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18 July 2017

How to Drink Champagne Without Busting Your Budget

by Tamara Dumas

From Winston Churchill to Napoleon Bonaparte to Mark Twain, everyone who left their mark in history seemed to have something to say about Champagne. Churchill, used to drink so much Pol Roger that they named a cuve in his honour. Similarly, with Napoleon Bonaparte, where MUMM champagne named the famous Cordon Rouge in his honour, as Napoleon used to wear a red General’s sash. Napoleon used to say: “In victory we deserve champagne, in defeat, we need it”.

But it wasn’t just European aristocrats that appreciated the taste of champagne; Veuve Cilcquot was the first Champagne house to ship the hallowed drink through the blockade in 1811 to Imperial Russia. And as Madame de Pompadour once said, “Champagne is the only drink that leaves a woman still beautiful after drinking it.” As Louis XV’s royal mistress, she knew a thing or two about beauty, and also about Champagne: She was one of Claude Moët’s most loyal customers.

Nowadays, Champagne has retained its status of a symbol of celebration and decadence. Every high-end event is not possible without the popping cork of brut champagne. Beit an exclusive private view or the red carpet gala event, champagne sets the right atmosphere and sends the message that the guests have entered the domain of high-end entertainment.  

But how to afford champagne if you are on the budget – as most of events are?

A LOT of companies have recently discovered a new way to cheat – ‘delicious’, overly sweet thus often undrinkable Prosecco can often be seen on many events. The reasons can be many. Either the event managers assume that no one will spot the difference, or they are genuinely into Prosecco. Price, dear readers, is the main reason. When it comes to cost comparison, Prosecco beats Champagne hands down. Or does it?

Prosecco prices

Imported from Italy, the drink is considered to be ‘a younger brother’ of champagne. Except that it isn’t. Different grapes, process of production and times of development set these two drinks worlds apart. The uber sweet taste of Prosecco has, it seems, won the hearts of British consumer and pushed the price of Prosecco extremely high. A drink that is worth £3 in Europe costs more than double in our supermarkets, with more or less decent brands commanding a starting price of £10 and reaching up to £15 for a 75CL bottle. Those from Cartizze (the best area for producing Prosecco), can cost more than the average £30 you’d pay for a bottle of Champagne.

Jacquart Champagne art
© Ikon London Magazine
Prosecco Production Process

Prosecco manufacturing process. Photo unknown

Champagne Production process

Champagne’s worth

Champagne is a far more complicated in its method of producing wine and will take longer to produce -twice as long, approximately 3 years- than most if not all those wines from Prosecco. The champagne is only produced of three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier. 

There is also a different production method. Unlike Prosecco -that is produces in metal tanks- Champagne is produced in the Traditional Method. It is also the method used in various French regions to produce Crémant or other traditional method sparkling wines, in Spain to produce Cava and in Italy to produce Franciacorta. The method is known as the méthode champenoise and involves manual Riddling for years and months. The Riddling is the process of gradual tilting of the bottle neck-down (‘sur pointe’), meanwhile rotating it by small increments, clockwise and anti-clockwise. As the angle of tilt increases, the forces of gravity draw the sediment into the neck. 

This complicated and laborious process justifies the higher price of the champagne. A bottle of well-known champagne can start from £35 in supermarkets. But, for those on a budget, there are some options available for a very competitive £10. A bottle of champagne for a tenner should discourage anyone from fueling their event with an overpriced and ‘inferior’ Prosecco. When I say a ‘tenner’, I mean it's mainly the supermarkets 'taking the hit' with discounting. Majority of Supermarkets now do this. 

Champagne on a budget

All of the above are produced near or in Reims in the Champagne region using the Traditional Method.

Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut 75Cl

Available in Aldi for £10.99. This Champagne is the blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Andre Carpentier Champagne Non Vintage 75Cl

Available in Tesco for £12, List price £28. Grape Variety: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir.

Louis Delaunay Champagne Brut Non Vintage 75Cl

Available in Tesco for £12. The Champagne is made from 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Meunier and 15% Chardonnay grapes.

Cremant

In case if your party budget doesn’t allow for £11 Champagne, you might consider -as a Champagne lover- if the event is worth organizing altogether. Alternatively, consider stocking up with Cremant. As I mentioned earlier, Cremant is produced in France using the same Traditional Method and can give you a lot more fizz for your pound as its very similar to Champagne and not too sweet at all.

Think the difference of a couple of pounds per bottle, compared to Champagnes above.

Cheers!