Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, November 30, 2008: Great Value Growers' Champagnes

There are people who can still afford luxury-label champagne - good for them – but most of the world is feeling the squeeze. Champagne sales are down in all the top markets (France, Britain, America, Japan) and although they are still rising in Russia, India and China, the quantities in these new markets are tiny. So the Champenois are looking pinched for the first time in years.

Somehow I doubt many of you will be feeling sorry for them. I imagine you care more about whether you can afford to drink champagne at all this Christmas. With £10, you will be able to buy a bottle from the big supermarkets, but I don’t recommend it. It’s likely to be thin, sharp and/or coarsely sweetened. Sparkling wine from Burgundy, the Loire or the new world is a better bet. At £16 upwards, however, you can afford fine champagne – not a grand name, but one made on a small scale by an individual grower and sold through an independent wine merchant. Look out for the words “grower’s champagne” in lists, and try the gems below.

Chartogne-Taillet Brut Champagne, £21.25
Delicately honeyed, lemony and biscuity. Very stylish (Vine Trail, 0117 921 1770).

Chauvet Brut Blanc de Noirs Champagne, £15.95
Supple and fruity with textured richness (Private Cellar, 01353 721 999; normal price £17.43)

Carlin Blanc de Blancs Champagne, £17.99
Buttery, biscuity, all-chardonnay, and technically from a small house rather than a grower (The Real Wine Co, 01753 885619).