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Neil DuckworthBy Neil Duckworth, Manager of Majestic Wine Ashbourne

Moët & Chandon. Veuve Clicquot. Ruinart. Three Champagne brands that stand proud, each with an unblemished reputation for fantastic quality. But what is it about these legendary houses that continues to impress?

They’re all steeped in history, certainly. Yes, they all exceed our expectation of quality and luxury. And of course they never fail to sparkle on a special occasion. But it’s the differences more than the similarities that make these three illustrious brands stand out in a fiercely competitive market. Each has a slightly varied approach to producing Champagne, resulting in a trio of fabulously unique fizzes.

Moët & Chandon

Perhaps the best-known of all Champagne houses was created in 1743 by Claude Moët – although it was his grandson, Jean-Remy, who really brought it to the wider world. Today Moët is the most popular Champagne in the UK and enjoyed by millions globally.

Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial NV £32.00

Moët’s flagship is a Champagne for all occasions, offering vibrant citrus notes and subtle brioche, croissant and fresh bread flavours in harmony with firm, fresh acidity. In the words of Moët’s Chef de Cave, Benoit Gouez, “It offers pleasure with simplicity and spontaneity”.

Moët & Chandon Rosé NV £40.00 £35.00

This treats us to a more rounded palate of strawberries with redcurrant and nectarine hints. The prominence of Pinot Noir in the blend adds a seductive spice as well as injecting an intense pink colour. A great match for Mediterranean dishes.

Moët & Chandon 2002 £40.00 £38.00

The 2002 – Moët’s 69th vintage – is relatively new to Majestic. And like most 2002s, it shows fantastic harmony and finesse. The blend has 51% Chardonnay, which gives a very fresh, much lighter taste. Stone-fruit apricot and peach nuances mingle with toast, toffee and almond notes to create a truly classy Champagne. Enjoy any time over the next five years.

Veuve Clicquot

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin was established in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron. His son, François Clicquot, married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, who then became the iconic ‘Veuve’ (French for widow) following his death. It was she who not only established the label as a global mark of quality, but also pioneered the ‘méthode champenoise’, and the technique of remuage.

Veuve Clicquot NV £34.00

Aged far longer than the minimum period stipulated by Champagne laws, this has lovely rich aromas of brioche and baked apples. Delicate bubbles make for a very creamy mousse, backed up by a palate of toffee and biscuit notes. Perfect for big occasions.

Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec NV £37.00 £34.00

Something a bit different, with a higher sugar content producing a sweeter wine that still retains wonderfully balanced acidity and great complexity of flavours. The distinctly floral nose has well-integrated almond and marzipan notes, while the palate delivers candied fruit flavours. Great with most desserts – none better than mixed berry pavlova.

Veuve Clicquot Rosé NV £40.00

This is elegance in a bottle, with Pinot Noir dominant and all the grapes coming from Premier and Grand Cru sites. The nose has an abundance of vibrant red cherry and raspberry aromas, with classic Veuve creaminess on the palate. Try this sparkling gem with grilled lobster – you won’t be disappointed.

Veuve Clicquot 2002 £45.00 £40.00

Balance, finesse, flair, elegance and structure are all hallmarks of a wine that’s laden with clean, ripe citrus fruit, vanilla, ginger and freshly baked bread. It has real weight and power, reinforcing the reputation of the vintage and standing up well to strongly flavoured poultry like confit duck.

Ruinart

The oldest house in Champagne has been producing the goods since 1729. Ruinart’s traditional flask-shaped bottle is a testament to a rich history that began with Nicholas Ruinart, who fulfilled the ambition of his uncle, the Benedictine Monk Dom Thierry Ruinart, to “make Ruinart the premier Champagne house”.

Ruinart NV £42.00 £30.00

With a minimum stipulated blend of 40% Chardonnay, this is a lovely expression of non-vintage Champagne. It’s crisp, fresh and balanced, with a nose of green apples and lemon citrus, a delicate mousse and a light, fresh palate.

Ruinart Rosé NV £50.00 £40.00

This vivacious, golden-pink sparkler displays a delightful assortment of freshly picked red berries and cherries, thanks to a blend containing 55% Pinot Noir. Perfect as an evening apéritif or with a traditional red-fruit soup dessert.

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV £50.00 £40.00

Finally we come to a super-stylish all-Chardonnay treat! The intense white-blossom and peachy nose unlocks a palate loaded with honeysuckle, lemon and vanilla, all melodiously bound by a distinct mineral quality. The delicate, creamy mousse is just exquisite. At its best with oysters and gently flavoured white fish.

*Prices valid until 29 August 2011

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