Pleasure / May 2019

CANNY CHAMPAGNE: MORE POP FOR THE DOLLAR

Kyle Ridington, the world’s best-dressed sommelier, sniffs out the best value champagnes on the market in this new weekly column.

Judged the world’s best-dressed sommelier by GQ a few years back, and certainly still one of the most stylish men in the United States, New York-based wine expert Kyle Ridington has carved out a specialty in that ever so effervescent tipple, Champagne. While marquee names command marquee prices, Kyle has explored the more recherché wineries of Reims to (literally) sniff out cuvées that present extraordinarily good pop for the dollar. Each month, on The Rake Values, Kyle will highlight three champagnes priced under $100 he rates as outstanding. If that’s not something to celebrate, we don’t know what is.

 House: Champagne Frerejean Frères
Cuvée Name: n/a
Style: 50% chardonnay/ 50% pinot noir
Village Ranking: Premier Cru
Vintage: 2006
Dosage: Extra-Brut
Price: Around $70 per bottle

 Kyle says: Frerejean Frères is a younger house by Champagne standards, founded in 2005 by three brothers who grew up in the Champagne region. It has recently begun turning heads and received plaudits from commentators including Jancis Robinson and sterling reviews in top wine publications such as Wine Enthusiast. Their current vintage release is a 2006 extra-brut, an aged champagne with flavours of baked apple, warm brioche, marzipan, and honeysuckle. The texture is smooth and inviting while maintaining a firm, and dry finish. After opening one bottle, you will wish you had bought more.

House: Champagne Etienne Calsac
Cuvée Name: L’echappée Belle
Style: Blanc de Blancs - 100% chardonnay
Village Ranking: Premier Cru
Vintage: Non-Vintage
Dosage: Extra-Brut
Price: Around $33 per bottle

Kyle says: Etienne has been at the helm of his family domaine since 2010. He constructs ethereal wines from the minute 2.8 hectares of land that were bestowed to him. Although the quality and pint-sized production of his L’echappée warrants a price much higher than it receives on the retail shelf, you can consider it the ultimate house champagne that you selfishly won’t want to share.

House: Champagne Jean-Marc Sélèque
Cuvée Name: Solessence
Style: 50% chardonnay/ 40% meunier/ 10% pinot noir
Village Ranking: n/a
Vintage: Non-Vintage
Dosage: Extra-Brut
Price: Around $40 per bottle

Kyle says: It’s 10:00am on a chilly sunny morning. Jean-Marc, 34, is stoic, and his humor as dry as a desert, while we stand in the coeur of top vineyard appropriately named ‘Le Charmé’, which translates to ‘The Charmed’. He preaches that it all begins in the vineyard. His organic farmed vineyards and non-dogmatic winemaking are as intriguing as they are sobering. If you would like a crowd-pleasing champagne that is intellectual and versatile, yet charming, then Solessence is the right stuff.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.