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A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Champagne 101 and promised to do a future post on good places to pick up Champagne. Well, here you go.

Surprisingly, France is not the best place to buy Champagne. When my husband and I were there on our honeymoon, we expected to purchase a couple cases worth of Champagne and ship it back to the States. However, the Champagne region cannot direct-ship outside the country of France. If you’re close enough to France to drive, lucky you. As for us, we bought seven bottles and brought them home in our checked luggage (safely bubble-wrapped).

The saddest part of not being able to ship from Champagne is the fact that not all Champagne houses export to the U.S., and even the houses that do export don’t export everything they produce. For example, Pommery makes a delightful Blanc de Noirs they call Wintertime. We bought one bottle at the duty-free shop in Charles de Gaulle airport on our way home. When we finally open it, we’ll have to savor it, because it can’t be bought in the U.S. We paid €43 for it, which, at the exchange rate in place at the time, works out to about $58. That’s more than I generally like to spend on Champagne, especially non-rosé, but it was worth it to bring home something we can’t buy in the States.

You might be wondering how we, standing in an airport shop in Paris, could know that a bottle of Champagne in our hands was not available for purchase in the U.S. That, my friends, is where one of my favorite iPhone apps comes into play. It’s called Wine Searcher, and if you are at all serious about wine and don’t own it yet, you must get it immediately. It’s free from the App Store. (There’s an Android version too.) You can type in whatever you’re looking for, and the app will list all the places you can find it–worldwide–with pricing. It’s helpful not only when you’re traveling, but when you see a bottle that you think is a good price somewhere, you can use the app to confirm. They also have a website, wine-searcher.com.

So, back to pricing. As a general rule, rosé Champagne will be more expensive than non-rosé because rosé is more difficult and time-consuming to produce. Also, vintage (or millésimé) Champagne (made with grapes from a specific year) will be more expensive than non-vintage Champagne. And Champagne labeled Cuvée is usually more expensive than that not labeled so. (Cuvée is a term used when producers blend special wines together.) Some Champagne houses also have “prestige” lines that are very expensive. For example, Moët & Chandon produces the famous Dom Pérignon brand. Dom Pérignon is only made as a vintage Champagne with grapes from specific sites and is aged longer than regular Champagne, all of which contribute to its much higher price. I don’t buy prestige Champagnes because they are out of my price range.

Generally speaking, if you can find a Champagne for around $40 and a rosé for around $50, that is a deal. (My benchmarks all refer to non-vintage, non-Cuvée Champagnes.) Where you live plays a huge role in your access to Champagne and good pricing. In Pennsylvania, where the PA Liquor Control Board has a monopoly on the sale of wine and spirits, you only have one choice when you want to buy wine: your local Wine & Spirits Shop. That’s the bad news. IMG_5471But the good news is that the PALCB buys in massive bulk quantities and can sometimes negotiate great deals. If you live in PA and ever see a Champagne featured in the Chairman’s Selection program, you can be sure it’s a good deal. Last year I picked up a bottle of Moët & Chandon Imperial for $38.99. Most places sell this wine for $49.99.

If you live in a state where Ralph’s grocery stores operate, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You can buy any combination of six bottles of wine, Champagne, or liquor at Ralph’s and save an additional 30%. Every day. It’s totally insane. And their selection is pretty decent too. We went to Ralph’s to buy a lot of the wine we served at our wedding because the prices were the lowest we could find. I no longer live near a Ralph’s so I don’t know what their current Champagne pricing looks like, but it’s definitely a place to check out.

BevMo is also located in the Western U.S. and can be another good place for deals, especially if you join their free Club Bev program. They periodically run a 5-cent sale: if you buy one bottle included in the sale at regular price, your second bottle of that same wine is only 5 cents. I never saw Champagne included in the 5-cent sale, but it could happen. And if you’re in Los Angeles, I recommend that you check out The Wine House on Cotner Ave. in West LA and Wally’s Wines & Spirits on Westwood Blvd. in Westwood. They carry a fantastic selection of wines and have access to many more through special order.

