Champagne Guide: Don't just grab the Dom, dumb-dumb!

We can't blame you for going with what you know— Veuve, Dom, Moet, Cristal—because, really, how often do you buy champagne? But we had a feeling there was a better way to go for New Year's, so we called some of our favorite wine stores for their picks—many of which are under $30. Now you’re a bubbly insider, too. Or at least you could play one on TV. Happy New Year.

Will from Rosenthal Wine Merchant gave us an impressive mini-education in champagne. To sum it up, you should know—you’re your wine and your champagne—whether you’re buying estate-bottled or négociant. That is: produced under the supervision of one family or small company from grape-to-bottle, or a bigger company who buys grapes from other growers and blends them. All big wine labels are négociant, and guess what? It looks like the Négociants are out for 2007. Rosenthal is recommending champagnes from Guy Larmandier and Roger Coulon, which range from about $48-$75.

Rosenthal Wine Merchants 318 East 84th Street (212) 249-6650

Best Cellars was kind enough to give us a range of recommendations, starting at $29 for Magenta, a chardonnay/pinot noir mix. For $43, they like a Veuve non-vintage rose (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier). Next is a Gosset for $77, and lastly, a Cruge multi-vintage for $130.

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Best Cellars 1291 Lexington Avenue between 86th and 87th (212) 426-4200

If those last few prices made you a little nervous, Discovery Wines is your new bff. They do have an affinity for a Vilmart Coeur de Cuvée, for $109.99, but they’re other two picks are a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend, Gram Beck sparkling wine from South Africa for $12.99(!) and a Philippe Foreau Vouvray Brut, a sparkling wine from 100% Chenin Blanc grapes for $23.99.

Discovery Wines 10 Avenue A (212) 674-7833

Garnet Wines and Liquors is known for great guidance and even greater prices. For those of us who enjoy the good life only if it comes at a bargain price, they suggested three champagnes: Pol Roger, “straight-forward with enough toasty-brioche flavor” for $28.99 (or $26.09 per bottle if you buy a case), Nicolas Feuillatte for $23.99 (or $21.59 in a case), and from a smaller production, Andre Clouet Grand Reserve for $28.99 ($26.09 in a case). The last one is complex and particularly good with food—and not just caviar, but fish in general.

Garnet Wines and Liquors 929 Lexington Avenue between 68th & 69th 212) 772-3211

Four more shops after the jump!

Union Square Wines & Spirits is another New York favorite for selection, guidance, and value. Their inexpensive picks echoed some above, but their prices beat Garnet. Nicolas Feuillatte for $22.99 and Pol Roger for $24.99. They also like Billecart Salmon Brut Rose, which is $59.99.

Union Square Wines & Spirits 140 4th Ave (212) 675-8100

Pol Roger is Mr. Popularity. At Big Nose, Full Body, he’s going for $36 (smaller stores, especially outside of Manhattan, tend not to be so wallet-friendly, although a vino shop where everybody knows your name—and taste—could be worth it). Here, the Roger was described as “buttery biscuits,” while their other favorite, a fruitier Lanson Rose Champagne ($40), was more “buttery biscuit with jam.”

Big Nose, Full Body 382 7th Avenue Park Slope (718) 369-4030

The kind folks at Crossroads gave us their absolute favorite, which was moderately priced, their pick for “bargain bubbles”, and their “money is no object” selection. Respectively, they are: Pierre Peters (artisanal, 100% chardonnay) for $48.99, Lucien Albrecht Cremant D'Alsace rose for $15.99, and Krug 1995, for $199. (“I didn’t think it could get better than the ’90, but the ’95 is much better!”)

Crossroads 55 W 14th Street (212) 924-3060

Here’s the fascinating epiphany we had after all this strenuous reporting. Really, it’s nothing new, but bloggers can share as they please: Wine shopping and wine production are opposites, from the consumer’s perspective: the bigger the label, the more the customer pays for advertising, etc., but the bigger the wine store, and the more competition around it, the better the prices—generally speaking. Duh.

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