Understanding the champagne trade-off: price versus quality

Champagne - 11.04.2014 - www.MyFrenchLife.orgYou don’t always have to spend a lot of money to get a good bottle of champagne.

Here at My French Life™ we’ve been busy becoming champagne connoisseurs. It’s a complicated and delightful business. So far, we’ve shared with you some of our favourite major champagne houses, as well as some lesser-known boutique houses.

We’ve also passed on our de-coding of champagne terminology – anyone would think it was in another language.

And we’ve shown you how to read a champagne label, and shared our favourite resources for getting to know champagne.

But when it comes to choosing the perfect bubbly, there’s one more leçon to be learned: understanding the trade-off between price and quality.

Grandes marques vs grower champagne

You may or may not be surprised to hear that there are a lot of growers in Champagne. Many of the grandes marques source their grapes from all over the region.

Sometimes these growers produce their own champagne. And while these brands may not have the prestige of some of the larger houses, you can bet their wines are just as good.

Champagne - France - 12.04.2014 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

What is special about grower champagnes is that their wines capture the vineyard’s terroir. This means the wine has the unique taste of the exact place it was grown. So while the champagne produced by the grandes marques is delicious without doubt, because it is made from grapes grown all over the region, it fails to capture the essence of any one area.

Flavours aside, most grower champagnes are also cheaper meaning you can buy more! After all, who can walk past a bargain?

Champagne vs sparkling wine

Another thing you should consider when buying your bubbles, is whether you want to drink real champagne, or sparkling wine.

In some cases, the only difference is the region in which the wine was produced. If you’re looking to buy champagne but don’t want to spend a fizzy amount of money, then consider looking at other sparkling wines.

Check the label: sparkling wines that say méthode traditionelle have been produced using the same techniques used in the Champagne region.

sparkling wine - Champagne - 13.04.2014 - www.MyFrenchLife.org

You could also consider Limoux, which are sparkling wines produced in other parts of France.

And don’t forget the Italian sparklings. Wines like prosecco, moscato and asti spumante tend to be much sweeter than champagne, but they are just as delicious and often with a much smaller price tag.

So which is for me?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a good drop of fizz. Many sparkling wines produced outside of the Champagne region are just as good as their AOC counterparts.

Check the label to see if the wine was produced using the same techniques as champagne. You should also look to see if the wine is a brut, sec or doux, as this will determine how dry or sweet the bubbles will be.

But if you’re a purist, and you wouldn’t dream of substituting French champagne with anything else, then consider trying some of the lesser-known brands to add some excitement to your soirée.

Have you been impressed by a lesser-known champagne house? What are your tips for finding champagne at the perfect price? The discussion is missing your voice – jump in the comments box below!

Image credits:
1. Veuve Clicquot, Dan Damasca via Flickr.
2. Champagne vines, Anthony Robson via Flickr.
3. Bouteille Les Cordeliers sparkling wine, via Wikipedia.

About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife.org MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon - MyFrenchLife.org

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  1. Elise Mellor Aug 27, 2014 at 9:46 AM - Reply

    I was at a champagne tasting recently (#MyMelbourneLife) run by the reps from ‘Canard-Duchêne’.
    I’d never heard of them before but apparently they’re one of the biggest selling labels in France. According to the rep, their wines are available in supermarchés so they’re sort of a ‘go-to’ bubbly for the French – and they’re not half bad either!
    Also, for quite some time while the rep was talking, I thought he was saying ‘canard du chien‘. Duck of dog. sounds delightful, where can I get a glass of that…

  2. Alexandria Rogers Sep 7, 2014 at 6:30 AM - Reply

    Great advice! The best champagne I’ve ever had was given to me by my old host exchange family. Their friend owned a small plot of land in the Champagne region, where he made champagne for his family and the town. He hand-delivered it to us, we sampled it that night, and I’ve yet to find its equal!

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