By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 5 December 2015
With the party season upon us, we look at ‘own label’ Champagne to see who offers the best taste and value for the money.
Own label (buyer’s own brand or BOB as it also known) means an exclusive label created by a Champagne house or co-operative in the region to the exact individual specification and price of the UK retailer – and it can also be found under a ficticious name to entice the buyer.
Own brand supermarket Champagne is made and sold in volume (making up over 50% of UK retail sales), and it should offer good value for money – if Champagne ever can. Our overall verdict was that some of these below could give big brand name Champagnes a run for their money – in particular The Co-operative and Tesco – whilst others were disappointingly dull or austere.
We asked supermarkets to put up their exclusive label fizz for this tasting, but it is not just supermarkets who do own label bubbly. So in case you are one of those people who do not want to buy from a supermarket or discounter, we have included own label fizz from online and high street retailers too.
OWN LABEL £20 & UNDER
TESCO PREMIER CRU CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV (£18 Tesco)
Popular with those who like creamy rounded fizz with plenty of fruit; this Chardonnay-dominant bubbly scored highly for its balance, juicy acidity and overall drinkability. A crowd pleaser. STAR BUY
SAINSBURY’S WINEMAKERS SELECTION BLANC DE NOIRS CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV (£20 Sainsbury’s)
Often Blanc de Noirs styles can be much more palatable than Blanc de Blancs at this cheap price as the dominance of red grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier give a fuller fruitier more powerful mouthful. Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs used to be much better a few years ago. This lacked a depth of fruit; a bit one-dimensional.
MARKS & SPENCER OUDINOT BRUT NV (£15 reduced from £25 in December at Marks & Spencer)
Starts well with a light brioche aroma and citric fruits – an average scorer in the tasting. Some tasters found it had a sharp acidity in the middle of the palate, very dry with a hint of bitterness to the finish.
THE CO-OPERATIVE LES PIONEERS BRUT NV (£16.99 Co-op)
This definitely passed muster with its proper biscuity aromas and creamy toasty palate. A touch of hard green apple fruit mid-palate, but it scored well and was considered good for this price. Named after Co-op’s Lancashire founders, Rochdale Pioneers, this is made by Regis Camus (of P & C Hiedsieck) with an emphasis on the red grapes (50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier) with just 20% Chardonnay. STAR VALUE BUY
ASDA EXTRA SPECIAL LOUIS BERNARD PREMIER CRU CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV (£16 bt reduced from £19.75 until 28 Dec at Asda)
Floral aromas to start, just a hint of toastiness, dry and crisp on the palate, but finishes too abruptly short. Asda’s deliciously toasty Extra Special Vintage Champagne is a bit pricier, but a much better buy.
WM MORRISON CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV (£19 Morrisons)
An average scorer. Started well with enticing biscuity brioche notes, but fruit was a bit shallow mid-palate, a lack of concentration and elegance – with a moderate finish.
LIDL COMTE DE SENNEVAL CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV (£9.97 Lidl)
For those with a sweeter tooth. Disappointing three grape blend, despite its very keen price, it used to be better than this but this current cuvee is not as good. Tastes too confected, slightly soapy, lacking zip and vitality.
ALDI VEUVE MONSIGNY CHAMPAGNE BY PHILIZOT BRUT NV (£10.99 Aldi Scotland; £12.99 Aldi England)
Crisp and dry. Well that’s about it really. It does have faint floral aromas and a sharp green apple flavour, but it is pretty thin and austere with a short finish.
MAJESTIC WINE J DE TELMONT GRANDE RESERVE BRUT NV (£19.99 Majestic Wine)
Majestic do not do own label Champagne as such (even in their new Definition range), so their entrant is their exclusive house label. Made by the family house of Telmont, who have been working with Majestic for 35 years. Pretty classic, but a bit too much sweetness for some tasters.
OWN LABEL CHAMPAGNE OVER £20
THE WINE SOCIETY’S PRIVATE CUVEE CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV (£28 The Wine Society)
Our highest scorer. Our tasters loved its nuttiness, yeastiness and full rich palate. Chardonnay-dominant (45%), but the secret here is the barrel ferment (rather than tank) to build complexity and add a subtle smokiness. The Wine Society have been buying their own label fizz from Alfred Gratien since 1906. Impressive. STAR BUY
BERRY BROS & RUDD CHAMPAGNE GRAND CRU MAILLY BRUT NV (£26.50 Berry Bros & Rudd www.bbr.com)
Smooth, yeasty, gingerbread notes, a popular well-made fizz with a lovely smoothness of texture. This zippy high quality Pinot Noir-dominant (75% Pinot Noir/25% Chardonnay) blend comes only from Mailly, a Grand Cru in the Montagne de Reims área of Champagne.
HARVEY NICHOLS CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV (£28.50 Harvey Nichols)
Another popular bottle, just pipped at the post by The Wine Society’s Brut. This is very stylish, nutty toasty and rich with creamy succulent fruit. A well-made elegant fizz made by Lombard and Medot.
WAITROSE BLANC DE BLANCS CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV (£24.99 Waitrose)
Like many Chardonnay-based cuvees at this price level, this is very dry so appealed to those who liked steely citric vibrant styles. It is well made, exactly what you would expect, but just a bit lacking in elegance for the price.
TESCO GRAND CRU VINTAGE CHAMPAGNE 2007 (£24 Tesco)
Tesco seemed to have pulled another one out of the bag here in their vintage section. Biscuity, good depth of fruit and well made. A good buy – particularly if you can find it on offer this Christmas.
THE CO-OPERATIVE LES PIONEERS VINTAGE 2006 (£24.99 Co-op)
Another very good effort from the Co-op here from the highly regarded 2006 vintage, this is very citric, rich in fruit, toasty, full with fine bubbles. A well made blend of equal amounts of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Join Rose’s Champagne & Sparkling Wine tastings in Edinburgh and Glasgow www.rosemurraybrown.com