Thursday, 27 November 2014

A few notes about Champagne

From the Daily Mail

A Champagne price war has been triggered with Tesco slashing the price of one award winning brand to just £8.

Britain’s biggest grocer and drinks retailer has reduced its Louis Delaunay champagne by some 70per cent from the official list figure of £25.99.

The champagne is now cheaper than many supposedly inferior sparkling wines such as Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Spain.

Champagne is a sparkling wine. It's produced with something called the "Traditional Method", and used to be called the méthode champenoise. So is most sparkling wine that you can buy like Australian fizz and Cava. Prosecco isn't, it uses another approach.

The key difference between Champagne and Cava, or Australian fizz is that only wines from a specific area of France can stick that on the label. It's not necessarily any better than those wines, and is often worse because that wine producer is having to pay higher rent to have the piece of land in the region so that he can print "Champagne" on the bottle than someone just over the border who is selling a sparkling wine who isn't. Sure, there's certain soil properties of the region (in general), but Wairau Valley in New Zealand also has many of the same conditions.

If you've got serious money, top-end Champagne really doesn't have any rivals. I've not tasted anything as good as Krug Grande Cuvee (and only once). But if you're looking more in the under-£30 market, I wouldn't normally go for Champagne. I'd go for Lindaeur Special Reserve (at about £12) or Cloudy Bay Pelorus (about £16), both from New Zealand. And I know people talk about British sparkling wine, but having tasted it, there's better value elsewhere.

In this case, £8 for a bottle of Champagne that won an IWSC award seems like it's worth a try. But Champagne isn't intrinsically better than other sparkling wines.


Lola said...

Tried Lallier?

A K Haart said...

"Champagne isn't intrinsically better than other sparkling wines."

I agree. For me, Champagnes don't always get the acidity right.

DBC Reed said...

If you can get genuine Champagne for a lower price why bother chancing your arm with NZ or other alternatives?

Shiney said...

I not a socialist... so I don't drink the stuff ;-D

Ben Jamin' said...

English fizz is some of the best.

It's been my preferred tipple for a number of years. Trouble is, I'm not the only one, and prices have increased sharply.

Bayard said...

DBCR, If you buy Champagne, you are paying for the "brand", so even at £8/bottle it's bound to be worse than a NZ wine for the same price. Cheap Champagne just isn't worth buying, unless you going to give it to someone who will be impressed by the name. Personally, I buy wine for the taste.

The Stigler said...

Where do you get it? Is it pricey?

AK Haart,
I prefer my wines a bit richer, too

But you're assuming the same thing as most people, that Champagne is a level above sparkling wine, probably because we've culturally come to believe that. When someone wins a prize, they don't get a bottle of sparkling wine, they always get a bottle of Champagne. People would think you cheap for giving someone a bottle of sparkling wine, even though some cost more than a bottle of Moet.

Personally, I'd generally opt for something, anything but Champagne under £10. I'd consider the Champagne the risky option and the Vintage Cava as the sensible one.

Chacun a son gout and all that. I've not been mad on the ones I've tried and generally don't buy English wine. But I welcome a suggestion.

Try the Lindauer. It's slightly pinkish, without being too pink, so you get a bit of red fruit. It's not that pricey and about my favourite fizz I can easily afford.

Mark Wadsworth said...

I have no idea what you are talking about being a staunch beer man (or vodka man, if pushed) so I asked Her Indoors for input and she said she likes Prosecco from Waitrose, costs about £11.

Steven_L said...

Not a fizz man myself, don't mind it, but would rather spend £30 on a good chablis than a bottle of moet.

French wine is over priced in general of you ask me. I reckon Spanish and Argentine are the way to go. And not from the supermarket, I'm stocked up for xmas from and

MW, you don't drink beer, you drink Fosters, you posted a photo of your Xmas fridge a couple of years ago!

The Stigler said...


Prosecco's good. Bit different to champagne, not so heavy. If I have a BBQ, it's what I serve as a fizz. £11 is decent Prosecco.


Likewise. I've got to the point that I'm looking for alternative Pinots to buying Burgundy as the prices are crazy now. You're right about Spain - white Riojas are still good value. I'd also keep an eye on Romania. All the conditions for growing wine, none of the modern facilities. There's good wines coming out, but because it doesn't have any reputation it's like Chile in the late 90s.

Ben Jamin' said...

@ The Stigler

Ok, I must admit that I did have a very expensive Champagne in France a couple of years ago, which was exceptional.

But I really like this stuff.

TheFatBigot said...

