‘Real’ champagne has minerality to it from chalky soil





There is a vast range of variety and price, from vintage products from top houses, to sparkling wines, that are perfect for a lower budget.


Uncorking a bottle of bubbly may be standard procedure during the holiday season, but with so many varieties and price ranges, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Neal Boven, a product consultant at the LCBO Summerhill location, said the first factor is budget. “Real champagne from the region of Champagne starts at about $40 a bottle. Sparkling wine starts at $9 a bottle,” he said. “For entry level champagne drinkers, I’d certainly suggest a sparkling wine.”

The two are technically the same product. “Real” champagne must be made within the region, where the unique chalky soil and ideal grape-growing climate make for a richer tasting product. “All champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wine is champagne,” Boven said.

A giveaway of the champagne or sparkling wine’s quality is the method in which it was produced. The traditional method, which by law must be used to produce champagne and sparkling wines in France, incorporates a second fermentation within the bottle, which results in fine bubbles. This method will be identified on the label.

“The whole process is how they infuse the bubbles into the champagne,” Boven said. “Other production methods can make the fermentation in a tank, and it’s not happening in the bottle.”

Champagne and sparkling wine should have a multitude of flavours, which include vanilla, fruit, oak, and citrus, among many others. “In a fine quality of champagne, you will have so many different flavours with fine bubbles,” he said.

Real champagne will have a minerality to it from the chalkiness of the Champagne region soil. “You don’t get that from everywhere in the world,” Boven said. “It stands out, it’s a positive thing.”


Neal Boven holds a bottle of Clicquot, a founding champagne house.

Those looking for the top of the crop in taste and price should look for a vintage year product. Produced only in a year that is deemed vintage by the industry for its ideal grape crop, they will feature a richer, fuller flavour, and will cost 20 to 25 per cent more.

Cuvée, which is the majority of all champagne sold, is a blend of several years, creating a signature house style and consistency.

If the real deal is too pricey, sparkling wines can come very close in taste and quality. “A good alternative to champagne is Spanish sparkling wine, which uses the traditional method,” Boven said. “The Italian sparkling wine, processo, which is made from the processo grape, is lighter and aromatic, and perfect for toasting.”

Quality sparkling wines are also produced in Ontario, using both the traditional and nontraditional method.

how to open a bottle of champagne
1. Don’t push the cork out with thumbs. “You can destroy an eye, you can destroy anything with that kind of pressure,” LCBO’s Neal Boven said.

2. There will always be a foil cap. Remove it, then twist and loosen the wire over the cork.

3. Grab the cork with one hand, and gently twist the bottle back and forth, feel it loosen, and gently remove. “There should be a faint hiss as opposed to a loud pop,” said Boven.

4. While only a faint mist should escape, keep a glass nearby in case there is spillage.

Champagne price range

The best:

  • Krug Grand Cuvée Brut Champagne 750ml $244.95

  • ‘Cristal’ Brut Champagne 2000 (Louis Roederer) 750ml $229.95

  • La Grand Dame 1996 (Veuve Clicquot) 750ml $199.95

Very good:

  • Bollinger (Special Cuvée) Brut Champagne $63.95

  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne $60.65

  • Roederer Brut Premier Champagne $59.95

Very good Rose:

  • Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rose Brut Champagne $79.95


  • Lanson Black Label Brut Champagne $44.95

  • Cattier Brut Premier Cru Champagne $39.95

Sparkling wine alternatives:

  • Segura Viudas Aria Estate Cava $17.00, Spain

  • Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut $29.95, Ontario

  • Seaview Brut Methode Champenoise $10.95, Australia

  • Henkell Trocken $12.95, Germany

  • Vino Dei Poeti Prosecco $13.10, Italy