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Expensive champagne still rules for holidays


   Your holiday party swirls about you, halls bedecked, guests happy, laughing, dancing, making sparkling conversation, toujours gai, sans souci, devil-may-care. Somebody pours
you a glass of champagne.


   Pause a moment, says Richard Geoffroy. Consider what's in your glass.

   "Champagne is for celebration, to be sure. But there's more. Champagne is serious. It's a mirror of you. You must be available to it, give it attention, empathy. The relationship to champagne must be as to a human being."

   Geoffroy may be forgiven his small upbraiding. He works as chef du cave at Moët & Chandon, in Epernay, France, making Dom Perignon Champagne. So he's speaking about his own wine, of course. But much of his philosophy might apply to other top champagnes as well.

   To appreciate a fine champagne -- the ones in this column sell for $35 to $450 -- the reveler must linger over its qualities, Geoffroy says. Its aromas and flavors -- toast, brioche, smoke, peat, coffee beans, candied fruit, tangerines, kiwis, dried flowers, caramel, mushrooms, truffles. Its "mouth feel'' -- texture, weight, from the brilliance of its attack as it enters the mouth to the fullness of its flavors in the mid-palate to the persistence of its finish. Its precision, its elegance, its finesse, its penetration, its relevance, its harmony. Geoffroy is good with adjectives.

   "There's a great presence to Dom Perignon but also a fragility. It's yin and yang, a paradox, a contradiction. It's sophistication, based on intimate observation."

   OK, you can get back to your chicken dance.

   And you thought drinking champagne was easy.



      • Nonvintage Henri Abelé Brut 1757, Reims: vanilla and toast, crisp lemons, tangy; $40.

   • Nonvintage Laurent-Perrier Brut L-P, Tours-sur-Marne: toast and caramel aromas,
powerful tart orange flavors; $45.

   • Nonvintage Taittinger Brut La FranÇaise, Reims: toasted brioche and citrus, vanilla,
rich, mellow, generous; $55.

   • Nonvintage Louis Roederer Brut Premier, Reims: toasty aroma, tangy citrus and green
apple flavors; crisp; $47.

   • Nonvintage Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, Epernay: toasted brioche, minerals, golden
apples, almonds, crisp; $45.

   • Nonvintage Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve; Reims: toasted hazelnuts and orange peel,
soft bubbles, very rich; $55.

   • Nonvintage Bollinger Special Cuvée, Ay: toast and orange marmalade, hugely rich,
baked apples; $70.

   • Nonvintage Pol Roger Brut Réserve, Extra Cuvée de Réserve, Epernay: aromas of bread
dough and beer, flavors of vanilla, caramel and hops, rich; $45.

   • Nonvintage Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve, Mareuil-sur-Ay: toasted croissant aromas,
tangy grapefruit and toasted nut flavors, very rich, $40.

   • Nonvintage Ruinart Brut Blanc de Blancs, Reims: minerals and tart green apples,
criosp and lively, long, fruity finish; $65.

   • Nonvintage Mumm Mumm de Cramant Grand Cru Brut Chardonnay, Reims: vanilla and white
peaches, frothy and light, bone dry, very fruity; $75.

   • Nonvintage Bruno Paillard Brut Blanc de Blancs, Réserve Privée, Reims: vanilla,
oranges and caramel, lush ripe peaches, intensely fruity; $107.

   • 2002 Louis Roederer Brut Blanc de Blancs, Reims: ripe peaches, hint of sherry,
sweet-tart fruit, firm structure; $78.

   • 1999 Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Blancs Extra Cuvée Réserve, Epernay: toasted brioche
aroma, flavors of citrus peel and ale, rich, powerful; $128.

   • 1999 Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blancs, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger: white flowers and vanilla,
creamy and light as air, citrus peel flavors; $90.

   • 1999 Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Blanc de Blanc, Chouilly, Epernay: cardamom and candied
citrus, sherry and cider, light and frothy; $52.

   • 1998 Duval-Leroy Brut Blanc de Chardonnay, Vertus: beer, caramel and hazelnut aromas,
sherry flavors, frothy, aged quality; $50.

   • 1995 Charles Heidsieck Brut Blanc des Millénaires, Reims: buttered toast aromas, rich
orange peel flavors, cream sherry; $110.

   • 1995 Dom Perignon Oenotheque Champagne, Epernay: aromas of candied fruit and brioche,
flavors of red berries and sweet caramel, creamy body, endless finish; $400.

   • 2003 Louis Roederer Brut, Reims: wheat and lemon aromas, tangy, tart lemon flavors;
light and lively and frothy; $75.

