/ Food & Drink

Why I shouldn’t think twice about budget champagne

Call me a snob, but when I have the great and good round for a glass of Christmas bubbly, I think twice before uncorking supermarket fizz. Yet, our latest taste test found you don’t need to pay top prices for champagne.

My obsession with posh labels doesn’t make sense. In our latest festive fizz taste test, four experts (yes, that’s people who know more about Champagne than I ever will) blind tasted 11 bottles and picked supermarket champers as the best.

Morrisons’ Best Brut, the Co-operative’s Les Pionniers, Waitrose’s Brut and Lidl’s Comte de Brismard champagnes topped the table in that order, ahead of big-name brands Moet and Chandon and Veuve Clicquot. All are priced under £20.

But isn’t your Christmas party as much about style as it is about great taste? And how will I feel when I get those sideways glances that seem to say; ‘Are you really drinking something that started its life in Lidl?’

It shouldn’t be this way. Because that’s exactly what Which? is all about – great value and great taste, not what’s on the label. And it’s exactly why we make our experts taste blind too – their brand preconceptions are left out of it.

So will you be brave enough to bring out the budget champers this Christmas? Maybe you’ll gift-wrap a bottle of Morrisons for a special occasion? Or will you be doing some private pouring behind the poinsettia too?

Comments
Guest
Sophie Gilbert says:
16 November 2011

I’ve had the budget champagnes from supermarkets two or three times and that’s more than enough. They were rough as heck or had a bad after taste or were flat. Maybe I was unlucky, but whereas I’m never going to fork out silly money for M&C or Clicquot (suckers who paid top price for things just because of the labels deserve to be ripped off), I do think that up to a point with champagne you do get what you pay for.

Guest
Melanie says:
17 November 2011

I agree. I can never undrestand why Which? hardly ever tests wine from Majestic – let’s face it, that’s where the vast majority of people who read Which? will buy their wine! I find it amusing to imagine Which? readers venturing to Asda or Morrisons. Comparing any of these supermarket champagnes – euch – to Majestic’s Heidesieck 2004 is like comparing disinfectant to Puligny-Montrachet.

Guest

… but isn’t that the point of a blind taste test, to isolate the taster from any label snobbery?

We’ve seen before with blind tasting the big name champagnes being given very bad reviews. You should really acknowledge the scientific results before dismissing them out of hand. If the supermarket champagnes really were ‘disinfectant’ then they would have come out of this badly, but they came out top, as they did last year.

Perhaps you shouldn’t be dismissive of such good news: that cheap champagne can be a bargain!

Guest

You madam, are ignorant of supermarket wines. May I suggest you get your chauffer to drop you off at the nearest Waitrose and sample what they have to offer.
If you don’t believe me ask Oz Clarke et al!

Guest

Hi Melanie

Just to let you know, we ask, and have always asked, Majestic for nominations. They weren’t able to nominate in time for our tasting this year, but we will of course include them in future.

Just for the record: nearly 70% of take home sales are through the Big Four Supermarkets. Most off licences are now independents, but Majestic is the biggest specialist retailer – however, of course the minimum purchase of six bottles in store doesn’t suit everyone.

Thanks for your comments

Guest
Graham Cox says:
18 November 2011

There is a hole in the market and that is for sec. Most people, especially women, prefer sec but the industry bulldozes out brut and supermarkets normally have neither sec nor demi-sec.

Guest

Over the last couple of years I’ve grown to appreciate Prosecco and now prefer it to champagne and Cava. I find champagne can leave a funny sensation in the back of your throat – the worst one for this is Moet & Chandon, which I avoid at all costs now – I’d rather drink a very cheap cava and have no idea why it’s so respected, it tastes horrible to me!

Guest

I buy our fizz from a cooperative in Spain each year when we pay our annual winter visit to the Costa Blanca. They have 3 varieties, We and a dozen friends had a serious blind tasting of all 3 in anticipatiion of taking it back for our son’s wedding. None were disliked, opinions varied between the cheaper two but all agreed the one at 25cents more was best! (ie €3.25)

Guest
Richard English says:
18 November 2011

I rarely if ever buy Champagne – but I do buy sparkling wine by the case. And the sparkling wine I buy is that made by the very country that invented sparkling wine – which is England.

Of course, with our typical denigration of the products of our wonderful country, we English would sooner buy some foreign sparkling wine – rare indeed is it to see English wines on any restaurant’s wine list or any supermarket’s shelves.

But the prize-winning wines from the likes of Ridgeview, Nyetimber and Bolney knock the spots of most Champagnes and my cellar has cases of white, rose and – most interesting of all – red sparklers, all mainly from Bolney as it’s my nearest vineyard. Oh, and just to forestall a common objection – English sparkling wines cost no more than the Champagnes you have just tested.