(The Ginger Penny Pincher wants readers to know that no “champagne” was wasted and no animals were harmed in the making of this blog.)
September 16th, 2011 marked the seven year anniversary of my first date with my husband, and we thought: “What better what to celebrate than with . . . ‘champagne’?”
And . . . being the over-achieving penny pinchers that we are, we thought: “What better way to celebrate than with a blind taste test to determine the best cheap ‘champagne’?!”
(In reality, the taste test had been planned well before we realized this day was our date-versary, but we thought it was a lovely coincidence, so . . . just pretend you didn’t read this parenthetical aside.)
Now, you may be wondering “what’s up with all the quotation marks around the word ‘champagne’?” Well, for those of who don’t know, the word “champagne” refers to one very specific thing: a sparkling wine made from grapes found in the Champagne region of France. Fin. The end. Nothing else. You may see the word “champagne” on various bottles in the U.S., but the majority of these are nothing more than sparkling wines.
The word “champagne” is so sacred, in fact, that its use has been protected by law since 1891. Furthermore, this law was reaffirmed in 1919 in the Treaty of Versailles. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It helped to end World War I – it was kind of a big deal.)
However, while it may be law in Europe, this law has never applied to the United States because the U.S. never ratified the Treaty of Versailles! (This choice obviously had nothing to do with champagne.) Therefore, the word “champagne” can be used for . . . well, anything: sparkling wine…grape juice…my dog’s middle name. Whatever.
Not surprisingly, American vineyards took advantage of this for a little while, labeling most sparkling wines as “champagne.” However, this practice has died down quite a bit in recent decades and most sparkling wines are now called exactly that: sparkling wine.
OK, so history lessons aside, I used only sparkling wines in the “champagne” taste test seeing as how REAL champagne is not Ginger Penny Pincher-friendly. Our neighborhood has only ONE liquor store, and it just so happened to be closed on Saturday, but our friend Maria came through by bringing two different types of (cheap) champagne, one low-cheap and one medium-cheap. Josh and I already had one bottle of champagne that was on the higher priced end (for cheap champagne, that is), so we felt we had a good range.
Now, this was not a perfect experiment because we tasted two Bruts and one extra dry, but this was all we really had available to us, and we thought the findings were still useful enough for them to be blog-worthy, so here goes.
- Andre, Extra Dry, $5.99 (however, out of NYC this champagne may be as low as $3.99)
- Jaume Serra Cristalino, $7.99 (though the internet tells me it usually retails for $6.99, but that’s NYC prices for you)
- Freixenet Cordon Negro, Brut, $20.99
We uncorked all three, or in the case of Andre, removed the screw-top lid. Classy, right? Then, we filled three glasses with a little from each, and Josh and I left the room while Maria labeled each class with a folded up piece of paper that had the identity of the contents on the inside. We were really high-tech about this.
The original plan was to actually blindfold Maria and hand her the glasses to sample, but she did such a great job at scrambling their order that she had already forgotten what was what by the time Josh and I returned (thus the lack of zany blindfolded pictures). We sampled each, and in a super-sneaky-snake-post-it note ballot, we cast our votes for favorite, second favorite, and least favorite.
The results were unanimous! Wanna find out which cheap champagne prevailed?
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