Columnist, Food

★ ★ ★Exceptional  ★ ★Excellent ★Very Good

Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be available at additional stores.

Here are three outstanding champagnes and two high-end alternatives from California and Italy, ready for your holiday tables.

Nathalie Falmet Brut Nature

★ ★ ★

Champagne, France, $66

Nathalie Falmet is the epitome of a small grower: She owns just three hectares (about 7.5 acres) of vines and produces her wines in a bare-bones warehouse. Her brut nature, from 100 percent pinot noir and made with no dosage of sugar, is electrifying in its focus and intensity. Alcohol by volume: 12 percent.

J.W. Sieg: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits; on the list at Degrees Bistro. Available in Virginia at Au Domaine in Alexandria, Cork & Fork in Gainesville, Food of All Nations and Tastings in Charlottesville, River Market in White Stone, Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview), the Vineyard in McLean, the Wine Outlet in Vienna. 

Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut

★ ★ ★

Champagne, France, $70

Bollinger, founded in 1829, received modern notoriety as the favorite fizz of James Bond. The Special Cuvée, Bollinger’s multi-vintage brut bottling, shows golden color, signifying older base wines and oak aging. The wine is supple, soft and velvety, and caresses the palate with an understated luxury. With the Falmet, I say, “Wow!” With the Bolly, I say, “Ahhhh.” ABV: 12 percent.

Bacchus: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Calvert Woodley, Circle Wine & Liquor, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, Continental Wine & Liquor, Dean & DeLuca, MacArthur Beverages, Pearson’s, Rodman’s, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits; on the list at Cafe Matisse, Cafe Milano, CityZen, Farmers and Fishers, Founding Farmers, Marcel’s and others. Widely available in Maryland, including at Bay Ridge Wine & Spirits and Wine Cellars in Annapolis; Hair o’ the Dog in Easton; Hunt Valley Wine, Liquor & Beer in Cockeysville; I.M. Wine in Fulton; Pinehurst Gourmet, Quarry Wine & Spirits, Wells Discount Liquors and Wine Source in Baltimore; Stateline Liquors in Elkton. 

Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut

★ ★ ★

California, $30

This top cuvée from a French champagne house’s operation in California’s Napa Valley is rich and exuberant in a New World style, its emphasis on fruit more than on minerality. Etoile, French for star, echoes Dom Perignon’s famous exclamation, “I’m drinking stars!” when he supposedly invented the traditional method of making champagne. ABV: 12 percent.

Washington Wholesale in the District, Reliable Churchill in Maryland, RNDC in Virginia: Available in the District at 1 W Dupont Circle Wine & Liquors, McReynold’s Liquors, Universal Liquors; on the list at BLT Steak and Charlie Palmer Steak. Available in Maryland at Boulevard Fine Wines & Spirits, New Town Wine & Spirits, Valley Village Wine & Spirits in Owings Mills, Dawson’s Liquors in Severna Park, Decanter Fine Wines, Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia, Festival Wine & Spirits in Annapolis, Jason’s Liquors in Ellicott City, Reisterstown Wine & Spirits, Ronnie’s Beverage Warehouse in Forest Hill, Third Base Liquors in Bel Air, Total Wine & More in Laurel, Wine Source in Baltimore.

Ayala Brut Majeur

★ ★ 1 / 2

Champagne, France, $40

Outstanding, with a blend dominated by pinot noir and the dosage low to keep the wine dry. Ayala was bought by Bollinger in 2005 and is now re-entering the Washington area market. ABV: 12 percent.

M Touton Selection: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Connecticut Avenue Wine & Spirits, Magruder’s, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Riverside Liquors, Rodman’s, Sheffield Wine & Liquor Shoppe, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits, Watergate Wine & Beverage, Wide World of Wines; on the list at Ardeo. Available in Maryland at the Bottle Shop and World Gourmet Wine & Beer in Potomac, Bradley Food & Beverage and Georgetown Square Wine and Beer in Bethesda, Hair o’ the Dog in Easton, Iron Bridge Wine Co. in Columbia, Longmeadow Wine & Liquor in Hagerstown, Old Farm Liquors in Frederick, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington, Total Discount Liquors in Eldersburg, Wine Sellers of Annapolis. Available in Virginia at Specials Wine Seller in Kilmarnock, the Vineyard in McLean, the Wine Outlet in Vienna, Wine Lovers in Richmond.

Ferghettina Franciacorta Brut

★ ★ 1 / 2

Lombardy, Italy, $40

This example of Italy’s top champagne-style sparkling wine shows ripe red-fruit flavors of raspberries and currants, along with a core of acidity that gives it impressive finesse. ABV: 12 percent.

Bacchus in the District, Select in Virginia: Available in the District at Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits and MacArthur Beverages; on the list at Fiola. Available in Virginia at the Oakton Wine Shop; on the list at L’Auberge Chez François.