Champagnes costing as little as £9.99 a bottle

Yes, budget bubbles can sink premium fizz… They’re the champagnes costing as little as £9.99 a bottle — yet aren’t supermarket own brands. But how DO they compare to the posh labels?

  • With exception of the French no nation drinks as much champagne as the UK
  • Explains why supermarkets have raft of deals, with lots of bottles for £18 or less 
  • Bargains are usually made exclusively for the shops by large champagne houses 

Many of us will not be able to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the way we’d hoped. 

Yet come midnight we will still want to pop a bottle or two of champagne to usher in — let’s hope — a far better 2021.

With the exception of the French, who make it, no nation drinks as much champagne as the UK — we down around 27 million bottles a year.

Which explains why supermarkets have a raft of deals, with plenty of bottles for £18 or less.

Rather than being part of own-brand ranges, these bargains are usually made exclusively for the shops by large champagne houses and have the associated labels of upmarket brands, disguising the fact you’ve scrimped on a cheaper version.

With the exception of the French, who make it, no nation drinks as much champagne as the UK — we down around 27 million bottles a year. Which explains why supermarkets have a raft of deals, with plenty of bottles for £18 or less, writes HARRY WALLOP

Meanwhile, most of the famous brands cost around £40 a bottle. So whether you want to splash the cash on fancy fizz or opt for bargain bubbles, just how much difference is there?

‘If you sip Bollinger or Pol Roger alongside a supermarket bottle, you’ll see they are a different class of champagne,’ says Helen McGinn, author of The Knackered Mother’s Wine Guide.

‘With champagne, it’s all about the balance of freshness and delicate flavours. Whether you are prepared to pay all that extra money is up to you.’

Some experts, however, point out that the big names charge a mark-up for their reputation. 

‘With the likes of Pol Roger you are obviously paying a lot for the name,’ says Adam Lechmere, wine writer and editor-at-large at Club Oenologique. 

‘The economics of luxury goods is they have to be priced at a certain level. It’s like a Gucci handbag.’

You’d expect a Gucci bag to be better stitched than a High Street one. Yet when you consider that some budget bottles are made by big-name champagne houses, it can feel harder to see the difference.

For instance, the Comte de Senneval at Lidl, Charles de Villers at Morrisons, and Etienne Dumont at Sainsbury’s are all made by Maison Burtin, part of the company that makes top-notch Lanson.

The prestige champagne houses tend to mature their wine for far longer than the budget versions. 

But the time it takes to produce is not the only reason why champagne can be expensive.

As well as duty and VAT, ‘you need to add in the cost of glass, transportation and retailer’s mark-up’, says McGinn. So at the very cheap end, the liquid inside is not worth very much.

Yet the proof, as they say, is in the drinking. So how do the budget bottles fare against their dearer rivals? 

Harry wallop put some non-vintage and ‘Brut’ (or dry) fizzes to the test.

BUDGET BUBBLES

Comte de Senneval Brut

£12.99, Lidl

Good, frothy bubbles, which linger. It smells good and tastes biscuity, with a yeasty dryness.

 Sadly, the lovely first taste doesn’t last. But this is a great-value champagne. 3/5

Comte de Senneval Brut £12.99, Lidl. This has good, frothy bubbles, which linger. Verdict: 3/5

Nicolas Courtin Brut

£16.99 (in a box of six), Majestic

This has a lovely, rich colour — almost like a pale sunrise — with great fizz and a proper buttery, toasty taste.

It is quite light in the mouth, but the flavour does linger. This is a champagne I could drink a lot of — it’s not too heavy and slips down nicely. 3.5/5

Nicolas Courtin Brut £16.99 (in a box of six), Majestic. This has a lovely, rich colour — almost like a pale sunrise — with great fizz and a proper buttery, toasty taste. Verdict: 3/5

Veuve Monsigny Brut

£12.99, Aldi

In previous years, this has won rave reviews from many experts. It is made by respected champagne house Philizot et Fils.

Smelling of orchard fruits, the first sip is very appley, almost more prosecco than champagne. But I’m not convinced it has any wow factor. 

It’s light in the mouth and lacks any structure that great champagne has — the flavour fades very quickly. Still, it’s perfectly quaffable. 2/5

Veuve Monsigny Brut £12.99, Aldi. Smelling of orchard fruits, the first sip is very appley, almost more prosecco than champagne. But I’m not convinced it has any wow factor. Verdict: 2/5

Etienne Dumont Brut

£16, Sainsbury’s

This has very little ‘nose’, but when you pour it there are plenty of bubbles.

