Champagne is one of the most recognized beverages because of its bubbly appearance.
Commonly served in fluted glasses, it’s used to toast during celebratory events.
While there are plenty of brands that offer champagne, the cost is often expensive.
Whether you buy by the glass or the bottle, you’re going to spend quite a bit of money to enjoy this luxurious alcoholic beverage.
Understanding some of the reasons Champagne is expensive will help you to spend the money knowing that you’re getting a quality product.
Why Is Champagne So Expensive?
If you go out to a restaurant and order a glass of champagne, you need to be prepared to spend quite a bit of money.
Even if you buy a bottle at your local liquor store, it can still be expensive.
There are reasons it is a higher-priced wine than you may be accustomed to paying.
1. Champagne Is Based On The Region
Champagne is called such because it comes from the Champagne region of France.
Technically, a wine cannot be called Champagne if it is produced anywhere else.
This means that, if you buy Champagne that’s made in California, you’re not technically buying Champagne.
You’re buying sparkling wine.
If you want this bubbly wine without the cost, there are other products that you can buy.
Prosecco and sparkling wine will give you basically the same product.
However, it won’t be from the Champagne region of France.
As long as you’re willing to make this sacrifice, it could end up saving you quite a bit of money.
The Champagne region of France is twice the size of San Francisco.
It’s also home to a $5 billion industry.
Literally all Champagne is produced there, and many people want the real deal.
Since the region is so small, there are only so many grapes that can be grown there.
The real estate is highly sought after, and it’s an expensive region in Europe.
The area covers a total of 34,000 hectares.
It’s important to know these regions as some vineyards will use these as opposed to the broader term of “Champagne.”
However, any of these regions will still provide you with the bubbly that you have come to know and love.
2. It’s Prestigious
Champagne tends to be a prestigious drink.
It’s synonymous with wealth and luxury.
Many locations will use Champagne as a way to indulge you and show you just how luxurious your time with them is going to be.
If you attend a high-end art auction, you may be given a glass to walk around with as you browse the paintings.
If you check into a high-end spa, you may be given a glass while you sit back and get pampered.
You may even get a glass when you stay at a high-end hotel as a way to help you enjoy your stay a bit more.
Often, Champagne is regarded as prestigious even before you know the brand.
It’s even served in its own type of glass—a fluted wine glass.
It’s designed to let the bubbles stay alive.
If there’s too much surface area, the bubbles will fizzle out, which means that you lose the mouth feel that Champagne is known for.
It’s also important to note that a true Champagne is going to be enjoyed by itself.
While there are plenty of drinks that advertise that they’re made with Champagne (such as a mimosa), you’ll want to read the bottle that’s being used.
Almost always, it will be a prosecco or a sparkling wine.
You get the bubbles without having to ruin an expensive Champagne by splashing orange juice into it.
3. The Process Is Time-Consuming
There’s a time-consuming process involved with making Champagne.
The more time that goes into creating a batch of the sparkling wine means more labor and more time that it will take for the vineyard to see their profits from the time that the grapes are harvested.
There’s a primary fermenting process that creates the wine before it goes into the bottle.
The secondary fermenting process happens inside the bottle.
A mixture of yeast and sugar, known as tirage, is added to the bottle.
The secondary fermenting process then takes place.
Once the secondary fermenting process is complete, there’s a time-consuming process where dead yeasts (called lees) have to be removed.
The bottles go through riddling, which requires the bottles to be turned upside down slowly.
The gradual process brings the lees to the bottom of the neck.
When the lees have reached the top of the neck, the bottlenecks are frozen.
A temporary cap is removed.
Then, pressure shoots the frozen block of lees out.
This process is known as disgorgement.
The leftover space that remains in the bottle is then filled with liqueur d’expedition in a process known as dosage.
This process is not like traditional wine. It can take years to complete.
At the minimum, Champagne must age for a minimum of 15 months on the lees.
Then, for a vintage Champagne, it must age for at least 36 months.
When you consider that it can take three years (or more) to turn grapes harvested from the vineyard into a sellable product, you can see why the cost can be substantially higher than your typical wine.
Other sparkling wines are produced inside of a tank. It’s less time-consuming, and it doesn’t involve the lees.
