Champagne Taste Test 2018: We vote for the best champers from 10 supermarkets

Champagne taste test 2018 One Foot in the Grapes

Are you heading for the Big Shop and you’re baffled by which champagne to buy for your festive celebrations? Fear not. Here’s Part Two of my festive fizz consumer taste tests.  In this post I reveal the results of the Champagne Taste Test 2018.

I gathered a group of chums and together we blindtasted one champagne from 10 UK supermarkets. I’d asked the retailers to provide the wines they’d like to see in this consumer taste test*. It wasn’t some random selection by yours truly.

I wrapped the bottles so everything was incognito and we gave the wines a pseudonym. We then  marked on aromas, bubbles, taste and finish. A wine could receive a maximum of 90 marks. We didn’t know which wine had won until we did the Big Reveal when all the scores were in.

Here’s the results of the Champagne Taste Test 2018: – 

The best supermarket champagne:

ASDA Extra Special 2007 Vintage Champagne taste test 2018Asda Extra Special Vintage Champagne 2007 (£24, until December 31) This is simply delicious. It is a different style of champers to the other ones selected, but its here because in terms of value it’s a fab fizz.
I wrote five things “apple pie, brioche, caramelised pineapple”. I drew a very, very large smiley face which doesn’t translate well in these notes.
Drink it slowly (was one tasting elf’s advice) and savour the vanilla, the apples, and the amazing finish.
Tasting elves say:  Oh wow, apple pie. Love this
Overall score: 69/90

Champagne Taste Test 2018:  2nd – 4th place


2nd Place:

Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (£11.49, Aldi) This was the cheapest champagne we blind-tasted, but it packed a punch of loveliness . I’d be happy to pay more for this delicious champagne. Mmmmm, I thought it was rich, with a nose of butterscotch and caramel and a lively fizz. My elves’ comments included “apple crumble, fresh and sweet” with a “lingering aftertaste”  and “brioche with apple playfulness”.
Tasting elves say: It’s a fruit explosion
Overall score:  64/90

3rd Place:

Landric Champagne Brut (£25, Sainsbury) I hadn’t tried this champagne before and it was pretty moreish. It scored above average with all our elves. We enjoyed this wine’s light but creamy notes which were wrapped in a subtle buttery biscuit coat with a good crunch of apple to top everything off. It’s a blend of the three champagne grapes, pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay.
Tasting elves say: Tastes like a day out in the summer
Overall score:  59/90

4th Place:

Comte de Senneval Premier Cru Champagne (£15.99, Lidl) Toffee caramel was my first thought, closely followed by rich fruit and stewed apples. Another taster picked up melon, citrus and biscuits. Another elf described brioche with more of that toffee. It’s a complex champagne, probably best to serve on a special festive event such as Christmas Day. Why not welcome in New Year with a glass.
Tasting elves say: Like a sherbert dib dab
Overall score:  53/90

Champagne Taste Test 2018:  5th – 7th place

5th Place:

Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne (£17, down from £19 until January 1) Yowzah, I thought, when I sensed the aromas of vanilla, caramel and crunchy apple – and yowzah again when I had a little sip. It has richness and an elegance. It has depth and a refined bubble. One tasting elf, a keen chef among us (yes, elves cook apparently) said it reminded her of the aromas when cooking fudge. Saying all that, when it came to the marks, two unconvinced elves gave it just two marks  – and one elf gave it a single point. It’s a fizz which divided.
Tasting elves say: Brimming with brioche
Overall score:  42/90

6th Place:

Champagne Delacourt Brut (£30, Marks & Spencer) Peachy, I wrote. A touch of toast, I wrote. A nice pop of bubbles, I wrote. I savoured the sips. My fellow tasters, who had happily taken up this challenge to guide you through your festive maze of fizz, weren’t as convinced. It needs a boost, said one, though they enjoyed the burst of bubbles. Two elves discerned red fruits leading the nose from the front, and I did too, with my second nose dip.
Tasting elves say: Pleasant and biscuity
Overall score:  41/90

7th Place:

Waitrose Brut Champagne NV (£19.99) Light, subtle, fruity and refreshing. That’s what I thought anyway. After the big reveal (when all our scores were in) I was surprised to see my home-based consumer panel wasn’t as keen on this champagne.  I discovered later the wine is mainly a pinot noir blend, with only 10 percent chardonnay. A pale golden colour, this wine has a pleasant finish. It is easy to drink, said an elf, and is probably a fizz for an informal festive gathering.
Tasting elves say: Shortbread and fruit
Overall score:  39/90

ChampagneTaste Test 2018:  8th – 10th place

8th Place:

Marquis Belrive Champagne Brut (£17.50, Spar) Well, this was an interesting one! Dip your nose, I told the elves, and say what you smell. It’s a bit like Catchphrase but with a glass and a sniff. Let’s call it Fizz Phrase. This wine brought diverse observations of elderflower, Granny Smith apples, socks (sorry about that Spar) and from me, a hint of baked fruit and a peep of caramel. The bubbles were giddy and proud of themselves.
Tasting elves say: A tiny hint of red fruit
Overall score:  38/90

