Value Cham­pagne

Some­times a spe­cial oc­ca­sion calls for a drop of the real stuff. But where to get the best qual­ity with­out break­ing the bank? Andy Howard MW guides us through

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

79 wines tasted Smaller grow­ers showed par­tic­u­larly well, and our panel found plenty of qual­ity and char­ac­ter

The TerM ‘value’ Cham­pagne might seem a bit of an oxy­moron or, for sea­soned wine tasters, some­thing to dread. Sadly, ‘cheap’ Cham­pagne can of­ten mean overly acidic, lean and sim­ple wines. So it was with some trep­i­da­tion that the tast­ing panel con­sid­ered a range of 79 dif­fer­ent con­tenders which shared just their ap­pel­la­tion and a re­tail price point of £40 or un­der.

Cham­pagne re­mains the lead­ing sparkling wine cat­e­gory world­wide and de­spite the growth of Prosecco, and re­cent chal­lenges from its do­mes­tic ri­vals in the cré­mant cat­e­gory, this sit­u­a­tion is un­likely to change any time soon. In March 2018, an­nual fig­ures re­leased by the Comité Cham­pagne showed Cham­pagne ac­counted for 36% of the value of world­wide sparkling wine sales in 2017, with a pres­ence in more than 190 coun­tries. To­tal ship­ments amounted to 307 mil­lion bot­tles, with over a bil­lion bot­tles cur­rently stored in the re­gion.

What prompted a sig­nif­i­cant amount of press cov­er­age was the fact that vol­umes shipped to the uK had fallen to 27.8m bot­tles – a de­cline of 11% and the first time in over 15 years that ex­ports were less than 30m bot­tles. Was this a re­ac­tion to a re­duc­tion in dis­counted Cham­pagne as a re­sult of the pound’s weak­ness; the growth of al­ter­na­tives such as Prosecco; or even the de­vel­op­ment of the english sparkling wine in­dus­try?

Bright sparks

It is dif­fi­cult to cat­e­gorise ex­actly what wine lovers should be ex­pect­ing in this sub-£40 cat­e­gory. Drinkers can ex­pect to find value-ori­ented, own-la­bel wines sourced by super­mar­kets or on­line re­tail­ers, as well as Cham­pagnes from both smaller grow­ers and some of the larger houses – still the main vol­ume driver for world­wide sales. The re­gion also ben­e­fits from a net­work of strong co­op­er­a­tives, which can usu­ally be re­lied on for the pro­duc­tion of high-qual­ity, good-value wines.

The lower price tiers are dom­i­nated by blends, with the clas­sic mix of Pinot Noir, Chardon­nay and Pinot Me­u­nier ac­count­ing for 80% of the wines in this tast­ing. hardly sur­pris­ing, as blend­ing dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties gives wine­mak­ers more op­tions. While vin­tage Cham­pagne is a dif­fer­ent beast, the qual­ity of re­cent vin­tages is sig­nif­i­cant as this drives the char­ac­ter of base wines. Both 2010 and 2011 were poor, but in re­cent years qual­ity has been high, which bodes well for the Nv cat­e­gory.

Stylis­ti­cally, the best Cham­pagnes in this price bracket should of­fer a fine, last­ing mousse, crisp (but not ex­ces­sive) acid­ity, fi­nesse and pu­rity of flavour. Some wines may show the de­vel­op­ment of au­tolytic char­ac­ters as a re­sult of longer age­ing on lees and, in a few cases, some el­e­ment of mat­u­ra­tion in wood. In most cases, drinkers should an­tic­i­pate el­e­gant, bright, fresh sparkling wines, full of verve and ready to en­joy now.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.