It still produces flavorful wine, but the aromas aren’t going to be as strong, and the bubbles aren’t going to be quite as effervescent.
Since there’s less time involved, the costs are typically lower, too.
4. The Weather Is Harsh
Grapes need to be harvested at the perfect time of the year.
If they are harvested too early, they won’t have the full-bodied flavor.
If they are harvested too late, there may not be sufficient juice, or they could be too sweet.
Throughout the year, the grapes need to stay alive.
If there’s too much harsh weather, a significant amount of the crop may be lost.
In the Champagne region, it’s relatively cold, and this can make it difficult to grow grapes.
This requires extra effort from those working the vineyards.
It also means that a full harvest will rarely happen.
A vineyard’s ability to produce a certain number of bottles of wine is limited by the size of the harvest.
When the harvest is small because of harsh weather, they won’t be able to produce as many bottles.
When a vintage is smaller, it can raise the cost of the bottles because the vineyards still have to turn a profit.
You’ll want to compare the temperature of Champagne, France to Napa Valley, California.
Realistically, California has a better range of temperatures, and that allows California to produce affordable sparkling wines.
When Champagne has an average temperature of only 52, the grapes are more susceptible to severe weather conditions.
Plus, the continental influence in the region can bring about a winter frost that could affect the grape crops considerably.
5. Better Vintages Are More Money
Many vineyards will offer two types of “exclusive” Champagne within their range.
Vintage is based on the year in which the grape was harvested.
The year will be printed on the bottle. Some years are considered better than others because of the weather conditions.
Too much rain, too much sun, and such things can affect the flavor of the grape, thus impacting the overall flavor of the Champagne.
Some vineyards won’t bottle their Champagne right away, either.
They’ll let it sit in the cellars for a decade or longer.
Wine grapes that may have been harvested in the 1990s may just be getting released now.
The older vintage makes it highly sought after and more expensive.
You’ll also find that some vineyards offer what is known as a Prestige Cuvee.
This is considered the premium product within the range of wines.
Not all vineyards offer it.
When you can find it, you can be confident that the very best grapes from a particular vintage have gone into the bottle.
Since only a limited number of grapes will make the cut, there are usually not a large number of bottles released as a Prestige Cuvee from a vineyard in a given year.
Once you get into limited quantities, you are subject to supply and demand.
The supply is limited and the demand high, so the prices will be high to compensate.
6. The Process Is Expensive
Making wine is not a cheap process.
Champagne has a more rigorous process than virtually any other type of wine, including other types of sparkling wine.
You have to remember that all of the processes at the vineyard are factored into the cost.
This starts with the keeping of the grapes on the vine, the harvesting, the fermenting, and everything else.
Some vineyards will use hand-picking while others will use machines.
The same goes for the other processes.
Some vineyards choose to do everything by hand.
Others will use machines whenever possible so that they can produce more wine using less labor.
Virtually everything is more expensive in France than it is in the United States.
This includes the labor, the equipment, and the supplies.
What this means is that wine is cheaper to produce in California than it is to produce in France.
However, if you want authentic Champagne, you’ll be forced to spend the money on the more expensive process.
7. You Pay For The Brand
There are a lot of different brands of Champagne.
Each brand has its own way of fermenting, but it will go through the same overall process.
You will spend more on a bottle of high-end Champagne just as you would spend more on a bottle of high-end wine.
Some brands or wineries simply have a better reputation.
When you order a particular brand, heads may turn because people know that you have ordered an expensive brand.
They all come from the same small part of the world.
However, some brands will use different grapes.
Some will have better marketing campaigns, and yes, you may actually spend more on Champagne from a brand that has a better marketing strategy.
They go out of their way to promote themselves as being the best, even when they may not be.
The best way to know whether you’re getting your money’s worth from the different brands is by tasting them.
As you go to various wine bars, ask for a glass of Champagne.
You can try them side by side in order to take note of the various mouth feels, aromas, and flavor profiles.
8. There’s A Distinct Flavor
You’ll find that there’s a distinct flavor when you sip Champagne in comparison to sparkling wines from other parts of the world.
There’s a high level of acid as well as a delicate flavor from the grapes that have to do with the weather and the overall soil composition.
Of course, you’ll also find distinct flavors between the different types of Champagne.