9th Place:

Morrisons The Best Champagne Brut (£19) This champagne is a one-time winner of my festive fizz consumer taste test,  in contrast to 2018. My elfish consumers sensed a bitter aftertaste which knocked the fizz down a few marks.  There was praise for the aroma – “very perfumed” – and the bubbles were described as  “light and flirty”. Me? I was content with its notes of brioche, citrus and gentle, gentle bubbles.
Tasting elves say: Marshmallow clouds
Overall score:  30/90

10th Place:

Les Pionniers NV Champagne (£18.99, but £17.99 from December 12 until January 29 inclusive) Well, what to say. This champagne has won awards on many an occasion, but it didn’t float the boat of our blind tasters. I have to stick with the scores on the doors because that’s what this taste test is all about. My thoughts were red and green apples, with a pithy dryness, and a good fizz. But one elf said she just didn’t like the finish in the mouth and likewise another said the aromas were just too subtle. You can’t win ‘em all.
Tasting elves say: Touch of aniseed
Overall score:  26/90

Read more about  Christmas wines 2018

Prosecco Taste Test 2018: We rate 10 supermarket proseccos from 1st to last

Christmas 2018 wines Part 1: Fresh and fruity whites
Christmas 2018 wines Part 2: Six chardonnay wines 
Christmas 2018 wines Part 3: Six light, fruity, savoury, spicy reds
Christmas 2018 wines Part 4: Festive red wine to warm and hug you 

*This consumer test was published in newspapers including:
Hull Daily Mail – Leicester Mercury – Cambridge News – Liverpool Echo South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner
– The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Gazette 
Birmingham Mail – Coventry Telegraph  – Paisley Daily Express 

The man behind Aldi wines, Mike James, picks his special wines for you

MANY of my friends say that Aldi wines have changed their lives. Friday nights begin with a “rush to the shops” to stock up for the weekend.

Mike James, Aldi’s wine buyer, since 2010, has overseen the team which has made Aldi a must-go destination for reliable, affordable wines.

I spoke to Mike, and asked what gave him the “stop and think” moment that began to drive his wine passion?

Mike James, Aldi's wine buyer
Mike James, Aldi’s wine buyer

He says: “It was at the caves of Domaine Filliatreau in the Loire.

“As soon as I smelled and tasted their wonderful cabernet franc wines, I had an instant flashback to my first visit, which was 20 years earlier.

“It really made me contemplate the provenance, uniqueness, typicity, drama and passion that are encapsulated by well-made wines.”

Mike clearly loves the role he has in bringing new wines to people like you and me.

He says: “Wine is there to be enjoyed, and most definitely not to be frightened about. Everyone has a palate. Everyone knows what styles they like. There are no right or wrong answers.”

He says Aldi strives to shift elitist misconceptions about wines.

There’s no better example of that, than Aldi’s limited Lot range.

Four wines were released; a Pézenas made with the excellent French winemaker Jean-Claude Mas, a Tasmanian chardonnay; a Leyda sauvignon blanc (this Chilean wine was stunning!!) and a malbec cabernet blend.

All were £9.99 and released in limited batches of 25,000 – 30,000 bottles from spring to the end of May.

I snapped up quite a few myself, with several after-work detours to make a hole in the “limited batch”. Most have sold out but there is still a good stock of the malbec cabernet, made in conjunction with Jean Pepé Galante.

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Was this a brave move for Aldi? Mike says: “The continued success of The Exquisite Collection shows that Aldi shoppers aren’t afraid to pay slightly more for great quality products. Our customers have begun to trust our wine range and have started to spend more; the Lot Series was designed to reflect that.”

I asked Mike to recommend some wines for you. Here we go.

A Wednesday night “don’t break the bank”

The Exquisite Collection Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, £5.99

Mike says: Goes well with shellfish, fish and chips.

I say: The wine is from the Loire, made from the melon de bourgogne grape. After fermentation, the wine spends time “sur lie”. This is the “lees”, the dead yeast, which adds a slight waxy, bitey texture to the flavours of lemon, apples and pear.

A Friday night “relax”

The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling, £6.99

Mike says: Goes well with Chinese dishes and Thai food.

I say: This is a delicious wine. The Clare Valley in Australia produces some fantastic riesling. This one is juicy, crisp and tropical and a steal at the price. It has just won the International Wine Challenge’s Great Value White under £7 award, and a gold medal too.

A Sunday Lunch special dinner with family

The Exquisite Collection Pinot Noir, £6.99

Mike says: Great with roast turkey, game, chargrilled tuna, salmon.

I say: New Zealand pinot noir is a dream; this one isn’t over complicated. It has bright red fruits, wild herbs and smokey earth on the nose; with red fruits to taste.

A celebration

That has to be our Veuve  Monsigny Champagne  Brut (£9.97)

Mike says: We’ve been working with the small champagne house Philizot et Fils for nearly four years now and this collaboration really shows in the consistently excellent quality of their Champagne. Perfect for a toast!

I say: Cheers! (I agree)

Published in the saturday extra magazine June 27, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express