   • 2002 Deutz Brut, Ay: toast and nuts, wheat and green apples, firm structure; $70.

   • 2001 Delbeck Brut, Reims: orange peel and caramel, berry and rich, fulll-bodied; $94.

   • 1999 Pommery Brut Grand Cru, Reims: aromas of wheat and nuts, tart and beery,
full-bodied; $85.

   • 1998 Henriot Brut, Reims: orange peels and caramel, tart oranges, rich, aged quality;

   • 1999 Laurent-Perrier Brut Millésime, Tours-sur-Marne: lightly toasted nuts, vanilla,
light and frothy, tart kiwi finish; $65.

   • 1999 Pol Roger Brut Extra Cuvée de Réserve, Epernay: charred oak and nuts, flavors of
beer and sherry, powerful, full bodied; $103.

   • 1999 Gosset Celebris Extra Brut, Ay: oranges and sweet vanilla, rich sherry, full
bodied, orange peel finish; $95.

   • 1998 Gosset Celebris Extra Brut, Ay: aromas of aged fino sherry, nuts and minerals;

   • 1996 Duval-Leroy Brut, Vertus: cream sherry aromas, flavors of caramel and nuts,
opulent, aged quality; $50.

   • 1995 Dom Perignon Brut Rosé, Epernay: red berry and citrus aromas, smoky, earthy
flavors, endless fruity finish; $450.

   • Nonvintage Nicolas Feuillaatte Brut Rosé, Chouilly, Epernay: orange rind and cream
aromas, tart orange peel flavors, light as air; $53.

   • Nonvintage Moët & Chandon Brut Rosé Impérial, Epernay: red apples and yeast, tart
grapefruit peel, minerals, firm structure; $50.

   • Nonvintage Duval-Leroy Brut Rosé de Saignée, Vertus: sweet flowers, peaches, flavors
of red apples, apricots, tart but lush; $40.

   • Nonvintage Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut Rosé, Reims: sweet oranges and spicy toast,
tart apple peel and bread dough, firm structure; $60.

   • Nonvintage Henriot Brut Rosé, Reims: red apples, minerals and apricots, rich and
generous; $70.

   • Nonvintage Besserat de Bellefon Brut Rosé, Cuvée des Moines, Epernay: sweet, ripe
peaches, very tart kumquats, candied fruit, full body; $55.

   • Nonvintage Gosset Brut Grand Rosé, Ay: golden apples and cinnamon, big, rich, tart,
frothy, light; $85.

   • Nonvintage Delamotte Brut Rosé, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger,
sweet-tart oranges and spice, hearty; $99.

   • Nonvintage Bruno Paillard Brut Rosé Premier Cuvée, Reims: toast with orange
marmalade, rich, sweet-tart orange peel; $95.

   • Nonvintage Delbeck Brut Heritage Rosé, Reims: dark toast, nuts and vanilla, tangerine
rind, very crisp, generous, rich; $85.



   • 2000 Dom Perignon Brut Champagne, Epernay: aromas of dried flowers and spices,
flavors of toasted nuts, earth, smoke and peat; creamy and voluptuous; $150.

   • Nonvintage Pommery Brut Apanage, Reims: oranges, lemons and caramel, bright and
lively, almost spicy; $50.

   • Nonvintage Pommery Brut Royal, Reims: toast and minerals, sweet-tart vanilla; $42.

   • Nonvintage Piper-Heidsieck Brut, Reims: toast and nuts, minerals and kiwi, long
finish; $42.

   • Nonvintage G.H. Mumm Brut Cordon Rouge, Reims: minerals and yeast, caramel sweetness,
soft; $35.

   • Nonvintage Moët $ Chandon White Star, Epernay: toasty aroma, tart lemons and green
peaches, soft bubbles; $35.

   • Nonvintage Nicolas Feuillatte Brut, Epernay: mint and pineapples, powerful vanilla
and kiwi, crisp and firm; $43.

   • Nonvintage Henriot Brut, Blanc Souverain Pur Chardonnay, Reims: lemon meringue
aromas, very frothy, lemon pie flavors; $60.

   • Nonvintage Besserat de Bellefon Brut Blanc de Blancs, Cuvée des Moines, Epernay:
toasted nuts and limes, tart kiwis, light and frothy; $70.

   • 2003 Moët & Chandon Brut Grand Vintage, Epernay: toasted nuts and minerals, sweet and
soft, candied lemon peel; $70.

   • 1999 Bruno Paillard Brut Assemblage, Reims: vanilla and brioche aromas, flavors of
green apples, light bodied; $115.


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