Quit Pigeonholing Champagne!
The case for treating the fizzy drink like any other wine.
Henriot Brut Millésimé 1996 ($70): The regular vintage wine from Henriot, and a steal for the quality—an elegant, impeccably balanced Champagne that is showing beautifully at the moment.
Vilmart & Cie NV Brut Grand Cellier ($60): Vilmart is a celebrated grower house, and the full-bodied, toasty Grand Cellier is a superb introduction to the wines of this acclaimed producer.
$100 and above:
Henriot Brut Cuvée des Enchanteleurs 1996 ($160): Recently released by Henriot, the 1996 Enchanteleurs is a brilliant Champagne that can hold its own against the most acclaimed wines of fabulous vintage (Krug, Salon, Dom Pérignon), yet sells at a substantial discount to them.
Louis Roederer Brut Cristal 2004 ($200): Ever since Jay-Z renounced Cristal, it hasn't had quite the same cachet, but it is still a terrific bubbly, and the just-released 2004 is a sumptuously elegant wine that proves that quality and bling are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Salon Brut Blanc de Blancs 1996 ($300): Ethereal, celestial, canonical, mesmeric … I could go on (and with a few glasses of this, I surely would). A wine that I think will go down as not only one of the greatest Salons ever, but possibly one of the all-time great Champagnes. It is that good.
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Photograph of person corking Champagne by Elizabeth Hachem/Thinkstock.