Here in DC we have a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to availability and bargains. Within the District, every municipality has one or two wine/liquor stores. Some of them put more of an emphasis on wine than others. Right now, everyone in the city seems to have Veuve Clicquot Brut on sale for $39.99 (its list price is $54.99, so that’s a great deal). I picked up a bottle in Georgetown last week and would have bought more, except we already kind of have more Champagne than we know what to do with! Another option area residents have is to visit a Total Wine & More in either Virginia or Maryland. I’ve shopped at Total Wine for years, across four different states, and it’s one of my favorite wine stores. Get on their mailing list, and you’ll periodically receive email coupons for $15 off a purchase of $100. And if you have an American Express card, sometimes they mail coupons for $25 off a purchase of $100.

IMG_5208On the internet, wine.com can be a good place to get Champagne, but only if you buy it on sale. Most of the time they sell Champagne at list price, but sometimes you can get lucky. Again, being on their email list is the best way to stay on top of when they’re having sales. Back in February they had a nice Champagne sale and we picked up five bottles, a few that we were already familiar with and a few that I wanted to try. Wine.com also has a sister, discount site called wineshopper.com. You have to be a “member,” but all that requires is signing up with an email and password; there’s no fee. Wine Shopper offers great deals on limited wines, and the deals are time-limited as well. A few years ago I picked up four bottles of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve for $25.99 a bottle; its regular price is $38.99. (By way of comparison, the PALCB usually sells it for $36.99 as a regular price, and sometimes puts it on sale for even less.)

The biggest downside to ordering wine online is the shipping cost. At wineshopper.com you can get free shipping if you spend at least $99. If you join wine.com’s Steward Ship program, you can get free shipping from both sites with no minimum purchase. Steward Ship is only $49/year, so if you plan to buy wine more than once a year from those websites, it’s worthwhile. The other major downside to wine.com is that pricing and availability vary depending on where you’re shipping the wine. They have multiple warehouses throughout the country that service different regions. If you want to ship wine to North Carolina, you can only choose from the wines stocked in the warehouse serving North Carolina, which is a much smaller selection than the warehouse that serves California.

IMG_5343I keep a note on my phone of prices for certain benchmark Champagnes from various shops so I know when I see a good price. (Wine Searcher is only as good as the information available on the internet, and most grocery stores don’t post wine prices online, so it can be helpful to have my own notes.) I can tell you that Trader Joe’s is typically not a good place to buy Champagne. They sell it at list price, and I’ve never seen it on sale. Harris Teeter can be a good choice when they have sale pricing.

Here’s a list of my Champagne purchases over the past year. You’ll notice that I pay more for rosé and vintage Champagne.

  • Veuve Clicquot Brut (yellow label), Potomac Wine & Spirit, Georgetown, $39.99 (list price $54.99)
  • Pommery Brut Royal, wine.com, $39.99 (list price $45.00)
  • Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut, wine.com, $49.99 (list price $49.99)
  • Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé, wine.com, $51.99 (list price $51.99)
  • Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, wine.com, $29.99 (list price $38.99)
  • Canard-Duchêne Authentic Brut Rosé, wine.com, $39.99 (list price $55.00)
  • Moët & Chandon Imperial, PA Wine & Spirits, $38.99 (list price $49.99)
  • Pommery Wintertime Blanc de Noirs, CDG Duty-Free, €43 (approx. $58)
  • Vincent d’Astre Reve d’Été Rosé, Pierry tasting room in France, €19.90 (approx. $27)
  • Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes d’Or Brut Rosé Millésimé 2005, at the winery in France, €100 (approx. $134–a splurge)
  • Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé Millésimé 2004, at the winery in France, €53 (approx. $71)
  • Taittinger Brut Millésimé 2000, at the winery in France, €45 (approx. $60)
  • Taittinger Brut Millésimé 2002, at the winery in France, €45 (approx. $60)
  • Taittinger Brut Millésimé 2004, at the winery in France, €45 (approx. $60)

I would love to hear about your favorite Champagne purchases and where you go to get deals!