The Top 100 Wines of 2018

James Halliday's 12 top Champagnes

James Halliday by James Halliday

9 Nov, 2018

It’s the season for sipping fizz, and while you can find some stellar local examples, a bottle of French can be hard to resist. Here, James shares a few of his favourites – from the grower producers to the major names.

The list that follows forms part of James Halliday's Top 100 Wines of 2018.

Significantly more Champagnes submitted than last year, with two first-time selections: globetrotter JMS and the iconic Egly-Ouriet.

The ahead 12 wines were chosen from 69 submitted.

Related article: Champagne vs Prosecco

Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve NV
94 points

30% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay and 40% pinot meunier. Base wine 2015, reserve wines 55%, on lees for 30 months before disgorgement in October ’17. Fuses strawberries/rose petals ex pinot meunier at one extreme, citrus and chalky/sea shell acidity ex chardonnay on the other side. Has lovely line, length and balance.

$80 |

Champagne JM Seleque Solessence Rosé NV
95 points

Jean-Marque Seleque gained experience working around the world, including the Yarra Valley’s Domaine Chandon. This pale salmon wine is 45% chardonnay, 40% pinot meunier and 15% pinot noir, 40% perpetual reserve, 60% base wine ex ’15. Spice and wild strawberry fuel an elegant palate with utterly exceptional drive and presence.

$99 |

Vve Fourny & Fils Cuvee R Premier Cru Extra-Brut NV
94 points

Base wines from ’11 and ’12, fermented and matured in used barriques. The older spends two years in oak, the younger one year, blended and on lees for four years; disgorged May ’17. The complexity and power of the wine is strong, but is distributed so evenly along and across the palate you are not confronted by the attack.

$100 |

Veuve Clicquot Vintage Brut 2008
95 points

61% pinot noir, 35% chardonnay and 5% pinot meunier, 5% of the total blend fermented and matured in large French foudres. It has near-unfathomable depth, the dosage of 8g/l reflecting the tension in the fruit and providing balance. You can take this anywhere, and the Rosé is equally good.

$105 |

Piper-Heidsieck Vintage 2008
95 points

55% pinot noir and 45% chardonnay has a massive impact on the bouquet with a complex mix of spice, brioche and cream, the palate following in the footprints of the bouquet. It offers so much now you might think it won’t have much of a future, but it has – in spades. Eight years on lees, 9.5g/l dosage.

$110 |

Pierre Gimonnet & Fils Special Club Grands Terroirs de Chardonnay 2012
96 points

Disgorged in July ’17 after seven years on lees. The name is – well – odd, but the vines, the grapes and the wine are anything but. Even if you know nothing of this great Champagne House, you would recognise the serious complexity and intensity, the pulsating expression of chardonnay and the long, lingering aftertaste.

RRP $145 |

Pol Roger Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2009
96 points

Disgorged in February ’17 after seven years on lees, the dosage 7g/l, 100% Grand Crus. Brilliant straw-green, my shorthand tasting notes included ‘plenty of citrus all-sorts’, thus sweeping up the grapefruit and Meyer lemon undercarriage giving the wine its fluid balance and drive, white peach and cashew also helping.

RRP $180 |

Champagne Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru NV
97 points

70% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay from the ’12, ’11 and ’10 vintages, disgorged October ’17 after 51 months on lees. Fourth-generation vigneron, Francis Egly, assumed responsibility in ’82, deciding to bottle the production of 8300 dozen from the 12ha estate. His determination to make only the best quality champagne means he now sells on allocation. This wine is supremely concentrated, and equally classy. Dosage 2g/l.

$181 |

Bollinger La Grande Annee 2007
97 points

Disgorged November ’17, 70% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay. 100% barrel fermentation has long been Bollinger practice, and style trademark. The complex bouquet of multi-spice and brioche aromas drape the barrel ferment influenced structure, emphasised by over eight years on lees and a dosage of 7g/l.

$230 |

Krug Grande Cuvee Edition 166 NV
98 points

The edition number reflects an annual blend. The base wine from ’10, plus 140 wines from 13 vintages commencing in ’96, the blend 45% pinot noir, 39% chardonnay and 16% pinot meunier. It has a magical combination of extreme complexity, texture and finesse, the complexity ex toast, nougat, honey and dried fruits, the freshness from mouthwatering citrus/mineral acidity. Perfection.

$299 |

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2007
97 points

Disgorged after 10 years on lees. Yet another wine to argue this vintage is better than ’06 thanks to its balance and its inbuilt finesse. It’s in classic Comtes style, with an ethereal bouquet and delicate palate carved from the terroirs of Avize and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger. First choice for Australian winemakers.

$350 |

Louis Roederer Cristal 2008
99 points

The first fermentation is 80% in stainless steel, 20% in oak, then spending eight years on lees before disgorgement in January ’18, the dosage 8g/l. This release is sheer perfection, blissfully beautiful, the silken grip of its phenolics out of sight. It will scale untold heights over the next 10 years.

$425 |

The Best of the Rest

Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé NV
95 points | $99
Champagne Jacquart Blanc de Blancs 2012
95 points | $110
Champagne Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Blanc de Blancs Extra-Brut NV
95 points | $111
Champagne Jacquesson Cuvee No. 741 NV
96 points | $125
Champagne Franck Bonville Pur Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2012
96 points | $140
Louis Roederer Rosé 2012
96 points | $145
Pol Roger Vintage Brut 2009
97 points | $160