That iconic sound of a cork popping always signals the start of a celebration, and what better gift to give your party host than a bottle of Champagne? Even if you’re not headed out to a soiree, a bottle of bubbly makes the perfect gesture for any occasion, from Christmas and birthdays, to anniversaries and new babies. But if you’re not 100% clued up on Champagne, and you don’t want to put your foot in it by buying the wrong kind, where to begin? Fear not, because we’re here to furnish you with all the facts you need when it comes to buying the perfect gifts for Champagne lovers.
What exactly IS Champagne?
Champagne is a sparkling wine that originates in the Champagne wine region of France, and is produced in line with the specific and very strict rules of that region.
There is no leeway here. For Champagne to be allowed to bear its label, it must follow a strictly regulated set of requirements, from grape varieties to the wine and bubble making processes.
Champagne uses the traditional method of carbon dioxide production to get its characteristic fizz. This means adding yeast and sugar to the flat wine, and then sealing the bottle. The two ingredients then thrash it out, creating carbon dioxide as a by-product. This is one of the things that gives Champagne its higher price tag, compared to other sparkling wines like Prosecco, that are fizzed-up in a tank.
What grapes are used to make Champagne and how do different Champagne grapes affect the flavour?
Only seven grape varieties can be used to make Champagne, but of these, only three are widely used. These are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier.
The pale-skinned grape Chardonnay makes for a zingy, citrusy Champagne with high acidity. Pinot Noir on the other hand is a dark-skinned grape, and as such it delivers a deeply fruity body. Meunier, another dark-skinned variety, offers more of a bright, youthful fruity essence.
Now here’s some important inside intel for you…
If you see blanc de noirs on a Champagne label, it means the wine has been made only from dark-skinned grape varieties. Blanc de blancs means the Champagne comes from only pale-skinned grapes, which will usually be Chardonnay.
Spot a bottle of Champagne that doesn’t specify either blanc de noirs or blanc de blancs, and it’s usually a blend of both pale and dark grapes.
Sweet or dry Champagne?
The sweetness scale is where buying gifts for champagne lovers can get a little tricky, unless of course you know your Champagne styles.
Champagne sweetness is determined by the amount of residual sugar in the mix of sugar and wine added before bottling.
Brut nature Champagne is naturally dry with no added sugar. Extra brut has up to six grams of sugar per litre. Brut, by far the most popular Champagne, has 6-12 grams of sugar per litre.
Brut is the middle ground. Then we start getting into sweeter territory.
First on the sweeter scale is extra dry, which weighs in at 12-17 grams of sugar per litre. Then there’s the increasingly sweeter dry (sometimes called sec) with 17-32 grams, demi-sec with 32-50 grams and finally doux, which contains more than 50 grams of sugar per litre.
So now you know what to look for in terms of dry or sweet when considering your Champagne gift ideas. It’s just a matter of judging what your gift recipient would prefer. Are they sweet-toothed, or more a lover of zingy, refreshing flavours? Over to you on that one.
Vintage or non-vintage Champagne?
This is another key consideration when looking at Champagne gift ideas.
The plus point on non-vintage however is that it displays a consistency that drinkers will know and love, like a house style where you know what you’re getting. It’s one of the most popular gifts for Champagne lovers for this very reason.
Non-vintage (NV) Champagne ages in the bottle for 18 months, whilst vintages age for three years in the bottle before release.
You’ll be able to tell a vintage Champagne from a non-vintage simply by the fact there’s a year on the label with vintage Champagne. That’s the year the grapes were harvested, and the wine will display the unique qualities of the growing year.
Anything else I need to know when buying Champagne as a gift?
Since you ask, yes there is! If you see ‘Cuvée’ on a Champagne label, that denotes quality. This is because in Champagne, the cuvée is the first 2,050 litres of grape juice taken from 4,000Kg of grapes, which is considered the best stuff as it gives the wine more character.
The following 500 litres are known as the ‘taille’, or ‘tail’, which is still good quality, but not as good as the cuvée.
Champagne gift ideas
And now it’s time for the fun part. Choosing your Champagne gifts, all the easier now you’re in the know when it comes to the key facts on posh fizz!
Non-Vintage Gifts for Champagne Lovers
Pol Roger is one of the most notable non-vintage Champagne brands and certainly one of the finest gifts for Champagne lovers to come in at under £100. It’s a brut, which means it’s lower down on the sweet scale. It’s also a reserve, which means it’s been held back from a previous vintage and stored for ageing to add extra character.
Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée is another fine brand non-vintage Champagne. This is an instantly recognisable high end bubbly from the cuvée, yet as Champagne gift ideas go, coming in at under £50 makes it one of the most popular. Again it’s a brut, singing of citrus aromas with subtle hints of white flowers.
Vintage Gifts for Champagne Lovers
This Pol Roger vintage Champagne from 2013 is named after one of the UK’s most famous prime ministers, Sir Winston Churchill and made only from the best grapes from the finest Grand Cru vineyards. Which basically means it’s in the realms of the highest and most well-respected wine classifications. If you’re looking for gifts for Champagne lovers in the know, and you need something truly special and pitch perfect in terms of flavour and intensity, you’ll find this Champagne, without any doubt, well worth the price tag. It even comes in an elegant gift box, making it the perfect choice for corporate wine gifts or the ideal Christmas gift.
Rosé Champagne Gifts
If you happen to know your gift recipient is a pink fizz aficionado, and you want to give them something a bit on the special side, a bottle of Pommery Brut Rosé could well fit the bill. This non-vintage pink Champagne is wonderfully dry, with a palate of tart red berries, white peach, creamy brioche and floral undertone.
Or maybe you’re after something bursting with raspberry and blackcurrant aromas? If so, this non-vintage Taittinger Prestige Rosé Champagne will go down a treat, especially with its persistent ‘mousse’ that continues to erupt on the palate (hint: mousse is the foam that sits on top of the wine once it’s been poured). Again, the gift box is an added extra that makes this a cert when you’re on the trail of Champagne gift ideas.
Looking for Champagne gift ideas? Oddbins has all you need, and more!
Seeking out the perfect gifts for Champagne lovers? The Oddbins range of champagne and sparkling wines is sure to have just what you’re after, from vintage to non-vintage. Not sure which to choose? Our team is on hand to help you make the perfect choice. Contact us via Live Chat, e-mail or by calling 0800 328 23 23.