An extravagance — at bargain prices

18 December 2015

I SUGGESTED in my last column that there was much to be said in favour of waiting until nearer Christmas before making your wine purchases, particularly with regard to Champagne, and I am pleased to say that this has proved to be true.

Tesco is mounting a massive advertising campaign for its Champagne at £9 a bottle. I must admit that I have not tasted it; but it is interesting that a number of very low-priced Champagnes on the market this year all appear to come from the same co-operative cellar source. This would suggest that there has been a certain amount of overstocking of base wine.

In the world of Champagne, there often appear to be three levels. At the top, there are the grandes marques — well-established brands that spend vast sums on the promotion of their wines. Then there are excellent wines: some produced by growers, some lesser brands, and some sold under the buyer’s label.

Then there come what we might call “commodity” wines; in times of shortage, these might even be bought by the main brands to stretch their lower-image wines, but, in time of plenty, they are sold under “masquerade” names at basic prices. At Christmas, the main retailers tend to offer wines at all three levels.

At the top level among the wines, I have seen on offer Piper Heidsieck, down from £30 a bottle to £19 at Sainsbury’s*; Laurent-Perrier Brut (£24.98, rather than £37.50, at the “Mix Six” price at Majestic); and Moët Brut Impérial, at £22.95 from £26.95 at the Co-op. I can also recommend Duval-Leroy — one-third off at Waitrose at £19.99; or £15.99 “Mix six” price at Majestic.

At the intermediate level, I would suggest Sainsbury’s full-bodied Blanc de Noirs at £20 a bottle. Aldi has a range of Veuve Monsigny wines, including a 2010 vintage at £19.99, and a non-vintage rosé at £15.99.

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For bargain-basement Champagnes, apart from Tesco’s offering, Lidl has a Comte de Senneval at £9.97, and Aldi has a Nicolas de Montbard at the same price.

Of course there are many other sparkling wines, and the flavour of the year appears to be Prosecco. The best wines come from just 15 villages in the Veneto sub-region of Valdobbiadene. Lidl has a Conegliano 2014 vintage from here at £7.49, while Aldi has a non-vintage wine for the same price. The Co-op has reduced its generic Adeletto Prosecco by £3 a bottle to £7.49 also.

The wine that Prosecco has replaced on the shelves is, of course, Cava. Here, the best value for money would seem to the classic Codorniu Brut, at £6.66 “Mix six” price at Majestic. The Co-op has its own label Brut and Rosado for £5.99.

Among the other interesting sparkling wines are the Australian Jacobs Creek. Sainsbury’s has a white, a rosé, and a Shiraz for £7.90 each, while the Co-op has just the white, a third off at £6.66. Finally, for those with a sweet tooth, Sainsbury’s offers Canti Asti Spumante 2014 at just £5.99.

Whatever your taste, have a sparkling Christmas and New Year!

*Prices correct when going to press.

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