How to choose a champagne?

Feb 4, 2021 • 4 mins

Champagne offers an infinite array of aromas and mosaic of flavours. Sometimes powerful, sometimes light, sometimes soft or invigorating, floral or spicy... It can be enjoyed on any occasion, at breakfast after an all-nighter, an evening under the stars, to declare your undying love beneath a balcony, to celebrate a birthday...

With so many possibilities, choosing the right champagne can be a bit of a challenge, but, dear Champagne Lovers, worry not - Grappers is here to help!

Our first piece of advice would be: taste, taste and taste again.

The best way to do this is to visit the region and the champagne cellars. Your hosts will be able to guide you in your choice. Wine fairs are also a good place to find great champagnes. Another good alternative is to ask the advice of your local wine store manager.

And in addition to these first pointers, you should make sure you always have a good all-rounder champagne on hand, one that you can pull out and pop open at a moment’s notice. Go for a brut champagne, preferably a non-vintage and based on a predominantly red grape blend (Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir) for roundness and fruitiness.

This champagne will also be suitable for receptions or parties. The idea is to find a champagne that will appeal to as many people as possible. It can also be enjoyed throughout a meal or served at a picnic.

Pep up your drinking

Add a bit of zest to life with a champagne that will whet your appetite at aperitif time and is perfect for drinking all night long. This champagne, preferably multi-vintage, should have a low dosage (low sugar content) and will be as invigorating as a zero dosage, also known as a brut nature. This champagne also likes seafood and is fond of very light cuisine (ceviche, carpaccio, etc.).

Savoury drinking

If you are tucking into some turkey or red meat, then you will need something fuller-bodied, like a slightly older vintage champagne.

Independent grower, wine cooperative or Champagne House?

The independent grower will allow you a personal relationship with his vines and the cooperative winery will give you a decent price and consistency. A Champagne House also strives for consistency as it very often has a style, a brand and a certain reputation to protect.

The smaller the entity, the less wine there will be for blending and it will therefore be more difficult to establish a style or to smooth out a vintage of a slightly lesser quality... but there will also be a greater focus on hand-crafting, single-vineyard or organic growing, etc.

So, what about organic, biodynamic, HEV growing and the like?

The great care taken in the vineyards is usually also applied in the cellars. So perhaps it would be worthwhile adopting an environmental approach? Even the big Champagne Houses are doing it.

*HEV: High Environmental Value

“Ordinary” champagne or a premier or grand cru?

In fact, it's simple, the better the quality of the terroir, the greater depth the wine will possess. And depth does not mean heaviness. With a great terroir you can craft a delicate, floral, subtle and invigorating wine, but it will always have that extra depth and even some chewiness.  

And what about price?

If the price is "reduced", then you can be assured that your drinking pleasure will be too. Some small growers, who have little land and low marketing costs, will be able to offer champagnes starting at 16-17 €, but BE WARNED, you will have to sort through the mass of wines on offer very carefully! As soon as the work is higher-quality, a tad more eco-friendly, the minimum price rises to 20-25 €. You should also check out the cooperative winery champagnes as they can provide great drinking pleasure for your money. As for the big Champagne Houses, they have a reputation to uphold and cannot afford to tarnish their image with bad champagnes.

Any other advice for choosing a champagne?

The relationship with the most divine of wines is like a love story, if it’s something you really want, then go for it!