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Friday, 17-Dec-2010 07:43 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Champagne Prices - How to Find the Best Champagne in the World

I can guarantee that every time I do a Best Champagne event that one of the first questions that comes up is about the price of each of the champagnes we taste.

Fair enough, if you're thinking of buying wine or anything else the price is an important piece of information, but I never reveal the prices until the very end so as to allow everyone the chance to judge the champagnes purely on whether they like them or not.

Everyone has a budget so it would be dumb of me to say that price is irrelevant, but I am sure that just looking at the champagne price can be downright misleading.

The fact is that knowing the price distorts the rest of our judgment: the higher the price the 'better' we assume the product must be, and if the price seems 'too' low we are automatically a little suspicious about the quality. But neither is necessarily true.

I read a great article once in Decanter magazine that proves exactly this point.

Two pieces of research conducted in America, one by The American Association of Wine Economists (Yep, I was amazed too that there is such an association), the other by Stanford University both came to much the same conclusion:

in a blind tasting when the price is not known, non-experts (i.e. most wine and champagne drinkers) will prefer cheaper wines, but if the price is revealed in advance it's the more expensive wines that are preferred. What's more, this holds true even when the price information given is deliberately false!

That means that if you taste Krug or Dom Perignon without knowing what it is and someone tells you it costs less than £15 or $15 then you'll probably say it's rubbish!

Equally you'll think that a cheap and cheerful bottle of fizz is really pretty excellent if only you are told in advance that it's really expensive.

Wow, it just goes to show that price tags and even recommendations Best Champagne from wine commentators can poor guides to help you decide what you actually like.

It's not just the price that can influence our judgment; other outside factors play a role too. To show you what I mean I'll take an example from Cognac.

I reckon that anyone who has ever drunk cognac would say that they expect it to be a rich dark brown colour and that the darker it is, the older and' better' it must be. We just can't help ourselves and we jump to this conclusion automatically.

To avoid this, the expert tasters in Cognac use black or dark blue, glasses when they are doing their tastings. If they can't see the colour of what's in the glass they can make an objective judgment based purely on the quality of the liquid.

So there's some good new and bad news in all this when it comes to tasting and choosing champagne

The bad news is that you have to be really aware about being influenced by what's around you, the champagne price, the advertising you've seen, other people's comments: the list could go on and on.

The good news is The 'best' Champagne in the world is the one YOU like best. In other words YOU are the best judge of what YOU like and when it comes to deciding what each one of us likes, we can all be wine experts.

Whatever you choose is fine. It's doesn't matter if other people don't agree with you, in fact that's a very good reason for sticking to your own opinion. As Malcolm Muggeridge once said "Only dead fish swim with the stream"

So practice, taste new ones, learn what you can, of course, but then be confident in your own selections and don't rely just on the price.

Jiles Halling spent 10 years living and working in Champagne and loves to share his unique knowledge of champagne with anyone who enjoys this wonderful drink.

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