brut Gold is always a multi-vintage cuvée blended across three different vintages with fruit sourced from the Cattier family’s 30 or so hectares and selected partner growers.

For Olivier Gasselin, a former head of wine for the Hakkasan restaurant group, the Armand de Brignac really shines as a partner for Asian cuisine thanks to the slightly higher dosage of 9.5 grams per litre. This, along with the easy-going nature of the Brut Gold, also makes it ideal for drinking alone as an aperitif or, indeed, in a buzzing nightclub. There’s even a 30 litre version if you’re feeling flush.

CRISTAL 2008

First created for Alexander II, the Tsar of Russia, in 1876, Cristal has a truly noble pedigree. This particular vintage was aged for a decade before release, much longer than is normal for Cristal, owing to the cooler, drier summer that year. “Cristal is one of my favourite investment champagnes owing to the very limited production and exceptional ageing potential,” enthused Daniel Carnio. “This vintage is full of light and freshness, although it will become even more beautiful over the next decade or two.”

KRUG GRANDE CUVEE EDITION 166

“Krug is Krug, always fantastic,’’ was the unanimous verdict in the room on the Edition 166 which marks the 166th release of the Grande Cuvée since the foundation of Maison Krug in 1843. Big, bold and rich, this cuvée is Krug opulence at its very best with plenty of complexity from the traditional house practice of blending approximately 120 wines across ten different years. On the nose there’s ample oxidative notes of brioche and almonds along with delicate floral hints, while the rich toasty notes on the palate will deepen and evolve with further cellaring.

NYETIMBER TILLINGTON 2013

Although not a champagne, this sophisticated stunner from Nyetimber proves the remarkable potential of English sparkling wine. Crafted by the Royals’ favourite homegrown winery, this elegant and incredibly refined bubbly is the first single vineyard sparkling wine ever to be produced in England. Even the Frenchman in the room, Olivier Gasselin, was impressed by the finesse and searing purity from the cooler climate, a signature feature of the best English sparkling wines on the market today. Sitting near the top of Nyetimber’s portfolio, this would be a great alternative to champagne for a Christmas Day aperitif.

DOM PERIGNON DAVID LYNCH 2003

If there could be one overall winner from such a fabulous line-up, it would have to be the Dom Perignon David Lynch 2003, which managed to both surprise and delight everyone at the table. For Daniel Carnio, “there’s a Dom for every occasion, and they just get better and better with age if you’re able to hang onto them for a while.” That’s certainly true of this 2003 vintage, which is still remarkably fresh and youthful yet starting to show delicious green walnut and earthy notes from the extended bottle ageing.

As well as delivering on taste, the 2003 vintage also delivers on aesthetics with this special release designed by top Hollywood filmmaker and Twin Peaks director David Lynch. Apparently Lynch and special effects guru Gary D’Amico locked themselves away in a California studio with a bunch of smoke machines, torches, and light rays to create the label design. Combined with the juice inside, it makes for a pretty little package, which will only get more and more interesting if you’ve got the patience to hold onto a case or two.

For those keen to cellar rather than drink, Daniel is quick to point out that Liv-Ex’s Champagne 50 Index has risen 85% over the past decade. The finest cuvées from Krug and Dom Perginon have risen in value by 60% and 61% respectively, while top Cristal vintages are up by 40%.

With champagne currently one of the fastest-growing markets in the fine wine world, Daniel strongly recommends you pick up an extra couple of cases of investment-grade Krug or Dom Perignon with your festive champagne shopping.

We guarantee that your future self will thank you. 

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Oeno specialises in sourcing the finest bottlings for private investment and trade. See oenogroup.com

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