With champagne being promoted at anything between £9 and £126 this Christmas, it’s almost impossible to know what’s good value. OK, I can’t imagine many of you thinking that upwards of 100 quid for a single bottle is remotely a bargain, even with 10% off, but what about £30, say? Come to think of it, is it really worth paying anything more than a tenner?
The nearest parallels I can think of are trainers and perfume. There’s no actual need to buy branded products such as Nike or Chanel, but people do. Like other luxury goods, champagne is heavily promoted, and with the big brands, that’s what you’re paying for. Is Krug at £126 fourteen times better than Tesco’s Louis Delaunay, which was recently on offer at £9? Not for most of us, no, even if we could afford it. A case of the Wine Society’s own-label Champagne (12.5 abv) is a better deal than both: like Krug, it is aged in oak and you can order until midnight on Tuesday at the equivalent of £19.67 a bottle, saving yourself £59 in the process,
I recently re-tried some of the bargain-basement bubbly out there and wasn’t impressed. If you’re going to spend only £10 on champagne, you might as well drink cava. The sweet spot this year seems to be around £16, for which you can buy some perfectly decent, and in some cases excellent, supermarket fizz. Sainsbury’s Winemaker’s Selection Blanc de Blancs (12% abv), which was recently nominated a Which? best buy, is on offer at £16 at the moment, as is their Blanc de Noirs (12% abv). Which to choose depends on whether you like a fresher, more creamy style (the blanc de blancs) or a richer, toastier one.
Tesco’s Finest Premier Cru Champagne (on offer at £16; 12.5% abv) is more than drinkable, as is the Co-op’s Les Pionniers (12% abv), which makes a regular appearance in the column at this time of year. On special offer at £15.99, there’s no reason not to recommend it again. Interestingly, the best bottle I tasted from Lidl, its Champagne Comte de Senneval Grand Cru (12.5% abv) is £3 more expensive, which just goes to show that discounters don’t have all the bargains.
In terms of reductions on big names such as Bollinger, Laurent-Perrier, Pol Roger and Roederer, it’s simply a question of shopping around. I personally like Pol, as it’s known in the trade, and could be tempted by the chance to pick up a bottle at the Co-op at its current price of £29.99 (12% abv). But look online and ring around: there are almost always discounts for a case – Chichester-based L’Assemblage, for instance, generally has some good deals.
• Fiona Beckett’s ebook, 101 Ways To Enjoy Cheese And Wine, is out now at £4.50.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010