High-profile champagnes are put to the test

Plenty of vintage Champagne corks will pop through the end of the year, but we wondered if some were drunk on their own publicity.

Dom Perignon and Louis Roederer’s Cristal are favorites of rap lyricists, but we wanted to see how they’d do against brands that receive fewer shout-outs but perhaps deserve higher praise.

For our tasting, all bottles were vintage cuvees that were brown-bagged and tasted blind. Most were French, with a few domestic sparkling wines to mix it up.

The results? We found that Cristal didn’t compare to one we found for nearly a quarter of the price. There were fewer kicks in the cheapest of the bubblies, with sparkling wines from New Mexico and Oregon falling short of the French. However, if you’re drinking vintage Champagne, there really isn’t much cause for complaint.

Our panel included Dr. David K. Kwan, founder of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Wine Society, and wine publicist Serry Osmena.

Most of the following are available at Wally’s. Prices listed are also from that Westside store.

Best of the bubbles

The Best

Bollinger Grand Anne 1997
A lot of body, with the flavors of heirloom apples, green apples and pears in the nose. The kind you want to drink all night. $120

Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995
Big, complex and super yeasty. A killer Champagne. $80

Dom Perignon 1998
Slightly sweet, with a scent of grass and pear. Delicious, with a clean finish. $140

Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1996
Strong green apple aromas, with good acidity. A soft mousse, but crisp on the tongue. $120

Better Than the Rest

Champagne Deutz Cuvee William Deutz 1996
Very yeasty; reminds us of toasted brioche. A mouthful with a lot of finesse. $105

Krug Grand Cuvee
A ton of acidity; would be delicious with smoked fish. $150

Nicholas Feuillatte Cuvee Palmes d’Or 1996
Big nose and very yeasty, with tiny bubbles. Melon on the nose, with apple, pear and good acid in the mouth. Very drinkable. $160

Pommery Cuvee Louise 1995
Light and easy Champagne, almost summery. $175

And the Depressed

Argyle Extended Tirage 1995 (Oregon)
Like an Italian sparkling wine, with flavors of Bosc pear and an overly sweet nose. $35

Gruet Blanc de Blancs 2000 (New Mexico)
Little in the nose, with restrained flavors. Not unpleasant, but not much fun. $25

Louis Roederer Cristal 1999
Not that well balanced, with tastes of green apple and wet mushroom. Impressive if a restaurant offered it by the glass, but disappointing at $300 a bottle. $299

Mumm Napa DVX 1999
Yeasty. No defects, but not enchanting. $50

Perrier Jouet Fleur de Champagne 1998
Burnt sugar and marshmallow aromas, but this one had the largest bubbles of all we tried. $125

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