If you are driving from Paris to Alsace, your route will take you through the Champagne countryside, so no excuses are needed to stop and explore.

Had we got the directions right for Ian Fleming’s aristocratic spy’s champagne of choice? After passing modest houses, a market garden, and some nondescript commercial buildings, we turned a corner and the classic wedding cake chateau of Gosset Brabant with its ‘look at me!’ hauteur was suddenly right in front of us. As small as Bollinger is large, Gosset Brabant has a production of only 60,000 bottles, yet produces excellent-quality champagnes.  

So much more than just a fizzy wine, champagne is also the drink of choice for celebrations, and perhaps the most highbrow of all wines. With our visit to Gosset Brabant, we wanted to demystify champagne— can only big budget brands produce the best quality, or can small producers also compete?

Gosset Brabant owns all its own vineyards and is therefore intimate with the characteristics of the terroir, or earth. This gives the winery a vocabulary of tastes born from differing soils, in addition to total control, enabling them to produce exactly what they want. For many other winemakers it is unfortunately a lottery, as they have to buy grapes from separate vineyards, and thus lose this important element.

In our private tasting at Gosset Brabant, we were first offered their Wedding Cuvée, a young, very fresh, clean-tasting champagne that was excellent value for money. A simple sparkler that will be enjoyed by all, while still satisfying those with discerning palates. We then progressed through their range with increasing admiration. Gosset Brabant wines can also be enjoyed at Les Saisons restaurant in Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel. Bollinger matches the quality, and they too have highlights within their range, particularly their Grande Année and RD brands.

It is easy to divide the two champagne houses by their prices. It is no contest, as someone has to pay for the elaborate marketing of Bollinger, and the difference in prices widens dramatically as you ascend the levels of sophistication. Whatever your choice, you are sure to enjoy some of the best champagne on offer.

Photo by Kristian Thy