From the ubiquitous pub Prosecco to a posh coupe at a wedding reception, we are all over those bubbles. But how many times do you go to buy a bottle yourself and end up choosing something based on price alone, upping the budget for a special occasion because it’s a name you recognise but not really knowing much about it?
It’s easy to stick to the big Champagne or sparkling wine brands – especially around Christmas and Valentine’s Day when there are so many offers one assumes they must be the best value. However, stray away from the familiar and some of the best-value bottles are from houses you’ve never heard of. But how to know which to choose?
We consulted sommelier Sandia Chang, co-founder of London’s Champagne and hot dog restaurant Bubbledogs, for some expert fizz advice on what’s known as grower Champagne – artisanal, terroir-focused wines by producers using grapes from their own vineyards, rather than buying in from several across the region as the big names tend to.
“Look for ‘RM’ on the label, it stands for Recoltant Manipulant and indicates a grower producer whose wines are made entirely with grapes from their own vineyards. Negocient Manipulant, or ‘NM’, on the other hand, means the wine has come from a large house that sources the majority of its grapes rather than growing them,” says Chang.
“When choosing great-value Champagne or sparkling wines, bear in mind that most of the money large houses charge goes towards their marketing budget. Small growers in Champagne have equal and if not better wines for a lesser price – they care about what goes in your glass.”
So if you’re looking to branch out with your bubbles, scroll through our gallery below for eight lesser-known bottles to try – and toast the fact that they’re all under £30. Perfect.
Chartogne Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne NV
This is the only grower producer in their village. This wine is beautiful in its floral aromas of white peach blossoms and yellow apples.
Gaston Chiquet Sélection Cuvée NV
This Champagne is a crowd pleaser; easy, fruity and spicy. Perhaps a little bit too easy to drink.
Raventos i Blanc Gran Reserva de la Finca 2013
From a family that really cares about the quality of their wines and the artisanship that goes into their winemaking. This is a strong contender for Champagne.
Vilmart Grande Reserve Brut Premier Cru
I had once overheard my staff describing this Champagne as freshly toasted white bread drizzled with butter and honey. And it is just that.
Raventos i Blanc de Nit 2014
A beautiful earthy rosé by the Raventos family that is so elegant but yet rustic. It makes you feel like you are in the middle of their vineyard in sunny Barcelona.
Pascal Doquet L’Horizon Blanc de Blanc
For something refreshing, this is the Champagne you need. The Chardonnay is as fresh as citrus-scented, cotton bed sheets.
Christophe Mignon Eugene Prudhomme Brut NV
This Champagne shows a great expression of Pinot Meunier. The wine maker is known as the ‘lunar man’ of his village because of his strict practices of biodynamic farming.
Arnaud Margaine Demi Sec
This sweet Champagne is so balanced and refreshing. It is like biting into an ice-cold red apple on a hot summer day.