Wine Lovers Guide to the Douro Valley
November 14, 2017
Unveil the Douro Valley's wine treasures, relish fine dining at renowned restaurants, and experience luxury stays in this ultimate wine lover's guide.
[Updated Nov 2017] Want to Splash out on Posh Bubbles? Here is a list of our suggested top (and most expensive) Champagnes…
There is no questioning the marketing genius of the major Champagne houses. They have ensured that Champagne’s name continues to carry almost mystical properties for the vast majority of us, and it is undoubtedly true that the top Champagnes are wonderful wines – luxurious, delicious, and highly glamorous. But the magic, meticulous hard work, and rigorous selection contained in a bottle of Krug or Cristal would be nothing without the promotional genius of these so-called Grande Marques. They virtually invented the concept of the brand in winemaking and have ensured that their product remains a luxury commodity. And although supermarkets continue to discount leading brands, the top tier of luxury Champagnes have seen their prices remain buoyant and continue to rise.
Champagne has also increasingly been viewed as an attractive investment option rather than solely a superior choice for lavish celebrations. Indeed, over the past six years, top Champagnes’ indices have experienced price rises of over 30%. The net result is that collectors and consumers clamor over the most famous brands, keeping prices suitably high. The allure of luxury Champagne is undeniable: both as a source of pleasure and a status symbol. We have listed the top ten most expensive Champagne bottles below, focusing on standard releases rather than special limited editions – Louis Roederer Cristal ‘Medalion’ Orfevres Limited Edition Brut Millesime example, can fetch more than $20,000 a bottle. Santé!
There cannot be many of us who haven’t at least heard of Dom Perignon, arguably the region’s most famous brand and poster child for the luxury image of Champagne. It’s named after the famous 17th-century cellar master and Benedictine Monk, who first blended Champagne. Indeed the wine has quite a history: Diana and Charles chose it as their wedding Champagne of choice. Such fans join them as Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo Di Caprio, and of course, Mr. Bond. The Brut is understandably the first reference point, but their rose is always far superior; a gorgeous mosaic of red summer fruits, underpinned by that classic Dom Perignon finesse, poise, and minerality – the 2004 rosé averages a price of $330 per bottle. But it is so worth it!
The King of Champagne kitsch. Armand de Brignac has usurped Cristal as the rapper’s sparkler of choice, frequently quaffed by the artist Jay-Z, who has tirelessly promoted the brand since it appeared in his music video. LVMH owns De Brignac, introduced a very successful rose, which has quickly become the finest of the brand’s range. It is largely Pinot Noir-dominated and displays remarkable concentrated fruit, freshness, and balance. Proof that this glitzy friend of celebrities worldwide Champagne isn’t just all style and no substance. Yours for about $400 -450 on average.
It is a remarkable property, not least because they only release one cuvée and one cuvée alone in the finest vintages. Whereas most houses release an NV yearly, Salon released only five wines from 1990-2000. The house was founded in 1921 by Eugene Salon, and today their exceptional Blanc de Blancs Prestige Cuvee vies with Krug’s Clos du Mesnil for the title of greatest Chardonnay-based Champagne. But the comparison is not needed; they are different Champagnes and should be viewed as such. In contrast to Mesnil’s power and majesty, Salon offers unrivaled finesse, a super-soft mousse, and exquisite fruit, the very taste and smell of elegance. Bottles are in high demand, but if you can secure some, expect to pay approx. $495 for the pleasure of the 1996. Salon also greatly rewards cellaring, so there is never any rush to drink your precious bottles!
A glass (or bottle) of Cristal is always a good idea. This excellent wine has, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint, become the ultimate symbol of luxury bling and stalwart of glamorous nightspots the world over. However, move beyond the hype and discover a wine of significant historical relevance, first made for the Russian Tsar Alexander II in 1876 for the royal court. It remains the region’s most elegant and coveted Champagne, only surpassed by the rare rose version, which is as good as Champagne gets. First released from the 1974 vintage, it is undoubtedly one of the world’s finest rose wines: sublimely elegant, fruit-driven, bright, pure, and very moreish.
A living legend amongst grower Champagnes, owner Anselme Selosse releases’ Jacques Selosse Millesime’ as Brut or Extra-Brut, depending on the vintage. A single vintage Blanc de Blancs from the grapes of two vineyards in Avize, Le Mont de Cramant, and Les Chantereines. Selosse uses oak in all stages of fermentation and aging of their wines, yet, the standout quality of this Champagne is its purity and intensity of fruit flavor, despite the oxidative quality. Its popularity is ever-increasing, so prices are rising; the sought-after 1999 is yours for $860 if you can find a bottle, and the 2003 is currently $750.
This legendary Champagne house has produced superlative Champagne for over a century, founded in the 1840s by Johann-Josef Krug. Today, Krug is a powerful expression of luxury and glamour, but more importantly, it is also an incredible wine that ages for decades. The yellow-labeled Grande Cuvee is globally celebrated and recognized; however, Krug’s single-vineyard Champagnes attract the highest release prices. Their famous Clos du Mesnil vineyard, replanted in 1971 and first released in 1979, is arguably Champagne’s most refined expression of the Blanc de Blancs style. Expect incredible finesse, balance, and a gorgeous creamy richness, underpinned by stunning acidity.
A house that requires little introduction, Bollinger has long boasted plenty of dedicated fans, including James Bond, Queen Victoria, and countless others who adore the rich, Pinot Noir-dominated style of their NV Special Cuvee. But Bollinger’s lesser-known but exquisite Blanc de Noir Champagne – Vieilles Vignes Françaises – attracts sky-high prices due to its scarcity and quality. Only 250 cases, on average, are produced from rare ungrafted vines from the Grand Cru village of Ay. It is simply like no other Champagne on the market: bright, very intense, vigorous, and in exceptional years massively concentrated. The 1996 is averaging at $1800.
Krug has long been the favorite tipple not only of the aristocracy (the 97-year-old Queen Mother famously smuggled a case of Krug into the hospital where she was being treated) but also among those who wish the world to know of their recent wealth. And there can be no greater status-seeking Champagne thanKrug’ss legendary 100% Blanc de Noirs cuvée, produced from the tiny Ambonnay vineyard, perhaps Champagne’s top Pinot Noir vineyard. First launched in 2007, the 1995 vintage shook the market with its hefty price tag due to the tiny volumes of around 3,000 bottles. It remains one of the region’s rarest Champagnes, offering unsurpassed richness, power, and depth of flavor – a “steal” at $2,300.
The ultimate connoisseurs, Champagne, Boerl & Kroff, is a prestigious brand dreamed up by the Drappier family and created exclusively for their most discerning clients. Its origins concern three unique vineyard parcels in Aube used to craft presidential Champagne for the Elysee Palace and its guests. In 1995, Michel Drappier decided to vinify the best fruit separately from this legendary terroir and release a new luxury Champagne brand; only 3000 magnums, on average, are bottled in the best vintages. The result is a Champagne of incredible intensity and power, magnums costing over $3,000.
Welcome to the most expensive bottle of Champagne, if not wine, in the world. An unashamed expression of rarified opulence, Gout de Diamants is the brainchild of Shammi Shinh, owner of a luxury retail outlet in London, Prodiguer Brands. The wine – which ironically is the least important aspect of the brand – is produced from Grand Cru grapes in Oger by the growers’ Chapuy family. What got the rich and famous interested was the Swarovski crystal in the center of a diamond-shaped pewter-designed bottle, the label made from pure white gold plate. All this luxury comes at way over 1 million per bottle; a cheaper version minus the diamond can be yours for only $194,000.
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