I haven't bought champagne for many years. It takes taste buds far more discerning than mine to distinguish between champagne, cava and prosecco. And it takes a pocket far deeper than mine to justify giving guests a bottle that costs £30.

Festive bubbles are served every year at FatBigot Towers and nary a word of pompous disdain has been heard. For at least eight years it's been Tesco or Sainsbury cava at around a fiver a bottle.

Very much the same debate can be had about port. All the big labels produce excellent blends at affordable prices. Is it worth spending £35 on a decent vintage when you can get a high-quality blended port for £8 or £10?

At FatBigot Towers money is spent every year on a good vintage port because certain members of the family enjoy the more refined taste and, perhaps more importantly, enjoy the snob value.

If others enjoy the snob value of champagne, so be it. It's their money.

Steven_L said...

You don't get a decent vintage port for £35. You get a bad vintage, a vintage much too young to drink or a single quinta from a non-vintage year.

If you like cheap fizz, Waitrose used to do a lovely perry under their own label at less than £2 a 500ml bottle. Quality was comparable to champagne, cost effect was comparable to Carlsberg special brew!

Steven_L said...

Mark Wadsworth's Christmas fridge 2011, is that Champagne or Cava?

The Stigler said...

Ben Jamin,
The expensive Champagne is probably worth it (if you have the money) because there's nothing elsewhere to rival it.

I've drunk Krug once, one glass, and it was pretty amazing. Not sure it's worth £120/bottle, but as far as I'm aware, there isn't anything anywhere else that rivals it at a lower price.

I'd struggle to discern between good Oz fizz and a good brand NV Champagne. And so would most discerning amateurs because it's a very similar product. But I'm pretty sure I could tell an NV Champagne from a good vintage one.

I should do blind tastings - I used to buy vintage port because I could tell the difference between that and blended (nothing wrong with blended). Whether that's psychological, I don't know.

The other thing is to get some French supermarket paintstripper fizz for a couple of euros a bottle and have some peach liquer and make bellinis. By the time the peach is added, no-one can tell (the wine really is terrible).

DBC Reed said...

You'd never know there is a ding-dong battle going on in the FT and Guardian over the State creation of money ( Max Keiser vs Martin Wolf in the FT)and all that brings out the contributors on here is highly snobbish posing about over-priced booze.

The Stigler said...


State creation of money? Why aren't you only worried about the effects of Ebola?

DBC Reed said...

As this blog is mainly concerned with LVT,it is highly relevant who creates money.If the State created money, LVT could be a fairly mild tax on land price inflation.But the State doesn't create money: the banks do. So why does the GOV "borrow" off them when it could create money itself by spending with some big cheques?LVT has to be a massive tax to re-circulate existing money
when it would be easier (and more honest)for the Gov to create some new stuff.

Lola said...

DBCR. That'a the beauty of capitalism, all sorts of people get to enjoy great stuff. UNlike socialism when on the apparatchiks and fellow travellers can get it.

S. Champagne Lallier is small champagne house in Epernay. I was referred to it by my wine merchant client whose stock choice it is. I like it very much. We went their and bought four cases at about E25 / bottle. I think the UK price is about £30.
It's a very fresh taste with a slight hint of apple.
I will have to go back soon, we are down to our last dozen bottles...

DBC Reed said...

Oh my gawd. TS started this off by saying champagne was not intrinsically better than similar wines and now L's back to buying £30 a bottle stuff by the dozen.Snobbery (not class) will out.
The rhetoric about the wonders of capitalism in making it available at such affordable prices provides the finishing touches to the humorous effect.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, enough with the class warfare.

If you stumbled across a blog where people were discussing whether Ford model such-and-such is better than a Vauxhall model whatever, even though it costs a couple of grand more, you wouldn't bat an eyelid.

So if some people prefer one bottle of booze which costs £10 or £20 more than another, that's hardly life changing sums of money (i.e. the price of a round of drinks in a pub).

DBC Reed said...

This is class warfare?Andrew Mitchell/David Mellor go in for class warfare.The rich sneering at ordinary people is the grand old English way (not that L is in that league thank goodness).
The round of drinks comparison does not stack up.L is talking about returning to Epernay (not the local ) and buying another four cases of Champagne@£30 a bottle. That's just shy of £1,500!
They must have big rounds down your pub!
Ease off ! I am just joshing Lola for his eccentricity.I don't think a real snob/class warrior would be so unguarded!(I admire L for mounting a copper-bottomed LVT campaign on strict Conservative principles.)