Bubbly: Is Champagne Worth the Extra Cash?

In this age of thrifty consumerism, can you serve California sparkling wine instead of Champagne? Editors at BusinessWeek compared nonvintage bruts of three French vineyards with their California cousins.

-- Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial ($33.25) vs. Chandon Brut Napa ($14.95): One taster said the California Napa "had more taste [and] was richer," while another noted the Moet was "very clean-tasting, yet full-bodied." Since most thought both brands were very good, only 20% of our tipplers said they would be willing to pay the $18 or so per-bottle premium for the Moet.

-- Veuve Clicquot ($33.95) vs. Pacific Echo ($16.50): The Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label was the hands-down favorite of all six tasted. The Veuve had "a more complex taste," with richer color and better bubbles. Still, just 25% were willing to pay the 106% markup over Echo. As one taster said: "The Pacific Echo is nice enough on its own to justify not paying the extra expense."

-- Mumm Cordon Rouge ($27.95) vs. Mumm Cuvee Napa ($16.95): The Rouge beat the Napa 5 to 1. Almost half the tasters were even willing to pay the premium.

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