When you plan to celebrate with some bubbly, you want to do it in style. You can get a crappy grocery store sparkling wine, but only vintages from France's Champagne region can truly be called champagne. There's also a small village in France that lays claim to the name, insisting that it, in fact, invented sparkling wine centuries ago.
Here's a list of the best authentic French champagnes and sparkling wines for every budget. You'll be all set for the holidays, New Year's Eve, wedding toasts, celebrations or just for fun.
Alfred Gratien Cuvee Paradis Brut NV Champagne
Impress your friends or guests with this $100-plus bottle of fabulous and prestigious champagne if you have the means. British Airways serves it in first class. Unlike many of the larger champagne brands, this sparkling wine is hand-crafted under the watchful eye of a third-generation cellar master. It's full-bodied, made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, and it features aromas of walnuts, honey and white fruit. Sumptuous!
This complex and enjoyable champagne is fermented exclusively in small oak casks. It's made with three different Champagne grapes that are combined for an explosion of flavor. It has a creamy bouquet and a nutty, toasty finish. It received a 96 point rating from Wine Spectator.
Antech Blanquette de Limoux Grande Reserve 2003
The monks of the Languedoc village of Limoux claim to have invented sparkling wine a century before it was allegedly "invented" in Champagne. This is the same wine that has been made in the Pyrenees foothills for going on five centuries now, so the claim has some merit. Limoux natives say that Dom Perignon passed through this region and stole the wine, branding it as his own. Find out more about this legend at Limoux: Home of the Real First Sparkling Wine, or order a bottle or even a case of this budget-friendly and delectable sparkling wine.
If you want a high quality and complex champagne without breaking the bank, this one is it. The bottle is a real bargain for its value. It's a clean, dry and full-bodied champagne, light on the tannins. Also produced from three varieties of grapes, this champagne provides hints of pear, peach and nut. Moet & Chandon produces both Vintage/Grand Vintage and Non-Vintage/Brut Imperial. The White Star label is the non-vintage or NV label. The vintage version is Brut Imperial Vintage.
Champagne Leclerc Briant Cuvée Extra Brut NV
You can hardly beat the quality at the price point for this true French champagne. Wine-Searcher gives it a score of 86 out of a possible 100, but it doesn't head into the triple digits price-wise. It's a very versatile bottle that serves well with seafood or—even better—with a rich French dessert like a fruit tart or chocolate mousse. It features hints of green apple, butter and hazelnut, and it's a great festive choice for the holidays.
Marquis de la Tour NV Brut is an excellent choice if you want an inexpensive sparkling wine. Don't let the cheap price tag fool you. This Loire region sparkling wine bubbles with personality. It's an intense, tart and dry wine with notes of bread, fruits and almonds. The Wine Enthusiast Network gave it a score of 86 points and calls it a "best buy."