Champagne is expensive isn't it? Back when everyone was surfing the wave of credit and prosperity the Champagne houses thought "we want a bit of that" and put their prices up to make a bit more cash. Why not, after all, people could afford it. Thing is, that wave has now dumped us all unceremoniously onto the beach of bankruptcy and no-one can afford to buy Champagne any more. The result, for people still wanting bubbles, is a move to other countries' wines. Cava sales are on the up, as are wines from America, other French regions, and remember that there is always Prosecco.
Prosecco sales have exploded in recent years with people crossing the border from France to Italy in search of carbonated vino, realising that you are getting good quality wines at a third of the price of a Champagne. Recognising they are onto a good thing and have a product people want, the Italians are thinking either 'hold on a moment, we want to make a bit more cash' or 'oh dear our country is in the financial quagmire and we need to make more money to stay in business', and as a result we are seeing prices of Prosecco rising quickly. But even withup to a 10% rise every year, Prosecco is still cheaper than Champers as they know that they have to undercut the French producers to retain and grow their market share. I mean, who is going to buy an Italian sparkler between thirty and fifty pounds?
Well Bellavista think someone will, as I tried two sparkling wines from Italy that are competing at the price points of a non vintage Champagne and a vintage rose Champagne. They use Louis Roederer as their inspiration and pay meticulous attention to detail, having minimal intervention in the 200 hectares of vineyards, tasting every wine made before blending, having the wines hand riddled - they employ a team of five riddlers - and then given a minimum of three years ageing. These are handcrafted products with high production values, so I was eager to try them
Firstly the Bellavista Franciacorta Cuvee Brut NV was a simple, bright wine, soft and subtle on the nose and citrus dominant. The palate had a savoury start, with the small amount of Pinot Noir coming through at first giving a slight red fruit flavour, and then the Chardonnay kicking in with citrus and a yeasty toast. It was a nice, clean wine that - if it was £20 a bottle - I would score in the high eighties. However, it costs £33 and I can't even entertain paying that amount. Bollinger is a better wine at the same price, as is Moet at five pounds less. Sure, the bottle looks funky, but it is horribly overpriced. 75pts (because of the price)
The second sparkly was the 2006 Bellavista Franciacorta Gran Cuvee Rose, again a nice wine ruined by the price point. Aromas of peach, some sandstone and cranberry come off with some strawberry skin as well. The palate is clean, gentle and well made, with some soft red berries mixed with biscotti. A touch high acid on the finish, but, at £50 per bottle, it is bettered by Laurent Perrier Rose, Bollinger Rose, Billecart Salmon Rose, Delamotte Rose.... all of which are cheaper. 73pts (again, because of the price)
These are nice wine, but you are paying for the horrifically high production costs and I fail to see why the customer should be paying double what the wine is worth. If you get the opportunity to try them without having to pay for them, I would suggest you do, but keep your wallet firmly closed if the bill is coming your way. If you do have the compulsion to spend between £30 and £50 on fizz, spend the money on Champagne, not because of the prestige of buying the French bubbles, but because they are better wines for the money and you aren't going to have to explain to your friends why you didn't go for Champagne.