In the not-so-old days, non-vintage Champagne for under $50 was relatively easy to find. Today it requires a more extensive search. With the holidays coming up, many of us will be on the lookout for Champagne for parties, dinners and high-quality gifts that don’t break the bank.
There’s good news, too: While the price of Champagne doesn’t appear to be coming down, the selection in the Bay Area continues to expand, and a number of grower producers have kept their pricing accessible. In the coming months, I’ll mention more under-$50 Champagne bottles. Here are five to start:
Bernard Remy Carte Blanche, NV (non-vintage) (pinot noir 65 percent, chardonnay 35 percent, pinot meunier 5 percent): In 1968, Bernard Remy put a stake in the Côtes des Blancs. He continued to buy parcels throughout the Champagne region of France and in 1983, his production level warranted building his own winery. “Carte Blanche” is Remy’s bread and butter. Yeasty and zesty, with lemon and green apple fruit, this is one of the best values in Champagne. Suggested retail: $37
Marie Hanze Champagne Brut Elegance, NV (chardonnay 60 percent, 20 percent pinot noir, 20 percent pinot meunier): Nicolas Maillart of Champagne Maillart in Montagne de Reims makes Marie Hanze, using both estate fruit and purchased grapes from parcels he personally oversees. Maillart’s wines are dry but not austere. Superbly balanced with subtle notes of apples, spice and chalk, this is an elegant, classic chardonnay-driven Champagne. Suggested retail: $42
Laherte Frères Champagne, Brut Ultradition, NV (pinot meunier 60 percent, chardonnay 30 percent, pinot noir 10 percent): Now 125 years old, the Laherte estate is in the hands of its sixth generation, Thierry and Christian Laherte and Thierry’s son, Aurelien. They have 75 plots throughout Champagne, all farmed organically. With its large proportion of pinot meunier, Brut Ultradition has richness, but it is also graceful, with green apple skin, slivered almonds and a citrus-scented minerality. Suggested retail: $42
Chartogne-Taillet, Cuvée Saint Anne, NV (50 percent pinot noir, 50 percent chardonnay): Located in the village of Merfy in the Montagne de Reims, this cuvée from Chartogne-Taillet is particularly consistent. Alexandre Chartogne took the winemaking over several years ago, after training with internationally revered Alselme Selosse. With most of the grapes coming from a cool 2011 vintage, it has racy acidity, with floral, green apple and citrus steeped in a bath of minerals. Suggested retail: $45
Charles Dufour Bulle de Comptoir #3, NV (pinot noir 50 percent, chardonnay 45 percent, pinot blanc 5 percent): Dufour is in the Aube, the most southern appellation in Champagne, which historically has been viewed as an appendage to Montagne de Reims, Valée de la Marne and Côtes des Blancs rathan than an equal. A rising star in Champagne, Dufour has made Bulle de Comptoir for the third time, hence the “#3” in the name. With searing acidity and mineral underpinnings, almonds, faint herbal overtones and golden delicious apples, this super fresh, lively Champagne goes down dangerously easy. Suggested retail: $45
Some of these selections can be found at Bay Grape, Bitters & Bottles, D&M Liquors, Haight Street Market, Ordinaire, Paul Marcus Wines, Premier Cru, Ruby Wine and Winelandia.
Pamela S. Busch has been working in the wine industry since 1990 as a writer, educator and consultant and co-founded Hayes & Vine Wine Bar and Cav Wine Bar & Kitchen. In 2013, she launched TheVinguard.com, a blog covering a variety of wine-related topics.