I cannot remember a time when there were as many drinkable cheap champagnes on the market – although with the wines listed below, you do get what you pay for. Use www.winesearcher.com to track down international stockists.
Palau Rosado NV Cava £4.99 Booths
A surprise hit of the summer, this Catalan traditional method pink fizz made from local grape Trepat. This is no shy, retiring flower but rather a showy rose but it is clean, punchy and neither too sweet nor too tart.
Jean Louis Denois Tradition 2001 Vin Mousseux £8.95 Lea & Sandeman
Great value copy of champagne (half and half Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) from the hills around Limoux in the far south west of France. Denois is a maverick but a conscientious winemaker. This highly individual wine is ready to drink, attractively dry and has quite positive fruit.
Graham Beck Rosé Brut NV £9.99 Bibendum, Bin Two, Esk View Wines, Everich, Execellars.co.uk, Magnum, Off the Vine
Really quite fine South African palest pink fizz – by no means over-sweetened. Good package too.
Green Point by Chandon 1999 £11.99 Waitrose
Well-balanced, tight, but fresh fizz – as usual one of the best-value champagne-like sparkling wines around, made from fruit sourced from many different cool vineyards all over Australia.
Dubois-Caron NV £9.99 Thresher
I expected this offering from Chanoine, whose Grande Réserve is a fresh, meaty, well-mannered wine at £18.99 chez Tesco, to be a typical tart, astringent, cheap champagne but it is better than this and pretty good value. Not bone dry however.
Louis Daumont NV £9.99 Sainsbury’s
Reduced from £14.99 until 04 jan this is perfectly serviceable with some sherbet character and quite a high dosage. Not as fresh as Thresher’s offering at the same price.
Champagne Carlin Premier Cru NV £10.99 Aldi
Reasonably biscuity and much better than Aldi’s brutally tart Veuve Monsigny at £8.99. From Cattier, a good address.
Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs NV £11.99
Reduced from £13.99, this wine from Grands Terroirs de France in Reims is full bodied and round and very good value, even at £24.99 for a magnum, but Sainsbury’s labels are so awful that they should almost pay us to have them in our homes.
Duval Leroy, Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru NV £13.39 Waitrose
Exceptionally good price (it is usually £19.99) until Jan 9 for this pretty, dense, fine, Chardonnay-dominated wine based on the 2000 vintage but with ingredients from both 1999 and 1998. Sold mainly in restaurants in France apparently.
Tesco Premier Cru NV £13.99
Not the driest champagne but very easy to like and admirable for the money from the very sound Union Champagne co-operative. Good value at this reduced price from £14.99.
Serge Mathieu Blanc de Noirs NV £14.95 Stone, Vine & Sun 01962 712351
Many of the best-value champagnes, and certainly most best-value Blancs de Noirs, come from the Aube region well to the south east of the heart of the Champagne region. This mild, easy, ripely Pinot blend comes from the village of Avirey.
Waitrose Blanc de Noirs NV £14.99
This full, broad, all Pinot Noir blend from Alexandre Bonnet’s vineyards in the Aube is based on the 2001 vintage but with a sizeable proportion of 2000 in the blend too. The disgorgement date is given on the foil. Very slightly rustic but always an honest expression of place.
Haton NV £14.99 Laithwaites
The best of this large mail order retailer’s less expensive champagnes – frank and fruity.
Benoit Lahaye Grand Cru Bouzy NV £16.50 Vine Trail 0117 921 1770
A fair price for a characterful, full bodied much more refined Pinot Noir-based wine than Waitrose’s Blanc de Noirs, and a whole year older.
E Barnaut Blanc de Noirs Gand Cru Bouzy NV £16.95 Lea & Sandeman
Essence of Pinot Noir, even a hint of pink, a very substantial mouthful – possibly a champagne to drink with food? Full bodied and deep flavoured considering the price.
