While grower champagnes (those that only use grapes from their own vineyards) are all the rage, the negociant houses (those that source many of their grapes) should not be overlooked. While it's true that they have to strive to produce a consistent style from year to year, in many cases, that style is exceptionally fine. Here are three pricey but excellent examples.
Bollinger Special Cuvee Brut, $90
A favorite of the British royals, this family-owned house is famous for its richly styled, long-lived wines. The blend is dominated by dark grapes (60 percent pinot noir and 15 percent pinot meunier, with 25 percent chardonnay) and the wine is marked by bright and creamy citrus aromas. Apple, lemon and lime flavors up front turn to grapefruit and orange zest on the finish.
Krug Grand Cuvee Brut, $199
A nonvintage, entry-level Champagne that sells for more than Dom Perignon? Such is the rare and (deserved) reputation of the House of Krug. A torrent of bubbles carries dusty yeast and fruit aromas. Round, ripe and layered, the palate is filled with lush apple and Asian pear. This wine is well worth the splurge.
Taittinger Prestige Rose Brut, $86
A beautiful salmon pink, this is the most aromatic of the trio, with heady cherry and currant fruit pouring from the glass. This is a delicately structured, charmingly complex Champagne with almost Burgundian flavors of cherry and berry, and a Chablis-like minerality on the finish. This highly respected French-owned house dates back to 1734.