It is something of a misconception that the value of champagne is connected to its age. Unlike conventional wine, where years spent in a bottle add to its material worth, champagne follows a slightly different set of rules. This is because the sparkling wines of the Champagne region aren’t designed to be left to mature for decades; this isn’t a drink that automatically improves through the passing of the years.
Nevertheless, as you may have noticed, there can be a colossal difference in price between one type of champagne and another.
The value of a bottle is, to some extent, subjective and it often comes down to an appreciation or familiarity with any particular label or Grower.
With Champagne, Perception counts for a lot You would never compare champagne with a cheap bottle of plonk or a really bad bubbly. The mere name “champagne” gives a bottle immediate clout and a certain reverence. Rightly so! Champagne is regarded as a classy drink, to be kept for treasured and auspicious occasions. This aura of exclusivity helps determine its value.
As Mark Twain once observed: “Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right”. We wouldn’t disagree, but luxury does come at a cost.
Champagne is an opulent drink that can command opulent prices. That is unlikely to change – even in times of economic downturn. The world’s most expensive bottle is believed to be the 2013 Goût de Diamants (Taste of Diamonds), costing just north of £1.5 million. The reason why it commands such a lofty valuation is its exclusivity. Only a few bottles have been made and sold throughout the world, so it’s the rarity factor that elevates the price.
What separates a classy Champagne from a lower-value product? If you are paying £50 or more for a bottle of champers, you want to be assured that you are imbibing a quality product. If it costs that much, it should be pretty good. Why is this? It isn’t always possible to try before you buy – especially in the current Covid climate. However, with or without a prior tasting – and your own personal seal of approval - the price that’s been determined will be down to a combination of the following:
The Reputation of Champagne Reputation counts for far more than age! Indeed, the value of a bottle of champagne is often founded upon the reviews that it receives as much as anything else. And in this day and age, reviews are everywhere – there’s no hiding place. Having a “good name” thus is essential. Which is why feedback from a respected critic or well-known wine writer can be hugely influential, instilling confidence in the producer that the product will make delightful tipple. Indeed, the Grower Champagnes that we sell and feature on our website rely hugely on critical acclaim and have often undergone exhaustive scrutiny. And passed with flying colours! Organic Grower Champagnes (henrygeorgewines.com)
What is the Marque? It certainly helps if you are acquainted with the brand. This will act as a big clue as to how or why a certain price is attributed to a particular bottle. Credentials are key! For instance, is it a Grande Marque or a Grower Champagne? Is it Vintage or non-Vintage? The status or label can create a price differential – but, be advised, you may end up spending more – or over the top - on a big brand name. The most famous names can get very expensive! You have to decide whether the name justifies the price tag.
The Champagne Production Process The skill and care that goes into making champagne is not to be sniffed at. The time-honoured méthode champenoise, with its various fermentations, is lengthy. It can take several years to produce truly vintage bottles. Care and attention in production immediately increases the value of champagne. Perfection can’t be rushed!
That’s why lesser sparkling wines that aren’t subjected to the same rigorous processes, don’t have, or hold, any great value.
Looks Matter. Champagne, appearance is important. A good quality champagne should have a distinctive pale gold complexion.
An Attractive Aroma. If you are able to try a sample, start by sniffing the champagne before you taste it. Quality champagnes give off an aroma, rather like freshly baked bread, the effect of the yeast breaking down during that wonderful fermentation process. Your sense of smell may well pick up some fruity hints within there, too!
How does it feel? When you put the glass to your mouth and you take that first sip, swirl it around your mouth and see how it feels. You should detect plenty of clues here as to the quality of the product. The creamier and more mellow the sensation, the better the quality. If there is a pervading sharpness and bitterness, it probably isn’t of any great shakes in the value stakes.
It’s all about the Taste Although flavour can vary quite considerably amongst champagnes, you should really be looking for a clean tasting drink where specific fruits or a bready earthiness is discernible. If you are into sweeter brands, these should be delectably sweet, not sickly sweet. There’s a difference!
Likes and Dislikes One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Taste is in the mouth of the taster, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So it is with champagne. What price would you place on a bottle? After all the opinion and debate, it really is down to perception, personal preference – and budget!
Ultimately, that is how a bottle’s true value is established.
To browse our wide-ranging and competitively priced selection of Grower Champagnes go to: