Françoise Peretti, director of Champagne Bureau UK and expert on all-things-Champagne, shares her secrets on how to find the right champagne for your price bracket...
"It's official! From 4 July, weddings and civil partnerships have been given the greenlight. Following this exciting news, I'm sure many couples will once again be imagining and planning for the most joyous day of their lives, laying the groundwork behind the scenes to make sure everything is perfect for the new date. It's fair to say that at a time when we all need cheering up, no post-lockdown wedding would be complete without the popping of corks and toasts made with glasses of beautiful golden bubbles. But now more than ever brides and grooms to-be are likely to have budget at the forefront of mind. Here are my top tips on choosing the right champagne for you."
1. Know your styles – Champagne comes in 3 styles: Non-Vintage (a blend of several harvests), Vintage (a blend of a single harvest – you'll see the harvest year written on the label) and Prestige Cuvées (top of the line champagne; and rare always comes at a cost...). All of these styles offer different virtues and come at different prices.
2. Know your price brackets – You should expect Non-Vintage Champagne prices to range between £25 and £45 a bottle, Vintage from £45+ to £60+ and Prestige Cuvées from £60+ to over £150 per bottle. Of the 297.5 million bottles shipped from the Champagne region in 2019, 80% were Non-Vintage. It's both the most widely bought style and the one that comes in the widest diversity of styles: brut, rosé, blanc de blancs (100% chardonnay), blanc de noirs (100% pinot noir & meunier grapes) etc. It is the producers' flagship style, so buy it with confidence.
3. Know the name Champagne means quality – Champagne only comes from Champagne, France. Its 300 year-old know-how and heritage make it the most famous, most admired sparkling wine in the world. It is the absolute benchmark in the category. Furthermore, it's a legally protected appellation, which means that whether you spend £20 or £100 on Champagne, the method of production, terroir and stringent production regulations will be the same across the board and are a guarantee of quality and deliciousness.
4. Know that in buying Champagne you're choosing a region which cares for the environment – Champagne was the first wine region to implement a sustainability strategy back in 2002 and it remains a world leader in this field. Since then, we have reduced our carbon footprint by -20%, treat and recycle 90% of industrial waste and 100% of wine production effluents, and have reduced herbicides by half. We also have big goals for the future: zero herbicides by 2025, 100% of vineyards under environmental certification by 2030, and a -75% reduction of carbon footprint by 2050.
5. Know the world's most prestigious wine region is on your doorstep – As soon as borders open, a mini-moon to Champagne is the perfect way to find out what you like (and a bargain!). The ultimate romantic French escape, the UNESCO listed Champagne hillsides and cellars are just an hour beyond Paris, so why not make a trip of it and drive, or take the Eurostar and TGV (only 4.5 hours from London)? You can visit some of the 340 Champagne houses and growers for tastings and the diversity of styles and prices mean that you'll undoubtedly find the one that suits your taste – and your wallet.
6. Ask the experts – Make the experts i.e. retailers work. Whether you're buying from a wine shop, supermarket or online, rely on the wine salesforce on the floor or online. Tell them what wines you like, the occasion you'll be drinking the Champagne bottle and what your budget is. If they're good at their job, their advice will be invaluable in guiding you to the right choice.
7. Always remember – There is no such thing as the 'best' Champagne. The best Champagne is the Champagne you like best and can afford. When we say 'this wine is good, this one is not', what we often mean is 'I prefer this one to the other one'. Three grapes are used in Champagne making: chardonnay (white), pinot noir and meunier (black). The blends of grapes will determine if the Champagne is light, full-bodied, elegant, bready, yeasty, fruity, floral. Rely on what type of still wine you like: if you tend to prefer full-bodied ones, choose a blend with a higher content of black grapes; if you prefer lighter styles, pick a chardonnay based Champagne.
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