Let’s talk about Champagne for a minute. No, not all that sparkling wine that everyone for some reason refers to as Champagne, but the real deal from that little region in northern France.
Now I truly enjoy the real stuff, but I also drink the other stuff – prosecco, cava, and a few domestic sparkling wines for good measure. These other wines generally offer much better value for your dollar, though as with most wines, quality can vary greatly depending on the producer. There is, however, something about Champagne. Perhaps it’s the history, the strict controls on production and grapes used, or just the French mystique, but few things in life are more evocative of style, grace, and sophistication than a bottle of beautifully chilled Champagne. What generally stops me, as well as many others from popping a cork on a nice bottle of the good stuff (or sabreing one, but that’s for another post) is the price.
There are still good values to be found, even in this rarefied crowd. Gardet (pictured), Veuve Clicquot, and a few other houses offer very good non-vintage Champagnes at reasonable prices (sub-$40). This stands in stark contrast to the prices of vintage Dom Perignons, Cristals, and Bollingers. These premier names do definitely command top prices, but it is hard to argue against the history and care that goes into each bottle.
And then there are the pretenders. This article highlights the rise of a new “top tier” bottle (read the link before continuing, or the rest of this will make less sense). Stories of this sort serve to highlight that the celebrity obsessed culture of stupidity doesn’t stop at selling shoes or energy drinks. Apparently, it also works to make a cheapish bottle of bubbly instantly worth more than six times the price. Not because it’s better than its contemporaries, but because careful marketing combined with smoke and mirrors style celebrity endorsement made it cool. The ongoing deception around its re-branding and monetary backing does little to increase my belief that this is anything but a blatant cash grab, one that foolish consumers seem to be literally buying by the case.
I am aware that one lone voice railing against something like this has little to no effect. I also realize that many have been aware of this for some time, but as one who doesn’t follow this particular music scene or frequent “Gentlemen’s Clubs”, this look down the rabbit hole is news to me. The only thing we as consumers who are passionate about wine can do is to make sure that we do not support brands or labels that rely on hype and deception to drive sales of an inferior product, rather than make any attempt to bring us the best possible product they can at a reasonable price.
p.s. I have not used the name of the Champagne in question by choice. There is no need to increase its profile by having Google count one more page with its name on it.