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Nothing sets the tone for a party than the pop of a champagne cork, knowing that delicious liquid is certain to follow. Why settle for second best? These five Champagnes, from the most prestigious producers in the world are rarer and more prized than even the better-known tête de cuvées. Remember their names.
1. Krug 1998 Clos d’Ambonnay
Simple supply and demand has made Krug 1998 Clos d’Ambonnay the most expensive current-release champagne on the market. Clos d’Ambonnay is the smallest production champagne made by Krug, using 100 percent Pinot Noir grapes from the house’s most desirable vineyard. The 1.68-acre walled parcel in the village of Ambonnay produces fewer than 4,000 bottles of this bold champagne per year – a minuscule amount given the worldwide thirst for premium bubbles, and the enhanced desirability that comes with a single vineyard, single grape variety, and single vintage.
2. Bollinger 2005 Vieilles Vignes Française
The name of this wine, Bollinger 2005 Vieilles Vignes Françaises, means “old French vines" and refers to the method of grape growing: In the village of Aÿ, Pinot Noir vineyards are tightly planted with ungrafted vines that are more than 100 years old. Each is meticulously tended by hand and vertically trained on poles, yielding a much smaller crop. The champagne is aged in barrels by the 185-year-old family-owned company – one of the last major houses to retain independent ownership.
3. Jacques Selosse 2005 Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Millésime
Jacques Selosse 2005 Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Millésime is an insider’s choice, from a grower-producer of Champagne that has a prestige rivaling that of the great houses. Anselme Selosse is a visionary winemaker who studied in Burgundy with legends including Jean-François Coche and Dominique Lafon. His Grand Cru Champagne, made with 100 percent Chardonnay grown in the village of Avize, is the most collectible of all grower-producer champagnes – if not all champagnes, period.
4. Dom Pérignon 1995 P2 Plentitude Plénitude Rosé
P2 rosés – the library bottlings that were previously called Oenothèque rosés – are widely considered the best rosé Champagnes in the world. They spend more than a decade aging on lees in Dom’s reserve cellars, until a vintage is deemed worthy of re-release. Made of primarily Pinot Noir, with a small addition of Chardonnay, the Dom Pérignon 1995 P2 Plentitude Plénitude Rosé is rich yet finely wrought, and intensely memorable.
5. Louis Roederer 2002 Cristal Limited Edition Jeroboam
This straw-colored bubbly from Louis Roederer is striking enough in a clear glass bottle, but a limited-edition, 3-liter jeroboam adds designer Philippe Di Méo’s intricate 24-karat-gold latticework to make it more of a collector’s piece. The 2002 Cristal – about 40 percent Chardonnay and 60 percent Pinot Noir – has been hailed as exceptional vintage with strong aging potential. Roederer plans to release unadorned jeroboams of the 2002 in the future.