Sainsbury’s Champagne Beats Harrods, Fortnum in Tasting

Sandia Chang and James Knappett
Sandia Chang and James Knappett, the husband-and-wife team behind Bubbledogs. He is the chef and she runs front of house. Photographer: Richard Vines/Bloomberg

A supermarket Champagne costing 20.99 pounds ($33.88) from J Sainsbury Plc beat more-expensive varieties from Harrods and Fortnum & Mason in a blind tasting.

Ten bottles were put to the test by Sandia Chang, 32, the co-owner of Bubbledogs, a new London restaurant that serves grower Champagnes and gourmet hot dogs. (Harrods triumphed in a similar tasting in 2008.)

The tasting was filmed for Bloomberg Television. Here’s what Chang had to say.

Co-op Les Pionniers 2004 (P&C Heidsieck), 24.99 pounds ($40.23):

“Nice deep color. Really fine mousse, really fine bubbles. Little bit herbaceous, almost like celery or fennel. It’s very different because you get floral, you get fruits. I’d definitely drink it at home. I’d say it’s a blanc de noirs or a blend but definitely more on the pinot noir side. Something different now. It’s good aromas. Really big.” 7/10.

Fortnum & Mason Brut Reserve (Louis Roederer), 29.50 pounds:

“It’s a light style. A little bit subtle and quite acidic at the end. Little bit of hay. Once again, the bubbles are quite small. It’s pretty. It’s definitely very refreshing. I think there’s higher sugar levels in this. It’s OK. I like the last one better. This is one of those Champagnes you’d drink when it’s hot outside, on the patio. You could just drink about four bottles.” 5/10.

Harrods Premier Cru (M Hostomme et Fils), 29.95 pounds:

“This one’s very different. It smells like a grassy field.” Will it work with hot dogs? “Anything refreshing, cold with bubbles will work with hot dogs. Champagne works with everything. Champagne is just a great glass of wine with bubbles. This is probably Chardonnay. It’s a bit more on the citrus side, with very unripe apples, crunchy ice-cold apples.” 6/10.

Lidl Comte de Brismand (Bissinger), 12.99 pounds:

“It’s a little darker yellow, lightly golden. Toast, a little bit oak or something. This one’s really perfume-like. Like lots of orange blossoms in there: orange oils, citrus peels. It’s a little bit too much for me. It’s almost like when you have your face in the bowl of pot pourri. Good for a group of ladies out celebrating a birthday, just to start the night off. I feel it’s heavier in dosage.” 4/10.

Marks & Spencer Oudinot Brut (Oudinot), 24.00 pounds:

“Back to a more classic Champagne note. This one has that toffee apple, more of a red apple. It’s a little salty, like pork scratchings with apple sauce. There’s a little bit of toastiness in it, almost like a baked red apple with a bit of pie crust. It’s not as tart as I like. I do like very clean, lower in sugar levels. That’s very nice.” 6/10.

Moet & Chandon Imperial (31.99 pounds at

“This is quite pale in color, very ice cold. This has more dosage. It tastes a little bit steely at the end, like when you eat canned products and you get that after-taste of the steel around it, like canned corn. It smells like something very familiar, like a very feminine men’s cologne. I’m not saying it’s not a good thing, it’s just not my style.” 4/10

Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs (Soc Cooperative de Producteurs des Grands Terroirs), 20.99 pounds:

“This has seen a little bit of oak or maybe a little bit of age. It’s much creamier and toasty. Definitely wood on this one: You can taste it, and smell it as well. It’s like smoked bacon or smoked barbecue sauce. Every producer has its own style and sometimes in between there’s producers that get lost and try to imitate something else and it’s neither this nor that. This is actually quite nice: It’s got a lot of character.” 8/10

Selfridges Esprit Brut (Henri Giraud, Ay), 29.99 pounds:

“The color’s certainly interesting. This smells like a vintage. This one has a bit of that sherry note in it. This style of Champagne is my style of Champagne, except that I think there’s quite a lot of sugar in here. It’s got this nutty, sherry note at the end. It’s a little bit like drinking sherry and eating salted Marcona almonds.” 7.5/10

Tesco Premier Cru (Union Champagne), 19.99 pounds:

“This is quite light in color with vigorous bubbles.” Do you drink supermarket Champagnes? “I drink a lot of Waitrose Cava. My husband (chef James Knappett, who co-owns Bubbledogs) likes to eat beans on toast on his days off. I like to drink affordable wine. It doesn’t have to be a grand marque. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. This one is very high in dosage, quite on the sweet side. It tastes like artificial sweetener in there.” 3/10

Waitrose Blanc de Noirs (Alexandre Bonnet), 20.99 pounds:

“There’s a lot of sweeter Champagnes among these, so perhaps the taste of the public is more on the sweet side. The more complicated, toasty yeasty sherry-like Champagne seems to be on the high-end market. This one has just a touch of oak. It’s still quite high in dosage, too high for my taste but I wouldn’t say it’s bad. The bubbles are nice. This is quite average. It’s one of those Champagnes you don’t need a special occasion to drink or you buy because your in-laws are over and you need to suck up to them. This is an everyday drinking Champagne. It’s OK.” 6/10.

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Mark Beech on arts, Lewis Lapham on history and Zinta Lundborg’s New York weekend.

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