Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Debate a Bubble - Supermarket Champagne - Does It Make You Feel Special?

Debate a Bubble - Supermarket Champagne - Does It Make You Feel Special?

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

Supermarket Champagne - Does It Make You Feel Special?

Posted: 19 Oct 2010 07:24 AM PDT

My last post was all about cheap champagne and in particular the amazing prices that the supermarkets in the U.K. and, to a lesser extent elsewhere, offer around Christmas time.

Are these champagnes any good? Are they good value? Would you be better off buying two bottles of Cava instead of one bottle of cheap champagne?

All good questions and like all matters of value and taste, the answer is subjective - there's no right or wrong reply.

But that did get me wondering why we enjoy buying, or at least drinking, champagne.

For me champagne has to make me feel as though I'm enjoying a special treat. If it doesn't do that then, whatever the price, I would definitely be asking myself 'Is this worth it'?

Avenue de Champagne 3  October 2009 In my view champagne has to offer me EITHER the history, tradition, glamour and style of the big houses - I'd be a hypocrite if I said I wasn't impressed by all that, OR the humanity and authenticity that some of the smaller growers offer and which the large houses find much harder to achieve. 

So where do supermarket champagnes fit into that?

For me they offer me neither of the things I look for and I can't see that they offer much except the price.

I was driving near the Côte des Blancs this morning and  saw something that only served to reinforce this feeling .

Chateau Malakoff 
I drove past Château Malakoff. No, not a palacial manor house, but a huge and very modern production facility where three brands are produced: Beaumet, Jeanmaire and Oudinet.

No room for romance here. This is a factory and as if to prove it there's a tanker park by the side. Of course all big champagne houses transport juice by tanker, but do you, the consumer, need or want to see this?Tankers outside Chateau Malakoff

The quality of the champagne may be great. In fact Oudinet is sold by Marks & Spencer in the U.K. and they have a reputation for good wine and, to be fair, they don't sell Oudient at bargain basement prices- but if I'm looking for either of the two things that make me want to buy champagne, I'm not going to find them at Château Malakoff.

So what about you?

What makes you buy champagne?

Why not share your views by leaving a post here?

Looking forward to hearing from you


Monday, October 18, 2010

Debate a Bubble - What Price For Cheap Champagne?

Debate a Bubble - What Price For Cheap Champagne?

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

What Price For Cheap Champagne?

Posted: 18 Oct 2010 05:25 AM PDT

I was in an Intermarché  supermarket here in Champagne the other day and decided to buy one of the cheap champagnes to see what it was like.

Intermarché champagne I grabbed a bottle of Colin-Guillaume for 16€.

It wasn't bad at all for the price. I wouldn't go out and buy cases of the stuff (in fact I wouldn't normally buy supermarket champagne at all) but it went down pretty well.

This got me thinking about the price of champagne in general and in particular the deals that are sure to be around this Christmas, particularly in the U.K. 

People are already suggesting that you'll be able to buy champagne at £10 a bottle in the U.K. and I wondered how this was possible.

I started doing a little digging and came across a report in the local Champagne newspaper - L'Union-  on this very subject. The article was written this time last year but the figures are probably pretty close to the truth this year as well.

L'Union had calculated the cost price of a bottle of champagne as being 8 euros. Add on say 25 -50 centimes for transport and you get a total price of, say, 8.50 euros a bottle. About £7.45 GBP at today's exchange rate. If you live outside the U.K. please do the sums using your own currency's exchange rate.

In the U.K. you have to pay £2.16 duty on a bottle of champagne ( so that makes a total of £9.61 so far) and then you have to add Value Added Tax at 17.5% on top of that. So we're now up to a retail price of £11.29 if the retailer makes no profit at all.

So if a bottle sells for less than this it suggests that either

  • the producer in Champagne is selling at a loss, just to get some cash in, or
  • the supermarket is selling at a loss, probably to attract customers and sell them other goods at a normal profit margin.

Certainly this sort of thing happens a lot and if you're looking for a cheap champagne for a party or large function when no one is really going to be bothered too much what they are drinking, then cheap champagnes can be fine.

Don't forget mind though that these are one-off deals. Usually a given number of bottles only are sold at this sort of price, so if you want to buy more a few weeks later, you probably won't find the same price and possibly not even the same champagne.

A more weighty question though is what do you think of champagne at this sort of price?

Do you think that prices as low as this ruin the image of champagne and perhaps ruin the very reason you want to buy it in the first place?

Or are you happy to buy champagne as cheaply as possible?

 Perhaps yet again you'd pay a bit more for a champagne for a more special occasion?

I'd love to hear what you think so do post a reply on this blog or send me an e-mail to 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Debate a Bubble - More Champagne Videos

Debate a Bubble - More Champagne Videos

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

More Champagne Videos

Posted: 05 Oct 2010 01:38 PM PDT

The short video I posted the other day, showing what happens inside the press house during the harvest, seemed to go down really well with lots of readers so I thought I'd show you a couple more that I shot a few weeks ago.

Here's the first.

The quality is average - it goes in and out of focus a bit and I'll work on improving this, I promise - but I hope that you see enough to give you a real flavour of some of the behind the scenes work that is involved in making champagne. This is not the glamorous end of the work, but it is essential and fascinating.

This video is just under 2 minutes long and shows the disgorging process in a small producer. (It certainly isn't like this in the giant, industrialised producers). This is what you'll see:


The bottles (still with sediment in them) are placed, neck down, in a circular platform. Below the surface of the platfrom the neck of each bottle reaches down into a freezing liquid which causes an ice cube to form in the neck of the bottle. It takes about 10 minutes for the platform to revolve and for the ice cube to form and you'll see one chap inserting the bottles at the start of the process and the next guy removing the bottles.

Next the bottles pass to the man who actually removes the caps allowing the ice cube to be ejected.

Then the bottles move down the conveyor to where the liqueur de dosage is added to adjust the level of sweetness.

Next the bottles are corked and muzzled. After that it's on to another station where the bottles are shaken vigorously to ensure the dosage mixes in with the wine.

Almost at the end now and the bottles are washed to ensure that no trace of the freezing liquid is left on the surface of the glass.

After that all that is left is to stack the bottles. In due course, when they have rested a few weeks or months, they will be labelled and shipped off somewhere in the world. Perhaps one is on its way to you at this very moment.

Any questions or comments? Please e-mail me at and if you're eager to learn more about champagne check out my on-line champagne course at

Stay Bubbly


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Debate a Bubble - A Glimpse Inside A Champagne Press House

Debate a Bubble - A Glimpse Inside A Champagne Press House

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

A Glimpse Inside A Champagne Press House

Posted: 02 Oct 2010 01:00 AM PDT

Here are two brief videos I shot inside the pressoir of a local champagne maker during the harvest this year

They're only short but there's lots to see

In video 1 you'll see not just two guys doing the 'grunt work' of loading the grapes, but if you look carefully you'll see there's another, modern cylindrical press behind; there's the fork-lift driver delivering the next batch of grapes to go in the press, there's the case-washing maching and it's conveyor belt in the background; there's another man lifting a pallet of grape boxes with a lifting device. In short it's a hive of activity and noise


Video 2 is a close up of the loading and spreading out of the grapes to ensure an even charge before pressing starts



Hope you enjoy this brief glimpse into the 'working end' of champagne and if you have any comments or questions please leave a post below