Prosecco sales may have overtaken champagne, but many still want to celebrate with the name ‘champagne’ on the label. As the big brand makes get pricier, the supermarkets are stocking their own-label entries, or champagnes with fancy unknown names, at competitive prices.
To help you pick a good budget bubbly, we tasted our way through 18 different supermarket champagnes divided into price categories. Under £16 entries really varied in quality – and to be honest, with several of these champagnes, I would prefer to buy a decent bottle of still wine at that price.
As our tasters discovered, spend just a little more and you are on much safer ground with a batch of well-made champagnes like sleek citric Marks & Spencer’s De Gall Blanc de Blancs, lightly toasty Asda’s Vintage 2004 and fruity Tesco’s Premier Cru. Our star buy with our tasters, however, was Waitrose’s deliciously elegant Blanc de Blancs.
SUPERMARKET OWN LABEL CHAMPAGNE TASTE TEST
ALDI CHAMPAGNE VEUVE MONSIGNY BRUT NV Philizot & Fils
Clean and attractive fruits and very quaffable – for those who like a dry, crisp zippy fizz; pretty good for the price. BEST VALUE BUY
LIDL CHAMPAGNE COMTE DE BRISMAND BRUT NV
Creamier and sweeter than Aldi’s blend, but finishes short with a confected taste; would suit those with a sweet tooth.
SAINSBURY’S CHAMPAGNE ANTOINE DE CLEVECY BRUT NV
Not popular with tasters. Skinny, lean, lacking lustre and appeal.
TESCO CHAMPAGNE POL AIME BRUT NV
More preferred this blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier; brighter fruit, a touch more complexity, made by Fabien Henry at Maison Burtin – who also makes de Vallois (which was less popular).
£26 AND UNDER
WAITROSE CHAMPAGNE BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NV
Outstanding winner at our tasting overall: brioche nose, juicy, citric depth, beautifully balanced, long length and well-made reliable champagne from 100 per cent chardonnay grapes. STAR BUY
TESCO CHAMPAGNE PREMIER CRU BRUT NV
Always dependable and never lets you down, like other champagnes under £20. It would suit the Veuve Clicquot or Moët & Chandon drinker who wants to save money: fruity and a mass-market pleaser.
MARKS & SPENCER’S CHAMPAGNE DE GALL PREMIER CRU BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT NV
(£24, Marks & Spencer)
Just pipped at the post by Waitrose’s Blanc de Blancs in our tasting, but this chardonnay-based cuvée is beautifully crafted with a creamy palate, citrus fruits and long-lasting mousse. I much prefer M&S’s rich, elegant De Gall range in comparison to their Oudinot.
SAINSBURY’S CHAMPAGNE BLANC DE NOIRS BRUT NV
Nutty, rich, full-bodied, some tasters really enjoyed the fuller palate of fruit, whilst others found it too acidic and bitter on the finish. Sainsbury’s are not quite as reliable as they used to be for their champagne.
CO-OP CHAMPAGNE LES PIONNIERS BRUT VINTAGE 2004
Named after the Lancashire pioneers, this got a mixed vote. Many loved its nutty richness, whilst a few found it lifeless and dull, in comparison to the competition. Co-op are hard to track down for information on offers, but if you see it on promotion try it: they will be moving to a younger vintage, so buy 2004 if you can find it. Vintage Pionniers is much better than their non-vintage.
TESCO CHAMPAGNE CHANOINE BRUT VINTAGE 2007
(£19.99, reduced from £29.99, until 11 July, Tesco)
Fancy name – but this blend was not so popular, and considered a little dull compared to the rest in this class; citric notes, short on the finish, tasters left a little flat after this one. I would prefer to buy a decent bottle of still wine at this price.
WAITROSE CHAMPAGNE BLANC DE NOIRS BRUT NV
Good old Waitrose – a very dependable and affordable blend of red grapes, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Less acidic and richer in fruit in comparison to their Blanc de Blancs, but not so sleek.
ASDA CHAMPAGNE LOUIS BERNARD VINTAGE 2004
(£22, currently reduced from £25.25, Asda)
This is not the first time that Asda have done well in our supermarket fizz tasting: this is a rich, honeyed, mature fizz at a cracking price of £22. Note that this is 2004 vintage, as they are now moving on to 2009.
Join Rose’s Friday Night Champagne & Sparkling Wine tastings in Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews (prices from £40), www.rosemurraybrown.com