Three of the best Champagnes from Waitrose Cellar
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
Pop into your nearest Waitrose for three of arguably the best non-vintage Champagnes available in Waitrose, which are really worth shouting about.
The best Grande Marque Champagne Houses pride themselves in their non-vintage Champagnes. Indeed, Krug refuse to call their Grande Cuvee "non-vintage" and use the term "a blend of vintages".
The reason being that creating a wonderful Champagne is all about the Art and skill of blending. A great Champagne is made from up to three different grape varieties, the Chardonnay giving brightness and elegance, and long ageing potential, the Pinot Meunier giving body and richness and early maturing character, the Pinot Noir giving great class, elegance and finesse as well as body.
Then there are different vineyard sites in a blend, and finally all great NV Champagne has a good dollop of Reserve wine to add further to the complexity of the final blend. Reserve wines are generally vintage wines, retained for blending in Magnums before secondary fermentation in bottle, and depending on the age and quantity can transform a blend ito something wonderful.
Many commentators and Champagne lovers, myself included, will contend that a fine blended NV Champagne can be more interesting and even better than many Vintage Champagnes.
That is why I was so delighted to see my three favourite non-vintage, or "blend of vintages" Champagnes, Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Bollinger Special Cuvee and Pol Roger Brut Reserve, all available in Waitrose and on occcasion you'll find them on special promotion.
Louis Roederer Brut Premier, family owned, has great intensity, is wonderfully balanced and elegant, sourced from their excellent vineyards.
Bollinger Special Cuvee, made primarily from Pinot noir fruit from their own family vineyards, this is a classic rich Champagne, and one to age either in bottles or magnums for many years to develop even more toasty and brioche character and a gentle nuttiness.
Madame Lily Bollinger famously said; "I drink Champagne when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it --- unless I'm thirsty."
Pol Roger Brut Reserve, best known as "white Foil", is another classic, famously the favourite Champagne of Winston Churchill, is a blend of more than thirty base wines from different vineyards and grape varieties and at least two vintages. Another family owned House, and generallt mature for three years in bottle before being sold by Waitrose. I buy this in magnum and keep for a further three years to see it become even more complex.
As a small aside, the Roederer and Pol Roger both come in an individual presentation box, which is great for presents, but more significantly even though all three are in dark green photo protective glass, the more protection from the Ultra Violet rays of sun light or neon lights the better the Champagne in the bottle will be preserved.
Here's to Lilly Bollinger's saying!
Christopher Burr, MW,
8th April 2021