Best buys | What champagne to buy (and what not to buy) for Valentine's Day

Best buys

What champagne to buy (and what not to buy) for Valentine's Day

Do you need to splash out on champagne for Valentine’s Day - and if so how much do you need to pay for it? You may not realise quite what pressure you’re under to spend over the odds

Must it be pink?

For a start, there’s the colour. Rosé champagne, which is heavily promoted at this time of year, costs more than ordinary non-vintage despite only being marginally more expensive to make. Compare the price of standard and rosé sparkling wine and you’ll see there’s little if any difference though English winemakers have tended to follow their French counterparts in slapping on a premium. But Graham Beck’s appealingly fruity Brut Rosé from South Africa is the same price as his standard Brut (at £12.99 on a mix six deal from Majestic). If you find champagne too dry you should like that (though it's fruity rather than sweet).

Are the reductions genuine?

Well they have to have been sold at the original price by law but how often do you see them at that price? To take a typical example my local Oddbins carries a billboard outside announcing a ‘flash sale’ on Laurent Perrier - down £15, from £62 to £47. Indie Corks Out has a similar sale price of £48.85 down from £65. But £48 is still almost £8 a glass, admittedly cheaper than ordering it in a restaurant but not exactly a bargain. Believe it or not it’s less expensive (£44.10) in the very posh Hedonism in Mayfair.

Should I buy vintage fizz?

Vintage champagne - champagne that comes from a single year rather than being blended from wines from several harvests - is pricier still. Generally it’s of a higher quality but unless you’re going to savour every sip (and haven’t you other things to concentrate on?) it’s possibly not worth it on this occasion.

What about a half bottle?

Tempting because they look rather cute but they tend to be disproportionately expensive because they’re not a standard bottle size, the exception being Waitrose’s current offer on half bottles of its own label champagne which is currently £8.24. I’d load up for other occasions at that price

Do you pay for the name?

Then there’s the snob factor. You will pay inevitably pay more for a famous name than a lesser known champagne house or own label. H Blin, for example, who has sponsored our prize this month is a small family owned grower champagne which does not sell at inflated prices (it's currently £24 in Oddbins) Do by all means splash out on a grande marque if it will do the trick but If your loved one doesn't know one champagne from the next and would actually rather have a glass of prosecco don’t waste your money

So what specifically should I buy?

As I've suggested it depends who you're buying it for but I’d be inclined to pick from one of these:

Sainsbury’s brut rosé champagne £21

If you’re not a label fetishist this very pretty champagne which is made by the respected house of Duval-Leroy is great value. Often on special offer though sadly not at the moment.

Le Pionniers rosé from the Co-op £21.99

A new rosé champagne to join the very successful brut and vintage champagnes in the Les Pionniers range. Deep-coloured with a lovely summery red fruit flavour. You can see the Co-op logo very prominently though which might be a downside

Bollinger

Asda currently has Bolly for £30 instead of the normal (for them) £44 though I don’t know if that’s only online. So does Amazon if you’re on Prime. (Majestic had 25% off all its champagnes until Monday 12th which brought Bolly down to £33.72 if you bought six bottles but it's now £39.99 (updated 14.2.18)

Taittinger Brut NV

A lighter, fresher style of champagne for those who don't like it too toasty and biscuity. Tesco has it for £28 (in a very attractive box), Majestic for £29.99 if you buy any six bottles

Bredon Cuvée Jean Louis Brut £15.99 Waitrose

There’s a full 1/3 discount on this consistently reliable rich toasty fizz which is less than you’ll pay for their own label blanc de noirs. And notwithstanding my comments on small bottles above quarter bottles of Lanson rosé at £9.99 are rather dinky. Buy one for Mother's Day next month too.

Some of Majestic's prices have gone up significantly. When I posted three days ago my best buys were the 2009 Heidsieck Gold top or Drappier Premier Cru which were on promotion at £20.98 until Monday (now £24.99 and £22.99 respectively) while the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs I recommended you buy for the champagne aficionado in your life is up from £46.47 to £51.99.

These comparisons do show how wildly champagne prices can fluctuate - not only on V day, right throughout the year - so at least Google the champagne you’re thinking of buying to make sure you’re not paying over the odds.

Prices were correct at the time the article was published but may have changed. Amazon ,for instance, was charging £69.99 for a bottle of Laurent Perrier when I researched this piece at the weekend. Today it's £44.99. (Don't assume Amazon is cheapest for wine just because it's cheap for books. It rarely is!)

Win a case of H Blin grower champagne


Got other ideas? Do email your favourite pairings to us at greatmatches@matchingfoodandwine.com. To subscribe to our free monthly newsletter and be eligible to enter our fabulous prize draws click here or to get notice of posts as soon as they're published click here.

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