Why does champagne cost so much?

A champagne lunch for, maybe, 1500–2000 euro

Champagne always carries a not insignificant price tag. As with everything, “expensive” is a question of each one’s personal assessment. One thing is certain: there are no other wines that are marketed with so much money.

It is in many ways a meaningless question if a wine is “expensive” or not. It is just in the same way as if a wine is of “good quality”. It is a completely personal matter. A wine that I think is expensive, you may think is good value. A bag-in-box wine, for example, is in my view expensive because, in most cases, it is an uninteresting experience. So why pay for it? Even though it costs not much I would not buy it.

Bottles in pupitres

Bottles in pupitres, copyright BKWine Photography

There is no “excessive” price for a wine, a “too expensive” wine, if it finds buyers. Is someonoe willing to pay the price tag then the price is OK. For those who buy it.

Champagne, however, is a special case among wines. No other wine relies so much on extensive marketing. No other wine is linked so much with a certain aura (or if you want: image). Champagne is very much a product of very successful marketing and perhaps also of something that almost resembles a cartel.

Of course this affects the price.

But it is not always obvious how.

Recently I came across an interesting example in an online article.

Earlier this year Moët & Chandon launched (or “released” as wine-speak sometimes says) the vintage 2006. A the big launch event was arranged by Moët & Chandon a for Scandinavian wine jouranlists in Copenhagen. No doubt similar events were held in other countries too. (Moet & Chandon is the largest producer of champagne. They are part of the LVMH group, which also owns several other champagne houses.)

Many wineries and wine regions make events for wine writers. It can be anything from a simple tasting to a trip to the wine district. The hope is of course that the journalists or writers who are invited will write something about the wine / wine district, or at least be sympathetic towards it. Nothing unusual about that. Occurs in all industries. But few do it so lavishly luxurious as Champagne. Among these, it is certainly so that Moët & Chandon spend the biggest budget to entertain journalists.

The orangerie at Moet & Chandon in Epernay

The orangerie at Moet & Chandon in Epernay, copyright BKWine Photography

But it is unusual to read about the details. As in the article I happened to read.

This is what happened at the launch of Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2006 in Copenahgen:

  • An unknown number of journalists were invited to the event. Probably a fair number since it covered Scandinavia.
  • The journalists were flown to Copenhagen for the day.
  • No doubt a number of people from Epernay were also flown to Copenhagen.
  • The day began with a morning sight-seeing tour of Copenhagen.
  • The lunch ensued, in the stylish Odd Fellows Hall in Copenhagen
  • Of course, plenty of champagne was served throughout the entire lunch
  • First course:
    • carpaccio of wild ox (“wild ox”?) served with wild-picked herbs, oyster mayonnaise and Baerii-caviar.
    • Grand millésime 1986 to this.
    • To the first course a ballet company performed a show
  • The whole group of guests were moved to another room for the second course. Each course was served in a new room with separate table setting and decoration.
  • Second course:
    • North Sea cod poached with lobster, served with morel-blanquette and spring onion
    • For this Grand millésime 1985
    • With this dish a piano concerto was performed.
  • The whole group of guests was moved to a third (fourth?) room for the next course.
  • Third course:
    • Fillet of sucking veal served with pickled sweetbread and browned rhubarb butter
    • With this: Grand millésime 1999
    • During the course a violin concerto was performed
  • The whole company was moved to the next room for the next course.
  • This room has custom built table with built-in LCD screens, individually customised
  • Fourth course:
    • Brie de meaux cheese, replacing the planned Brillat-savarin that the chef was not happy with
    • To this: unknown additional champagne, no doubt
  • Flight back home

Pretty impressive arrangement. At a guess to a budget of somewhere around 1500 to 2000 euro. Per participating journalist. We were not present.

Then one can understand that champagne has to cost quite a lot.

You can read the full celebrational article with full details of the anointments here.

Can’t help thinking of Dom Pérignon. I wonder what the monks who have taken the vow of poverty would think about this.

Statue of Dom Perignon at Moet & Chandon

Statue of Dom Perignon at Moet & Chandon, copyright BKWine Photography

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