Most Champagne houses have top-tier cuvées that are truly special. But don’t just buy any pricey bubbly.

Glass of bubbly in hand, I took in the panorama of Manhattan’s twinkly lights from the terrace of a posh penthouse in Chelsea for the U.S. debut of the grand 2009 Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne back in October. It was the perfect elitist bling to match the view, and I happily lapped up my fair share.
Just in case you didn’t know, Cristal is a tête de cuvée (aka prestige cuvée), created in 1876 for Russian Czar Alexander II. Much, much later it became a favorite fizz of rappers. Most Champagne houses, from grandes marques such as Moët to grower-producers like Jacques Selosse, make at least one of these luxury cuvées. You spot them by their stratospheric prices, starting at about $150 and going into the thousands.

In a world happy enough with prosecco and pét-nat, are any of these pricey bubbles truly worth it? Absolutely (see below). Even if life is full of disillusionment, a surprising number of deluxe Champagnes still represent the highest-quality fizz you can find. In other words, a great wine experience.

What you’re paying for are the very best grapes from grands crus and premiers crus vineyards; years of extra aging in the region’s cold, chalky cellars (which gives the wines more complex flavors and aromas); the rarity factor; and, of course, prestige.

The recent investment in Champagnes as the next great collectible wine kicked off a trend in limited editions and special releases. Champagne houses shamelessly now add a double dose of glitz by persuading avant-garde artists to design labels and nestling the bottles in handmade velvet-lined boxes.
To get the best deal, though, go for the taste of the luscious wine inside the bottle, not for the special-edition flashy packaging. The 2002 Cristal Gold Medallion Jeroboam, for example, is covered with 24-karat-gold latticework and costs $17,000 to $22,000. Four regular bottles of the same wine would set you back a mere $1,200 and will be equally fabulous to drink.

If bling is your thing, though, try to track down a Goût de Diamants, a Champagne with a diamond-studded bottle that premiered three years ago, at $1.8 million, and is no longer in production. 

Style, not quality, is the big differential among the best brands at the luxury level, and each Champagne house has its own concept of what a top cuvée should be. All- chardonnay examples tend to be super light and elegant; those from mostly pinot noir—full, rich, and powerful. Rosé versions? For some reason, they always cost much more. Even though they’re slightly trickier and more expensive to make (most producers add a percentage of still red wine to the basic blend for color), that doesn’t justify adding 30 percent or more to the price.

Large formats of Champagne make a great statement and are curiously all named after Biblical figures. Our top recommended Champagne Companies provide the full range of large format bottles by several Champagne brands from 1.5 Litre Magnums to 15 Litre Nebuchadnezzars. Rose Champagne is available in a Magnum size and very rarely as a 3 Litre Jeroboam. Large bottles usually contain the Champagne House Brut.

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What can I say I like my champagne super large!

Source: @delcarlofficiel

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