Feature

The consolations of Champagne, on any budget

Champagne&mdash;with its association with good memories and good times&mdash;may be just the thing for these uncertain economic times.<em></em>

Champagne may be “a luxury, a token of celebration or prosperity,” said Lettie Teague in Food & Wine. Yet a bottle is often just the thing for the kind of consolation—call it courage—they might need “in these uncertain economic times.” My most memorable dinners or parties have involved a bottle of Champagne. Many excellent non-vintage Champagnes are available for as little as $35, but the wines I usually drink on special occasions are têtes de cuvée.

Also known as prestige cuvées, these are “the top wines produced by a Champagne house or grower.” Made from the best grapes picked from the best years, these wines are often beautifully packaged, in bottles that look as if they belonged “on a shelf of perfumes.” Here is a sampling of five vintage prestige cuvées, and five considerably more-affordable Champagnes, both perfect for “emotionally challenging times (like the holidays).”

Prestige cuvées:

1999 Gaston Chiquet Special Club ($75)
“Bold and gutsy.”

1998 Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill ($185)
One of the great têtes de cuvée.

2002 Perrier Jouët Rosé Fleur de Champagne ($300)
A delicious wine in a beautiful bottle.

1993 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque ($450)
”A stunning wine to drink now or to cellar.”

1997 Champagne Salon ($500)
Simply thrilling.

Affordable Champagnes:

Pol Roger Brut Réserve ($35)
“A perennial value and a particular favorite of mine.”

Bollinger Special Cuvée ($45)
“A true classic.”

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve ($55)
Complex, full-bodied, lively.

Jean Milan Carte Blanche ($60)
A master­piece.

Alfred Gratien Brut Classique ($70)
A lovely blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.

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