Affordable is a relative concept at the best of times but when it comes to champagne, it takes on a whole new meaning.
All of a sudden, entry level means $40 or $50 instead of $10 or $15.
How do you know if a champagne tastes good, if you have never heard of it before?
It can be a minefield navigating past reliably consistent but mass produced bottles in search of quirky labels, in the hope that they have the X-factor in flavour. It can also be challenging to want to look past well known, flash labels that are mass produced into unknown territory – why would you when flash names and big brands carry powerful cache?
Price is the obvious reason. Good flavour is another.
The good news is that we have lined up the best of the bunch on our top champagne shelf at Regional Wines and many of these bubbles cost significantly less than better known brands. Many of these wines remain modestly priced because they are grower champagnes, which means the people who grow the grapes also make the wines, usually under a family name. Gatinois Champagne is a great example. This 7 hectare, family owned vineyard is run by a father-son owner-winemaking team, who sell about 50% of their grapes to Champagne Bollinger and other top producers each year. The remainder are used to produce their own outstanding bubbles, of which we have two in store. They are based in the village of Ay; a Pinot Noir dominant area in Champagne.
Another great champagne from the village of Ay is Champagne Lallier. This champagne is imported exclusively to Regional, which means our store is the only place in Wellington that you will find Lallier bubbles. Talk about good value for money.
Next week’s Wednesday tasting
Next Wednesday Wellingtonians can taste Champagne Lallier Ay Brut R013 instore at Regional Wines from 12 noon onwards.
Champagne Lallier is based in the village of Ay, one of the 17 Grand Cru villages in the Champagne region. This means its vineyards have been legally defined as top tier in the region.
This champagne house was founded in 1906 by Rene Lallier and was sold in 2004 to Francis Tribaut, the current owner, who doubles as the winemaker. It is unusual in the Champagne region to have an owner who also makes the wines, and he is fortunate to have two wineries at which he can produce, age, disgorge and bottle these bubbles.
The first is a winery in Maison D’Ay and the second is a modern winery, 10 kms outside of Ay on the Cotes des Blanc. Lallier Champagnes contain Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with no Pinot Meunier.
The majority of Lallier champagnes go through malolactic fermentation, which softens the region’s naturally high malic acid, although the amount of malo’ varies, depending on the vintage and the acidity in the grapes as a result.
The wines vary in dryness from zero up to 18 grams per litre.
But wait there’s more
These two champagnes are the tip of the iceberg of little known, great value bubbly brands that offer top shelf flavour without over the top price tags.
Value may be a relative concept when it comes to the cost of champagne but there is no doubting the deliciousness of both Gatinois and Lallier.