Can it ever be justifiable to splash out £130 on a bottle of champagne? And can it possibly be seven times better than a bottle that costs £17.49, as Waitrose’s more than respectable Blanc de Noirs (12.5% abv) does currently? I have been asking myself these questions since a recent visit to Krug (come on, wouldn’t you, if you were asked?), and for the avoidance of doubt, I wouldn’t. Though, sometimes, if money were no object, I just might: drawn from 127 wines from 11 vintages going back to 1990, Krug’s latest 164th edition Grande Cuvée (“only” £119.95, frazierswine.co.uk; 12% abv) is by any standards pretty impressive for a non-vintage.
The answer is that it depends on who you are – and that’s not just a question of income but also of age. The most interesting insight from my visit was that younger drinkers don’t think in terms of value for money: they see luxury cuvées such as Krug as the ultimate champagne, and one they want to experience. That’s not just PR talking, either: a friend recently told me that a junior in his office recounted with pleasure how she and her boyfriend had taken a bottle of Dom Perignon to the beach. What’s wrong with spending your money on a bottle of bubbly rather than a ticket to Glastonbury or a football match? (Don’t feel you have to answer that.)
To put the price of that Krug into perspective, it’s nowhere near the most expensive drink out there. A top-end burgundy or first-growth bordeaux will set you back several hundred, if not thousand pounds, and probably offer less gratification if you drink it straight away.
If, as is likely, Krug is beyond your means, there’s always Veuve Clicquot’s gorgeously toasty pinot-dominated Extra Brut, Extra Old (£69 from Clos 19, £72 on Majestic’s mix-six deal; 12% abv), which is made up entirely of reserve wines going back to 1988, though that price tag is still steep. Grower’s champagne – made by a single grower, rather than one blended from many growers, as the big houses do – is more affordable, and it’s fashionable right now, too: the Wine Society has a mixed case of six for £145, or less than some stockists charge for one bottle of the Krug. To which a millennial might reply, “Where’s the fun in that, if no one recognises what you’re drinking?”
Another solution might be to find somewhere you can try a glass rather than a bottle, but you’ll probably order some food to go with it, which will bump up your outlay. And you can drink Krug, Cristal or any sparkling wine with fish and chips, or even just chips, for less than the cost of a posh meal for two.
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