From big to little, great choices in Champagnes

in Wine by

By Celia Strong

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve. The end of another year. Hopefully a good one for all of us. But, before we’re completely through with this year, we have to choose our New Year’s bubbly. One last hurdle. Thankfully, we have some great choices this year. Deal pricing on some, assorted bottle sizes. One just right for each of us. And, because we are choosing for New Year’s Eve and, possibly for New Year’s Day, it only seems right that we look at Champagne.

First, before we get to brand names and prices, let’s take a quick look at bottle sizes. A “regular” bottle is a 750 milliliter. About 28 ounces. For most wines that’s about four servings, but for bubbly it’s more like five or even six. Depends on the size of your flute. The best price per ounce is almost always in the 750 size. The smallest size bottle Champagne comes in is 187 milliliter. One glass in a bottle. Officially, this is called a “split.” Cute, convenient, great for travel. Great for self-control. But never a bargain. These little bottles cost more to make, so they don’t make sense price-wise. The cost per ounce is much higher. (Four splits are a bit less Champagne than a 750 milliliter.) A half bottle is 375 milliliters. Two glasses, but still pricier per ounce. A magnum is a liter and a half. Two “regular” bottles in one. Very impressive on your bar or table. A better way for your Champagne to last, if you’re going to hang on to a bottle. But, still not the best cost per ounce. There are many more size bottles, larger and largest. With great names for each size. Unfortunately, we have not seen many of them since the millennium. The really, really big New Year’s Eve.

But, time for our choices. For the first time in a long time, we have real Champagne in a split that is not way out of most people’s price range. Mumm Cordon Rouge. Mumm, established in 1827, is located in Reims, a northern city in the Champagne region. Mumm’s is one of the largest Champagne producers. Their house cuvée, non-vintage, is blended from 77 different crus (lots). This wine is 45% Pinot Noir which gives the wine structure and strength, 30% Chardonnay for finesse and elegance, and 25% Pinot Meunier for fruitiness and roundness.

Each grape variety from each lot is crushed and fermented separately. Then the wines, 77 of them, are blended to make the final cuvée. Twenty-five to thirty percent of them are reserve wines from previous years. These give the Champagne depth. But, back to our splits! For $8.97, they are excellent! Especially when you do the math. Four splits are just shy of the same amount of Champagne as a 750 milliliter bottle. Which is $34.99. So, for once the 187 milliliter split is cost efficient. Plus, these baby bottles look great in ice buckets spread out on your table. They’re fun because everyone gets to open their own. And, as long as it’s a party anyhow, you can share bottles. Fun!

Moving on, to our other special bottle size, the magnum. A double bottle which, again, is usually more expensive than buying two 750 milliliters. Because the glass for the bottle itself is more expensive. Ours, this year, is a 2004 vintage bottle of Laurent-Perrier. LP, as it is called, was established in 1812. Their non-vintage rosé is the third largest selling Champagne in the world. Their 2004 vintage is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, from Grand Cru vineyards. LP owns about 150 acres of vineyards, but that’s only about 10% of what they need. The rest they get from trusted growers spread over 55 villages in the Champagne region. Being a vintage Champagne means all of the grapes come from a single vintage. Not something they can do every year in this region. The 2004 was an exceptionally good year! This wine is full of citrus and floral notes, along with toast and minerality. The LP house style is always clean and crisp and refreshing. The 750 milliliter bottle of 2004 Laurent-Perrier Brut costs $49.99 and the magnum is $99.97. So, see! No extra charge for the special size magnum bottle. And fun for a group!

Two lovely Champagnes. Two special bottle sizes. For celebrating, or just enjoying with friends. Which always makes Champagne appropriate. Of course, our supply is limited. Special bottle sizes, I mean. Not friends, or occasions to drink Champagne. And definitely not Champagnes! Happy New Year! Enjoy.