Sometimes, darlings, only champers will do – especially during the festive season – though it doesn’t always come cheap. We scoured the aisles to find the best budget fizz around and then formed a panel of taste-testers and party-goers to see what they thought would pass muster with the most discerning party hosts.
RECOMMENDED: Find more festive fun in Time Out's guide to Christmas in London
Budget champagne: the best from the supermarkets
Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut, £9.99, Aldi
Compared to the other champers we tried, we weren’t blown away by this one. It has a slightly mildewy aroma, and it’s hard to pinpoint a distinct flavour – plus the bubbles don’t last long post-pour. However, it’d be perfectly drinkable with light dishes – its subtle taste means it won’t overpower those vol au vents.
The bottle ‘It looks like a person that got dressed at a dodgy thrift shop’, said one of our tasters. And that’s fair – this bottle could easily be an ABBA tribute act.
Passable as posh? No – the lack of depth of flavour, and gaudy bottle, means we’d rather bring a bottle of prosecco.
Comte de Senneval Champagne, £9.99, Lidl
Lidl’s offering ‘smells like proper champagne’, according to one reviewer. It does have a deep, oaky, satisfying scent. The taste? Citrusy and tart, if slightly bitter. Fairly bubbly, but could have been more so.
The bottle We love the arty label, with its graphic gold lattice pattern – it would definitely stand out on any booze table.
Passable as posh? Yes. Its unusual label makes it look like you got it from an organic artisan pop-up winery (or whatever) rather than Lidl, and it does have authentic champagne aromas.
Louvel Fontaine Champagne Brut, £11.98, Asda
This tastes a lot better than it smells (the tiniest bit vinegary), with distinctive citrus and floral notes. Though the bubbles fell a little flat (according to one disappointed reviewer, ‘it lacks mousse!’), it’s tart, clean and light – very drinkable.
The bottle This shit looks expensive, according to our panel. Though one was unimpressed by the prize-winning-announcing sticker as a bit ‘show offy’. You can’t please them all.
Passable as posh? Yes – see above.
Defontaine Champagne, £12, Sainsbury’s
On encountering its aroma, one reviewer said ‘this smells like the party’s about to pop!’ – before adding that it also ‘smells like Lil Wayne’s house’ (the jury’s out on whether or not the latter is a good thing). Either way, it has the whiff of the real deal. It has ample bubbles, with a fuller, fruitier taste than some of the others – we got hints of lychee and nectarine. Yummy.
The bottle The label lacks sophistication and is oddly large – one reviewer even said it looks like it’s been ‘printed out at home’. Still, it tastes so good you could just cover it with a napkin like they do in swanky restaurants.
Passable as posh? We wouldn’t bring it to a fancy party (if we were ever invited to those), but would gladly serve it up at home.
Champagne Andre Carpentier, £13, Tesco
Oh, Andre, you do spoil us – this champers is ‘most pleasing on the nose’, with elements of honey, berries and vanilla. Hints of white fruit make it at once light and creamy, with brilliant depth of flavour and fizz. ‘I’m not even noticing I’m drinking it!’ said one (slightly sozzled) reviewer – let’s just say it goes down swimmingly.
The bottle We were divided on the presentation of this one – the more blingy among us loved the gilded label (‘it looks like a prop from “Empire”’), while others found it a bit OTT. Either way, it’s sure to add a bit of glamma to any festive spread.
Passable as posh? Absolutely, 100 percent – not only is it dressed in gold, it’s a fine wine indeed.
Or treat yourself...
The first thing you need to know about choosing a champagne bar is that the words ‘champagne bar’ may be the worst thing to look for. Some places with that name are just trying to put overpriced lipstick on a particularly plain pig. Do you really want to drink the world’s most expensive sparkling wine while watching people shop for shoes in a department store? We’d be more inclined to go for places that are really good bars and just do champagne well, even if it’s not their sole or principal offering. And hey! Some of them even include the C-word in their names. These things happen.