Larmandier-Bernier ChampagneSuw and I spent Christmas 2005 in Brugge, and just off the market square, we found a brilliant little wine shop, Cuvee. The owner had that wonderful balance of knowing the wine he stocked without being intimidating his customers. Most of all, he just loved to talk about wine. Suw reckoned that the owner was impressed with my pronunciation of the Portuguese red wine that we bought, which is why he was so gracious. I think he was one of those wine shop owners who truly loves what he does and enjoys talking wine with his customers.

With New Year’s just around the corner, I thought we should get some champagne He had a great selection, but he suggested Larmandier-Bernier. I don’t know much about champagne. In the US, we yanks only drink a bit of bubbly – usually a splash at New Year’s and then at weddings. It’s purely for celebrations and special occasions. Here in Britain, it seems any ‘ole excuse will do. Leaving do’s, birthdays, big dates and rainy days in London all seem sufficient reason to pop the cork. But I’m learning. Suw and I went to a champagne tasting last autumn with a representative from one of the major houses – Ruinart. I wrote about it over on Suw’s blog.

Larmandier-Bernier is a grower’s champagne, one of the smaller vineyards that produce champagne. The owner of Cuvee told us that it usually is only found in 5-star restaurants and rarely is found in wine shops. In fact, last March, I did find it for $90 a bottle at Colors restaurant in New York. Ouch.

Suw and I bought a bottle of LB Blanc de Blanc for only €31, which to be honest is a steal. It is without a doubt, the best champagne I’ve had at any price. Champagne is sweet, fizzy and fun, but as a wine, I don’t usually come away impressed. Maybe that’sLook at those bubbles the point. But why not have a bit of sweet, fizzy, fun with a little bit of elegance and structure? That’s what we got with Larmandier-Bernier. Vanilla, brioche and almond with enough behind it to not only drink as an apéritif, but also to drink right through dinner.

We searched long and hard for it when we got back to Britain. About the only place where we’ve found a place to buy it is Vine Trail in Bristol. Alas, we couldn’t find a place where we could pick it up on an impulse buy, until I changed jobs and found Flâneur, which is ever so conveniently on my way home from work. Unfortunately, they only have the Brut and not the Blanc de Blanc. Fortunately, for our wine budget, it’s not closer to hand. Top tip: Keep an eye out for it when you’re out at restaurants. It will dent your pocketbook there, but it’s worth it.