Widely regarded as the drink of choice for any kind of celebration, champagne often epitomizes luxury and grandeur. Made exclusively in the Champagne region of France, the history and heritage of champagne goes back over 300 years; for many champagne houses (or maisons), the process hasn’t changed – and making it is still one of the most labor-intensive and complex methods of wine production. With this in mind, we are showcasing a range of maisons that deserve recognition for their efforts. Whether you are choosing a bottle for an upcoming event or a collector looking for a new vintage, these are the best champagne brands to try in 2021.
Founded in 1811 by husband and wife Pierre-Nicolas Perrier and Rose-Adélaïde Jouët, Maison Perrier-Jouët is one of the most distinctive champagne houses in France. The couple shared a love of the arts and nature, which act as the foundation for the maison; it regularly commissions artists to create exclusive artworks and installations inspired by the heritage of Perrier-Jouët. The maison has one of the most admired vineyards in France, situated in Côte des Blancs – also known as Champagne’s “Golden Triangle.” Some of Maison Perrier-Jouët’s most celebrated cuvées include Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé and Perrier-Jouët Blanc de Blancs, both of which have the maison’s characteristic fresh floral notes.
Maison Lanson has been maintaining its traditions and values since its inception in 1760, though over the years its renown has grown – the champagne it produces is now enjoyed in over 80 countries worldwide. Maison Lanson is also an official supplier to the British royal family (it has held a Royal Warrant since 1900) and is the official champagne of Wimbledon. The maison is the first champagne house to set up a collective that helps its growers make the shift to sustainable viticulture. It also has a 100% organic and biodynamic vineyard, the Malmaison estate, which exclusively makes the only champagne that has currently achieved every organic and biodynamic certification: Lanson Le Green Label.
Dom Pérignon has the unique hallmark of selling only vintage champagnes – sometimes a challenge, as it means the house usually releases champagne only during a good year. The house was founded by the monk Dom Pierre Pérignon in the 17th century in the hopes of creating “the best wine in the world.” To this day, Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave reinvents the house style each year, using a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes taken from Dom Pérignon’s estates. One of the latest champagnes released by Dom Pérignon is the 2010 vintage – an extraordinary feat, as that was a particularly challenging year for growers, with part of the harvest being lost to extreme weather and botrytis mold.
[See also: The Story Behind the Challenging Dom Pérignon 2010 Vintage]
Established in Reims in 1843, Krug’s founder, Joseph Krug, had the vision to create a champagne he could offer every year, regardless of how the climate changed. It seems he succeeded: Krug is currently the only maison that creates prestige champagnes every year and has done so since its foundation. Over the years, Krug has adapted and begun using new technologies to create unique experiences surrounding the six champagnes it offers; on the back of each bottle of Krug champagne is a six-digit Krug iD that allows drinkers to discover food pairing suggestions, the story of the bottle and even unique music pairings designed to enhance the tasting.
Though perhaps best known for its connections with Sir Winston Churchill, Maison Pol Roger has over 150 years of expertise when it comes to champagne. Its founder, Pol Roger, purposefully began to favor producing brut champagne, knowing this drier style was the taste the English preferred. The relationship between the Maison and Churchill dates back to a luncheon in 1945, when the prime minister and Odette Pol-Roger struck up an instant friendship. The ties between the two families are still strong; Pol Roger’s Prestige cuvée is titled Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill in honor of the man and the qualities he preferred in champagne: a full-bodied character, robustness and maturity.
Exclusively producing champagne since 1729, Ruinart was the first house of champagne ever established. The maison was founded in the city of Reims by Nicolas Ruinart, who was inspired by his uncle, a Benedictine monk named Dom Theirry Ruinart. Every bottle of Ruinart champagne is made with fresh, aromatic chardonnay grapes, which are mainly harvested from terroirs in Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims. Safeguarding and respecting the environment is paramount for Ruinart, which is why the maison has committed to a range of eco-commitments, including sustainable vine growing and reducing its use of chemicals. In fact, Ruinart has recently taken its eco-credentials one step further with the introduction of a revolutionary Second Skin eco-packaging.
Another maison that holds a Royal Warrant (it has held one since 1884), Bollinger’s ties with the UK go a step further, into the realms of fiction: it is the official champagne of 007 and is known to be James Bond’s favorite. Founded in 1829, Bollinger is a maison that strives to create complex and elegant champagnes; its flagship bottle is the Special Cuvée, which features flavors of apples and pears, with a subtle honey undertone. In fact, in celebration of its 40-year partnership with 007, Bollinger has produced a limited edition gift box that brings the Special Cuvée with James Bond and the Aston Martin DB5.
Crowned the World’s Most Admired Champagne Brand in 2020, Louis Roederer would be missing if not on any list of the best champagne brands to try. Founded in 1776, to this day the maison is one of the few champagne houses that remains as a family-owned company – it is now managed by Frédéric Rouzaud, a direct descendent of Louis Roederer. The maison owns almost 600 acres of vineyards in the finest areas of Champagne, which allows the quality of the grapes to be carefully controlled and results in its cuvées having rich, complex flavors. As of March 2021, the Maison will complete the first stage of its move toward greener viticulture, as half of Louis Roederer’s vineyards will be officially certified as organic.