A non-vintage one will be made of various grapes, and they may have even been harvested in different years.
You’ll also find that the bubbles tend to have a finer fizz.
Aged champagne will have a bit less carbon dioxide because some will have dissipated through the cork over time.
There will be fewer bubbles and they’ll be smaller.
Newer champagne will also have a greater velocity of bubbles.
Temperature won’t generally affect the presence of the bubbles, but warmer Champagne will be slightly less viscous.
9. Different Grapes Are Used
You’ll find that not all Champagne is made from the same types of grapes.
The only requirement to be called Champagne is that the grapes are grown in the Champagne region and that there’s carbonation present.
The most common types of grapes that are used include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
Not all of these grapes are easy to grow, so it can add to the overall costs of maintaining the vineyard.
As the maintenance costs increase, so does the cost of the wine.
Some other grape varieties are also used when making Champagne.
They’re not as commonly used, but some vineyards will use them either for flavor or to compensate for not having enough of one of the more common grape varieties.
With so many grapes to choose from, vineyards have the ability to make Champagne using one or more varieties.
Many will choose grapes based on the overall cost as well as the ease to grow them.
As soon as grapes become difficult, the yield for the season may not be as great.
Some vineyards will also choose to use the higher-end grapes because they know that it will offer a unique flavor that will allow them to charge more per bottle.
10. Champagne Has to Spend Time Aging
There’s an aging process involved with Champagne.
Once a vineyard has produced the sparkling wine, they cannot turn around and immediately bottle and sell it.
Instead, there’s a process that must be honored.
First, vineyards will determine how long they want the Champagne to age in the cellar.
In some instances, it may spend several decades in order to get a richer flavor.
Once the wine is bottled, it has to sit for at least 15 months before it can be released.
Since Champagne has to age for such a long time, many vineyards compensate for this by increasing the price.
It ensures that they make their money back because of having to keep inventory on lees for so long before it can be sold to consumers.
Discover The Different Types Of Champagne
As you shop for Champagne, whether you are looking to spend a little or a lot, it’s important to know that there are different types.
They’ll all be from the Champagne region of France.
However, various types will offer unique flavors, colors, and even mouth feels as you sip the sparkling wine.
The most common types of Champagne are as follows:
Extra Brut: Extra Brut is considered one of the driest types of Champagne. Sometimes no sugar is added at all. If any sugar is added, it’s no more than six grams.
Brut: Brut may be the most common type on the market. It’s dry with just a hint of sweetness. Typically, there will be less than 12 grams of sugar present.
Dry: Despite the name, dry isn’t the driest. It’s mid-range on the way to getting sweeter. Most of the time, there will be between 12 and 32 grams of sugar added.
Demi-Sec: Demi-sec is considered a medium-sweet Champagne. If you like something sweet, you’ll find it with 33 to 50 grams of sugar added.
Doux: Doux varietals are of the sweetest and will generally contain 50 grams or more of sugar.
Rose: The pink-colored wine is popular because of the hue. It is designed by mixing red wine with white wine. While it won’t change the flavor drastically, the contact with the red-skin grapes will impact the color.
How To Save On Champagne
Champagne may be expensive, but there are ways to save money when you want to savor the classic sparkling wine from France.
One of the first ways is by getting your Champagne by the glass instead of the bottle.
When you’re out at a restaurant and you want to do a celebratory toast, simply get a glass.
If you’re not going to drink the whole bottle, there’s no reason to spend the full price.
If you’re buying Champagne to pour at home, consider how much you plan to drink.
Once you open a bottle, you’ll want to use it all.
Saving it can be difficult as the bubbles will slowly fizzle out, and you won’t have the same bubbly wine that you first had.
They do make champagne stoppers, but they’re not always effective.
Champagne comes in various sizes.
If you’re opening for a large number of people, consider buying a Magnum.
It’s a 1.5-liter bottle that is the equivalent of two regular bottles.
If you’re only pouring one or two glasses, consider buying a Demie.
It’s the size of a half-bottle and measures 0.375 liters.
Finally, shop the sales at your local liquor store.
Particularly around holidays where a glass of Champagne is customary, you may find that there are some sales going on.
New Year’s Eve may be a good time for you to stock up on all of your bubbly needs for the year.