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FRENCH CHAMPAGNES HAVE ARRIVED! Champagne Duval-Leroy Cuvee Paris NV ($35.00) One of the best values in Champagnes available right now, and it’s got a Leroy Neiman silk screen of a Paris street scene on the bottle. Pop this open over the holidays with your favorite Franco-phile!

GROWER CHAMPAGNES

The Champagne region in France is dominated by a handful of brand names.

These négoçiants and coopératives produce 80% of the total output in Champagne, yet they own only 12% of the vineyards. They bring to marked a mass produced commodity – a Champagne made in a “house style.” By contrast, “récoltant-manipulants” (or RMs) handcraft their limited quantities of Champage from individual villages and parcels where the inherent qualities of the vineyards imprint themselves into the wines. The following two RMs are outstanding, and represent great values in Champagne values as well.

Margaine Brut Cuvee Traditionelle NV ($45.00) “The NV Brut Cuvee Traditionelle is an exceptional wine at this level. Notes of ash, chalk and crushed rocks dominate this taut, focused Champagne. Medium in body, the wine reveals tons of clarity not to mention significant pedigree. The NV Brut is mostly 2005 juice, with the addition of 40% reserve wines from vintages 2004, 2003, 1999, 1996 and 1994, 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir. The relatively high amount of reserve wines undoubtedly contributes to this Champagne’s complexity…Arnaud Margaine’s wines..are Champagnes of extraordinary purity and sheer elegance. Margaine farms 6.5 hectares, 90% planted to Chardonnay, the rest Pinot Noir.”

90 points Robert Parker

L. Aubry NV Brut Champagne ($40.00) Twin brothers Pierre and Philippe Aubry handcraft their Champagnes from 60 individual parcels that comprise 16.5 hectares in the heart of Petit Montagne de Reims. Made of 50% Meunier, 25% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Noir, it is vigorous, crackery, and concentrated. “There’s a nice graininess to the texture, making this lively and defining its bread dough, apple and grapefruit flavors. Turns crisp, but stays balanced, with a dry, mouthwatering finish.”

90 points Wine Spectator