- NV Kirkland Champagne Brut ($19.99 @Costco, California)
Let me start by alerting you to the fact that the $19.99 price tag above is not a typo. While this blog is devoted – almost exclusively – to wine finds under $10, we couldn’t resist taking this $19.99 French champagne out for a test drive. And boy are we glad we did!
For me, the litmus test for a champagne are the pronounced bready, yeasty flavors that distinguish the wines of Champagne. The back label of this bottling makes reference to “notes of gingerbread, oranges and peaches plus a bright citrus character.” While I do not quibble with their tasting notes, I would add the all-important flavors of yeasty bread. That, to me, is what helps set apart “real” champagne. (More on this later…)
This Kirkland rendition was sitting there on the same shelf with other champagnes of a seemingly similar pedigree. Two things separated this bottle from the others. First, it prominently features the Kirkland name, which gives some of you pause. (To you I say, you need to get over it.) Second, it was significantly less expensive (by a factor of 2-3x) than the other wines in the neighborhood. It was practically begging to be put to the test!
You might be curious what the “NV” in the wine description above means. It is an abbreviation for “Non-Vintage.” The vast majority of fine wine sold in the world show a vintage on their front or even back label. Champagne is different, especially Brut champagne. Instead of seeing a 2016 or 2017 vintage on the label, we use NV to let you know to not scour the front and back labels searching in vain for the vintage.
One other little fun fact to explain away the appearance of typos: Champagne with a capital C is used when referring to the geographical region in France where these wines are produced; champagne with a lower case C is used when referring to the wine itself.
Since we have drawn the your attention to the proper use of capitalization when referring to this celebratory beverage, here is a mnemonic device that might come in handy for a variety of reasons: “champagne only comes from Champagne.” Hence, saying “champagne from Champagne” is redundant. (So is my headline above.)
Champagne is a specific wine producing region in the northeastern corner of France. California sparkling wine is not champagne. Spanish Cava is not champagne. Nor is Italian Prosecco. Even the relatively new and relatively good sparkling wines from across the channel in England (which may or may not share some of the same chalky geology that helps make their French counterparts unique) can not claim to be Champagne. But we consumers make the mistake frequently.
Another mistake we wine consumers frequently make is to only enjoy champagne on special occasions. At this price, I encourage you to pick up several bottles of the Kirkland Champagne Brut and put in in your refrigerator to celebrate more of the little things that make life special. They’ll be more special when you toast them with champagne.