Choosing a good quality French Champagne, as opposed to a domestic sparkling wine, for that special Happy New Year’s Eve toast does not have to be all that expensive. Of course, you do have to accept the fact that finding the real thing (i.e., a good quality Champagne made in the Champagne district of France) for under $30 a bottle is close to impossible in today’s market.
Because Non-Vintage (NV) Veuve Cliquot Brut “yellow label” Champagne is so well known and because it is often discounted well below its $45 to $50 price, many people think that it is a “good buy” and don’t look any further. Certainly you can easily find stores that sell it for less than $40 and at Suburban we always have it on sale for $38.97 or less. But is it a good buy from a quality perspective even at that price? In the basic wine classes that I teach, we often address this question by comparing NV Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label with NV Brut Grower Champagnes, whose undiscounted retail price is lower than the Veuve Cliquot discounted price and the Grower Champagnes always win!
For those of you who are not familiar with the term “Grower Champagne,” these are sparkling wines made by individual(s) who actually own their own vineyards in the Champagne district of France, grow their own grapes there for the base cuveé, and then produce and age the resulting sparkling wine in facilities on their own Champagne estate. To learn more about Grower Champagne, you can find all the basics you will need on http://www.interactiveheet.com/bottledup/2007/12/Grower-champagne.html and once there, you will also find several excellent additional links on the subject.
So far, in our less expensive Grower vs. Veuve Cliquot NV Brut Champagne tastings held at Suburban Wine & Spirits, my classes each time have unanimously selected Christian Etienne Tradition and Charles Ellner Cuvee de Reserve as clear winners. They both are available at our store for $31.99 and $35.99 respectively. – Jay Roelof – www.suburbanwines.com