In the mouth it has a good texture, with a soft, creamy fizz and a decent lasting fruity taste. It verges on being ever so slightly sweet, but is still a refreshing glass of bubbly. 4/5

Etienne Dumont Brut £16, Sainsbury’s. This has very little ‘nose’, but when you pour it there are plenty of bubbles. Verdict: 4/5

Henri Cachet Brut

£9.97, Asda

There’s a measly amount of bubbles in the glass and it is pale in colour. There’s not much to this and, for me, it’s too acidic. 

It fades pretty quickly after you sip it, turning from the moussey sparkles of New Year’s Eve to the deflated disappointment of clearing up the mess on New Year’s Day. 1.5/5

Henri Cachet Brut £9.97, Asda There’s a measly amount of bubbles in the glass and it is pale in colour. There’s not much to this and, for me, it’s too acidic. Verdict: 1.5/5

Charles de Villers

£9.99, reduced from £20 in store only until January 1, Morrisons

When you pour this, you get great, generous-sized bubbles, which hang around in the glass for plenty of time. 

It’s very easy-drinking, with soft, almost vanilla notes and no astringency. 

Made by the same company that makes Lidl’s Comte de Senneval — Maison Burtin — this is a very respectable champagne. And at this price, it’s knock-out value. 4/5

Charles de Villers £9.99, reduced from £20 in store only until January 1, Morrisons When you pour this, you get great, generous-sized bubbles, which hang around in the glass for plenty of time. Verdict: 4/5

Adrien Chopin Brut

£18, Morrisons

There’s an odd smell to this — more industrial cleaner than a classic champagne. Luckily, that is not reproduced on the palate. It’s pretty fruity, with lots of red apples and apricots. 

But I’m not a fan. For a champagne that has spent three years maturing, I find it rather thin and weedy. 2/5

Adrien Chopin Brut £18, Morrisons. There’s an odd smell to this — more industrial cleaner than a classic champagne. Luckily, that is not reproduced on the palate. It’s pretty fruity, with lots of red apples and apricots. Verdict: 2/5

PREMIUM FIZZ 

Pol Roger Reserve

£42.99 (in a box of six), Majestic

This has incredible bubbles, which dance in the glass and there’s a lovely, floral nose. 

It slips down very easily and is surprisingly light — is this why Winston Churchill could demolish a pint at lunch with no disruption to his work? 3.5/5

Pol Roger Reserve £42.99 (in a box of six), Majestic. This has incredible bubbles, which dance in the glass and there’s a lovely, floral nose. Verdict: 3.5/5

Bollinger Special Cuvee

£47, reduced to £35, Waitrose

Bollinger was James Bond’s fizz of choice, and, boy, has the company milked this, slapping on a 007 label and putting the fictional spy’s silhouette on the box. 

But it’s a great champagne, with a beautiful colour and a very nice nose. 5/5

Bollinger Special Cuvee £47, reduced to £35, Waitrose. Bollinger was James Bond’s fizz of choice, and, boy, has the company milked this, slapping on a 007 label and putting the fictional spy’s silhouette on the box. Verdict: 5/5

Taittinger Brut Reserve

£39, Oddbins

ThIS has fizz, but its heavy use of the white grape chardonnay with relatively little pinot noir means it’s quite a clean, light champagne. 

For me, it lacks body and just feels a bit thin.  3/5

Taittinger Brut Reserve £39, Oddbins This has fizz, but its heavy use of the white grape chardonnay with relatively little pinot noir means it’s quite a clean, light champagne. Verdict: 3/5

Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial

£29, normally £37, Sainsbury’s

This doesn’t have a great smell — almost sulphurous. But it’s jolly and festive in the mouth, with a great level of fizz. 4/5

Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial £29, normally £37, Sainsbury’s This doesn’t have a great smell — almost sulphurous. But it’s jolly and festive in the mouth, with a great level of fizz. Verdict: 4/5

Veuve Clicquot

£35, normally £40, Morrisons

There’s a lot of acidic flavour that hits your mouth; it’s an eager puppy, rather than an elegant hound. 

One small glass is lovely, but any more and you might need a sit down. 2.5/5

Veuve Clicquot £35, normally £40, Morrisons. There’s a lot of acidic flavour that hits your mouth; it’s an eager puppy, rather than an elegant hound. Verdict: 2.5/5

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