With so many viable alternatives to Champagne around nowadays it’s no wonder that cheaper versions of the real thing are easier to come by than they used to be.
Competition changes things. Laws were established to protect the integrity of the “Champagne” brand way back at the start of the 20th century, but with the rise of the EU such things have been better enforced, and so the competition has had to emerge into its own brand space.
For the adventurous sparkling-wine drinker there are plenty of new world copycats, ever-popular crisp Italian Proseccos, Spanish Cavas, and many, many more besides.
And, of course, English sparkling wine is garnering a reputation on the world stage by winning plenty of awards. In fact, it’s safe to say it’s well-established now – but there’s not enough affordable vineyard room in England to support a budget brand just yet (at least as far as I know), so you could be forgiven for thinking it’s in danger of becoming more high-end than Champagne itself.
Presumably if I could be bothered reading all the laws that govern Champagne marketing worldwide I’d find something saying you can’t sell a bottle for a fiver. The prices must remain high to maintain the illusion of luxury.
And for the majority, for the moment – especially for those who are something short of becoming wine nerds – Champagne retains the mystique and veil of superiority that it’s taken decades, even centuries, to establish.
And the odd £30 bottle like this will do little to change that. Even if it does spend half it’s life on offer at about 50% off in Sainsbury’s.
Yep, that’s how they get around this. Sneaky buggers. You’ll see it around Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas and pretty much any other national holiday the supermarkets imagine might prompt a popped cork or two. They’ll whip out their bulk brands (in bulk) and lop 10-50% off the price. Unless you’re a Champagne connoisseur, which few sensible people can afford to be, it makes very little sense to buy a bottle of the stuff outside these narrow but reliably regular windows.
The quality is there. At least, speaking from the point of view of a regular wine drinker as opposed to a sparkling-wine expert, this non-vintage bottle of Etienne Dumont has everything a good dry sparkling white should have: bubbles, biscuity savouriness and tantalising citrus fruit flavours. It’s refreshing and intoxicating (in more than one sense); and while it’s not necessarily any better than any non-French £15 sparkling wines (and is undoubtedly worse than most non-French £30 sparkling wines), it sure-as-hell does say “Champagne” on the front.
So I advise you to wait till a nationally recognised “event” rears its ugly head and battle through the crowds of foul-smelling homo sapiens into your nearest Sainsbury’s and pick up a bottle of this on offer. Then save it for a self-diagnosed occasion.
Or, you know, just drink it.