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Morrisons is selling Champagne for £10 – but is it any good?

UK supermarket Morrisons is currently selling Champagne for just £10, but what does it taste like, and can you get hold of any? db investigates.

Put to the test: Charles de Villers Brut NV Champagne

Having received an email this week to alert me to the fact that Morrisons was selling its Charles de Villers Brut NV Champagne on a half-price deal in the run up to Mother’s Day this Sunday, my curiosity was piqued – after all, this £20 fizz was now retailing for £10, making it the cheapest Champagne in the UK, and possibly the world, if only for a limited period.

So, having contacted the supermarket, I had a bottle put to one side for me at my nearest Morrisons, and I headed out there yesterday to collect it, before opening it last night.

My expectations weren’t high, but I was impressed by the Champagne. At its full price of £20, it’s a good entry-point example, and, in my view, better than Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny (an exclusive label made for the discounter by Champagne Philizot & Fils), which sells for £12.99, and I tasted ‘blind’ last summer as part of the Champagne Masters, awarding it a bronze.

However, the Charles de Villers Brut is a bargain at £10. While I was braced for a Champagne that might show the coarse-textured bubbles of a young fizz, or green characters from unripe grapes, possibly some bruised fruit flavours from oxidative handling, the Morrisons ‘exclusive label’ fizz had none of these undesirable traits.

Rather, the Champagne is clean and soft, with flavours of apple compote, raspberry, honey and pastry, with a creamy mousse and a slight sweetness, even though it is a Brut style (I suspect it is at the upper end of the dosage spectrum for this level – nearer 12g/l when the average today is around 9.5g/l).

While it doesn’t have the precise citrus and chalk characters of fine Brut Champagne, nor the toast and hazelnut flavours of long-lees-aged fizz, the Charles de Villers is pleasant, rounded, and without fault. And, if I was to make a criticism, it’s that it does have a touch of bitterness on the finish, but it’s subtle, and if were to put a positive spin on this element of the sparkling, it provides refreshment.

After all, this is a rich style of Champagne, not only due to the perceptible sweetness, but also the fruitiness – it is in fact dominated by red grapes Pinot Noir and Meunier, although there is Chardonnay in the blend.

This Morrisons Champagne is made Maison Burtin, which is a house based in Epernay that specialises in producing exclusive labels for major retailers, and makes, for example, Lidl’s Comte de Senneval Champagne, which, like Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny, sells for £12.99.

Maison Burtin is in fact part of the much larger BCC Group, which also includes Lanson, and smaller producers like Philipponnat, Boizel and De Venoge.

But, before anyone rushes out to Morrisons to make the most of this offer – should you be tempted that is – I would suggest contacting your local store first. I requested that a bottle be kept for me at the customer services counter before I set out, and I noticed that there were no bottles on the shelves when I got to the supermarket in Mitcham at around 6.30pm yesterday (see the gap in the Champagne section captured below).

Furthermore, the offer is ‘in-store’ only, meaning that is still selling Charles de Villers Champagne at its full price of £20.

Where is the stock: the shelf barker clearly shows the Charles de Viller Champagne at £10, but there are no bottles available

In other words, this discount, which has been done just ahead of Mother’s Day, may be a stunt to pull in punters, and not backed up by large quantities of stock, which could see Morrisons lose money.

After all, at £10, if one consider that a kilo of grapes in Champagne sells for around €6, and each bottle needs around 1.2kg of fruit, while the duty on a bottle of sparkling wine in the UK is £2.86, and then there are all the costs of making, storing, packaging and transporting the fizz, then this Champagne would be selling at a loss at this discounted price.

Indeed, the average price of a bottle of Champagne in the UK retail sector is now over £25 (if only just) – which reflects the high cost of producing this fine sparkling wine, and the high taxes on alcohol in Britain.

(Since this article was published Morrisons have assured db that the stock levels are ‘healthy’, and that there is Champagne available at the Mitcham branch for re-stocking the shelves. I am now waiting further information on the Champagne, such as the dosage, and will update this article when i hear back).

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