Champagnes: why is there such a big difference in price?

The foie gras terrine is in the fridge, the petit fours that, and the turkey rests in the oven. All that remains is to go buy a bottle of champagne to toast at these end-of-year celebrations. But, in the dedicated department, we find everything for all budgets. Some bottles show 3-digit prices while others barely cost the price of 2 burgers. What explains such a discrepancy?

There is no question of starting – or finishing – the Christmas meal without a glass of champagne. The concern is that few really know how to decipher labels and choose this wine in full knowledge of the facts. So we often rely on the price of the bottle. But in reality, we do not really know what we pay when we buy an average bottle at EUR 20.

A heck of a must

A heck of a must

© Provided by 750 grams A heck of a must

If your receipt scares you when you see the amount of the bottle, it is partly because of the price of the grapes and the yield regulations. The bunches sell for between 4 and 7 euros per kilo depending on the quality and geographical area. What do you mean? Simply put, the harvests are spread over 319 areas, 17 of which are classified as“grand cru areas” because they have a good reputation. A porcelain plate bought in Limoges will cost more than the dishes of a large Swedish brand. Well, for grapes, it’s more or less the same thing.

However, to produce a 75 cL bottle, 1.2 kilos of grapes are needed. This represents 4.8 euros of raw materials for the low range and 8.4 euros for the high end. That is, 35 to 40% of the final price. The more expensive your bottle is, the more likely it is to be made from a good grape.

The price fluctuates according to the quality of the grapes, but not only. The grape variety also has its role to play. If it is raw champagne without year, include a mixture of different grape varieties and harvests over 2 or 3 years, it will have few values(everything is relative, let it be understood). On the other hand, vintage champagne (which is made from the harvest of a single year)is more selective… and therefore more expensive. Ditto for blanc de Blancs (from a single grape variety, Chardonnay)and blanc de noirs(from the only grape variety, pinot noir). This selectivity has a cost: count 20 to 40% more than “classic” champagne. Concretely, compared to a bottle at 20 euros, it’s 4 to 8 euros more.

The taste for a job well done

The taste for a job well done

© Provided by 750 grams The taste for a job well done

Champagne is not just grapes harvested by hand, crushed, and then bottled. Tell yourself that between the time of harvest and the sale of the product, it takes at least 15 months. This is the time it takes for the champagne to age in the cellar. But as with raw ham or cheese, this minimum rest period can extend over a much longer term. Very good champagnes for example can be stored in the cellar for 36 months. As you will have understood, the longer the aging time, the higher the selling price will be.

Do you think it is enough to put the bottles in the cellar and voila? Far from it. The cellar master must ensure that the storage conditions(humidity level, temperature, brightness)are strictly identical every day. Some houses even offer themselves the luxury of having a stirrer. It is he who is responsible for turning the bottles when other brands assign the task to a machine. And for good reason: the transmission of this ancestral know-how is not free, and this is reflected in the selling price of the bottle. Depending on the techniques used and the shelf life of the wine, the production costs can therefore represent up to about 30% of the price of the bottle.

The taste and cost of luxury

The taste and cost of luxury

© Provided by 750 grams The taste and cost of luxury

You don’t drink a bottle of champagne like you drink a soda. Because behind this drink, there is the image of a luxury product. And prestige is obtained by advertising, but also by the price displayed. Subconsciously, many of us see a correlation between the price of a product and its standing. Proof of this is: we rarely buy the cheapest bottles on the shelf. Except that the image, it represents 10 to 15% of the final price of the bottle. The more marketing, advertising, and notoriety there is around a bottle, the more expensive it will be sold.

The most expensive are not always the best

The most expensive are not always the best

© Provided by 750 grams The most expensive are not always the best

According to a survey of 60 million consumers, the most expensive bottles are not always the best. In its article published in 2016, the magazine reveals that out of a ranking of 30 champagnes, the second, third, and fourth places are held by private labels(Casino, Intermarché, and Carrefour).

Besides, speaking of distributors, do you know that by buying champagne from a harvester, you save compared to the price of wine from a trader? Fewer intermediaries and fewer charges, that’s 10 to 13% fewer costs.

When buying your bottle, the price must be taken into account, but remember that this is not the only determining factor. The choice depends mainly on your tastes. If you like champagne without sugar, take a brut. If you enjoy it slightly sweet, turn to an extra-crude(up to 6mg of sugar per liter). The mildest palates will favor the semi-dry(32 mg of sugar per 1 liter). To your health!

Alcohol abuse is dangerous to health. Drink in moderation.

Sources: “Why is champagne expensive?” du Monde, the Maisons-champagne website.

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