I wonder how many people who buy this will actually understand the name. Many casual wine drinkers will gleefully accept a glass of Champagne, without any knowledge or appreciation of what they’re drinking. I can’t blame them though. Champagne’s popularity is easy to understand. Even so, I’m compelled to offer a few key facts.
The first one will probably irritate many of my readers. But I’m going to state it anyway. Champagne is NOT an umbrella term for sparkling wine. Champagne is a region of France around the city of Reims, North-East of Paris. Only wine that comes from that region is the genuine article. Anything from anywhere else has to be called by a different name.
Then there’s the three basic recipes:
1. The ‘standard’ recipe: chardonnay + pinot noir + pinot meunier
2. Blanc de Blanc (‘white of white’): just chardonnay
3. Blanc de Noirs (‘white of blacks’): pinot noir + (possibly) pinot meunier
These recipes will usually come as a surprise to a lot of people – two of the three grapes used for Champagne are black. That means they have to be pressed very gently to avoid extracting any colour from the skin and thereby keep the juice clear.
The Blanc de Noirs recipe gives the producer the opportunity to create a Champagne with an elegant red fruit flavour, to accompany the traditional savoury notes. And that is what Sainsbury’s (or more precisely, whoever they’ve teamed up with in Champagne) has achieved here.
There is a decided strawberry note in there, as long as you don’t drink the wine too chilled. There’s a restrained savoury note in there too, perhaps brioche-like, rather than the pronounced nutty or yeasty elements found in some Champagne.
One slight disappointment is the lack of ‘mousse’ – the sensation created in the mouth by the presence of lots of fine bubbles, associated with quality champagne. The bubbles here are little finer than those found in a typical (but decent quality) Prosecco. Ah well.
Despite that drawback, Sainsbury’s are offering very good value for money here, for Champagne. Serve this at a party and your guests will probably think you’ve paid quite a lot more.