Duval-Leroy Blanc de Chardonnay Brut 1996
Stick your nose in the glass, and you get buttered toast and spiced pear. Take a swig, and you get citrus flavors and rapierlike acidity. A little white chocolate on the finish rounds out an impressive Champagne.
Pierre Moncuit Cuvee Pierre Moncuit-Delos Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
Fine bubbles and a fine nose, with honey, nuts, salt, and the unmistakable scent of the corner bakery. Ever wonder what liquefied lemon meringue pie would taste like? Me neither, but here's a chance to find out. Some hazelnut flavors thrown in, terrific acidity, and altogether a very engaging bubbly.
Larmandier-Bernier Vertus NV
Scents of green apple, grapefruit, dough, and a sweet floral perfume. Doesn't so much arrive in the mouth as it detonates there; truly a mouth-filling Champagne, but also an impeccably balanced one. Bubblecious.
And the Rest (in descending order) …
Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
A bouquet of peaches, nutmeg, almonds, and bread. A strong honeyed flavor, but lean and fairly one-dimensional. Not a bad Champagne but not one that is going to hold your attention, either.
Agrapart Blanc de Blancs Brut NV
No mistaking the chardonnay here—smells like a pastry shop, with apples and flowers on the display case. Apple flavors also figure prominently on the palate, but the Champagne is too tart and severe.
Vilmart Grand Cellier Brut NV
Very inviting orange blossom and chamomile aromas. But the charming nose is no prelude to bliss: a burly wine, with tooth-cracking acidity, lacking both concentration and verve.
Egly-Ouriet Les Vignes de Vrigny Brut NV
A meaty quality to the aroma, along with baked apple, a whiff of nutmeg, and a toasted note. A stern wine that is bracingly acidic and dry. Good for a funeral or a foreclosure, but not New Year's Eve.
Louis Roederer Brut 1996
Smells like a mineral bath, but not one I want to jump in. An off-putting sulfur note dominates the nose; the Dead Sea in a bottle. Minerals and acidity batter the palate.
Gaston Chiquet Tradition Brut NV
Fat bubbles and a dumb nose (that is, not a lot to sniff at the moment—some apple, perhaps a bit of herb, and not much else). The wine doesn't dance across the palate; it stumbles. No poise, no grace, no plaudits.