Waitrose Blanc de Blancs NV £16.99
Waitrose do buy their champagne well. This Chardonnay wine from P & C Heidsieck clearly has some age on it with its crisp, very slightly toasty nose and is apparently based on the 1999 and 1998 vintages, therefore considerably more senior than most supermarket own label champagnes.
Tesco Vintage Champagne 1998 £16.99
Delightfully dry and savoury – almost more like sparkling good white burgundy than champagne, from Union Champagne like the Premier Cru bottling cited above. Good price.
Fleury Père et Fils NV £18.99 Booths, £20.99 Waitrose
One of very few biodynamic champagnes, this really does taste wild, dense and slightly floral. This is one of the oldest non-vintage blends in this list, based on 1998 and 1997 vintages. Very distinctive.
Laurent Perrier NV £17.99 Majestic, £19.96 Sainsbury’s, £25.99 Tesco
Fresh, punchy, clean, the product of a full four years on the lees. Look out for special offers on this wine.
Pierre Gimmonet, Cuvée Gastronome Blanc de Blancs NV £19.99 Oddbins
Delicious mature, bready, racy, positive, very Chardonnay champagne. A beautifully zesty, characterful aperitif.
Charles Heidsieck Mis en Cave 2000 £19.99 Waitrose
Rumour has it that Charles Heidsieck Mis en Cave range is to be discontinued which is a great shame as it has consistently offered vintage champagne quality at a less-than-vintage price. This powerful blend is reduced from £24.99 until Jan 9 chez Waitrose. A steal.
St Gall Vintage 2000 Grand Cru £19.99 M&S
From the Avize co-op on the Côte des Blancs comes this ripe, broad, sunny wine that would make a delightfully open, delicious aperitif. Larger stores may also have the excellent St Gall Cuvée Orpale 1995 at £30 which did well in my comparative tasting of 1995 and 1996 vintage champagnes reported last month.
Cuvée Pierre Moncuit-Delos Reserve Grand Cru NV £23.99 The Winery London W9 and at Liberty, W1
Brisk, compact, flirtatious wine from a much-admired grower in the Côte des Blancs village of Le Mesnil. Nicole Moncuit sighs that the British do not appreciate this more lively style of champagne but I think her fears may be outdated. Great as an aperitif or with shellfish.
Vilmart Grand Cellier Premier Cru NV £26.95 Gauntleys of Nottingham
Discreet, very dry and delicate, matured in and given great depth by 10 months in large oak casks, based on 1999, 2000 and 2001. Mainly Chardonnay.
Mumm de Cramant Grand Cru NV £39.99 top Thresher/Wine Rack stores
This all-Chardonnay blend from the village of Cramant is made for those who find most champagne too fizzy - a delightfully playful wine to drink.
Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle, La Cuvée buy 3 and reduced from £60 to £39.99 Majestic
Grand Siècle is a very fine de luxe champagne that does not happen to have been taken up by either James Bond or Puff Daddy so languishes in relative obscurity. Perhaps that is why there are some excellent reductions on it currently. The bottle price is reduced from £60 to £39.99 at Majestic if you buy three bottles and you can buy it by the single bottle at £42.99 at Oddbins Fine Wine where the usual price is £54.99.
Billecart Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru £57 Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Uncorked of London EC2
Multi-vintage blend that is not cheap but is delightfully delicate and refreshing.
Dom Pérignon 1990, 1995 or 1996 £70.50 and up from Peter Wylie of Cullompton and the likes of Selfridges, Harrods etc
The 1990 and 1995 are magnificent now, 1996 will be.
Krug 1990 £99 Nickolls & Perks of Stourbridge
Take a bottle of this to your hosts and you will be welcome guests forever. This is Krug’s latest release of their super-smart Grande Cuvée and very grand and powerful it is too, yielding successive waves of minerals, linseed, violets, lilies – whatever you are looking for, you will probably find it in here eventually. Best price worldwide according to winesearcher.com is Farr Vintners’ £950 a case. Krug Clos de Mesnil 1990 (Nickolls & Perks have single bottles under £300) is even more seductive.