Expensive Champagne – is it worth it?

One question I am repeatedly asked about expensive wine and Champagne is – is it worth it? Can you taste the difference? It’s a tricky one. Not only because, like with all things, there’s expensive and then there’s expensive. When we’re talking expensive, in general I would say no. In my humble opinion I don’t care how good a £900 bottle of wine might be, it is not worth the money you pay. Mind you, I might change my tune if I had a spare £900 sitting around with nothing better to spend it on, but I’m presuming most of you out there aren’t in that position. It is also important to remember that we’re talking about a product that can only ever be described as a personal opinion. If you don’t like caviar, you don’t like it – it doesn’t matter how expensive it is, or how much I tell you how delicious I think it is – so it is with expensive wine. I think it is always harder to give an honest opinion when it is something you are supposed to like and God knows I feel the pressure sometimes. When you’re in a room of 30 winos and tasting some ‘outstanding’ vintage of God knows what and everyone’s falling over each other to say how fantastic it is it takes a ballsy woman to stick her hand up and go ‘I don’t like it’.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a Champagne tasting a couple of weeks ago to try a range of LVMH Champagnes – the lineup was Veuve Clicquot NV, Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2004, Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2004, Dom Perignon 2003 and Krug Grande Cuvee. Lucky me!! We’re probably looking at a price range starting at about £30 up to around £130. But does it get better as the prices go up??

In general I would say yes – the Krug is delicious! It is what they call a ‘multi-vintage’ Champagne and is a blend of up to 50 different wines from 6-10 different years which gives it the complexity and elegance for which it is renowned. It is full but not too full; buttery, nutty and beautifully balanced. Is it worth £130?? Hmmmmm, if I had it I would definitely spend it, put it like that.

The big surprise for me was the Grande Dame which I hadn’t tried before. Not so full as the Krug but it was elegant, complex with a fantastic length. A really really well made Champagne.

My awkward moment came with the Dom Perignon. I always used to think of DP as the height of decadence and sophistication. I think this mainly came from many teenage years spent reading Jilly Cooper novels; Rupert Campbell-Black was shagging his way around the Rutshire countryside with someone else’s wife on his lap and a bottle of ‘Dom’ in his hand – ah the glamour!! So you can imagine my disappointment while all my colleagues are mid-swoon (over the Champagne not Rupert Campbell-Black) and I’m thinking “Shit. I really don’t think this is very good”. And when I say  not good I mean it wasn’t bad but was just a bit boring. I would much rather drink the Veuve Vintage, which is incidentally about 70 quid cheaper, and this is what I rather tentatively told my table. Happily it didn’t go down quite as badly as I’d anticipated and (thank God) I wasn’t the only one in the room who thought that.

There can be a huge pressure to say something’s good because it’s expensive and it’s very easy to lose touch with what something’s worth. It’s rather like that poor blogger who got pulled to pieces on Twitter for daring to say that he hadn’t particularly enjoyed the starter at Hibiscus. With food and wine it’s just an opinion. And anyone who ever has found wine an intimidating subject would do well to remember that no one can ever tell you what you do and don’t like.

But all that aside – give me Krug any day of the week. It is totally and utterly delish!