Six of the best champagnes under $60

Living Well | Tianna Nadalin | Posted on 24 April 2021

Champagne and sparkling wine explained, plus six of the best bubbles under $60.  

Australia’s love affair with French bubbles shows no signs of going flat. Sales of the effervescent drink surged by 13 per cent in 2020 as locked-down Aussies treated themselves to affordable luxuries. 

We caught up with RACV Club sommelier and resident wine expert Christian Maier to talk all things bubbles and find out some of his favourite champagnes under $50

Rows of champagne glasses being topped up with champagne

A beginner's guide to Champagne

What is champagne?

A sparkling wine can only be called champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, in France. “The region produces wines that are very fresh and elegant, which is one of the key attributes of champagne and what sets it apart from other sparkling wines," Christian says. "That, plus hundreds of years of practice.”

This prized viticultural region (which was UNESCO World Heritage-listed for its cultural significance in 2015) lies in the north-east of France and is home to more than 300 villages, 4500 grape growers, many hundreds of champagne houses and more than 5000 brands. 

What is not champagne?

Sparkling wines from any other region in France. These are labelled cremant (and they can represent excellent quality and value for money — look out for cremant de Loire, Bourgogne and Alsace). Sparkling wines from anywhere else in the world are simply labelled sparkling wine. This includes prosecco from Italy, cava from Spain and sekt from Germany. 

What grapes are used in champagne? 

“There are three main grape varieties used to make champagne,” Christian says, “Pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier – and each contributes special characteristics to the final blend.” 

Pinot noir and pinot meunier are both dark-skinned grapes, and are responsible for giving champagne structure and body, while also imparting forest fruit aromas. Chardonnay is essential for giving champagne its freshness and acidity, as well as its biscuity and brioche characteristics.  

How is champagne made?

A defining feature of champagne is that it is always made in the methode champenoise (or traditional method) which produces natural bubbles that are finer and longer-lasting than other carbonation methods. 

“What is unique about the methode champenoise,” Christian says, “is that after the first fermentation in the barrel, champagne is bottled, yeast is added and then the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. This is how champagne develops its signature bread and biscuit characteristics.”

How can it taste the same from year to year?

To achieve a consistent house style from year to year, the Champenois (champagne makers) became master mixologists.

“They blend grapes from different years, different vineyards, different vineyard plots, different grape varieties and even different parts of the press in order to keep the house style and quality consistent,” Christian says. “This is very clever when you are in a region that is borderline for grape ripening. In exceptional years, however, they will declare a vintage, and this champagne will reflect the character of the year more than the non-vintage house style.”

Five bottles of champagnes lined up in a row on white background

Six superb champagnes under $60

Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut NV, $52.99

If you’re after an instant crowd-pleaser, look no further than the red stripe. Mumm’s popular Cordon Rouge Brut NV is fresh and fruity, refined and complex, making the ideal drop for any celebration. It leads with a burst of citrus, grapefruit and apricot that gives way to pastry, marzipan and lingering caramel aromas. 

Charles Orban Blanc de Blancs Champagne, $52.99

This Charles Orban blanc de blanc is a fresh and elegant champagne made using 100 per cent chardonnay grapes to produce a bubbly, dry wine with lovely biscuit and brioche aromas and notes of lemon curd and meringue.  

Louis Auger Champagne Brut, $34.99

Coming in at under $35 a bottle, this bright brut champagne is a steal. It is bursting with citrus and apple aromas, underpinned by delicate pastry and sourdough notes. If you’re after an instant crowd-pleaser, look no further than the red stripe. Mumm’s popular Cordon Rouge Brut NV is fresh and fruity, refined and complex, making the ideal drop for any celebration. It leads with a burst of citrus, grapefruit and apricot that gives way to pastry, marzipan and lingering caramel aromas. 

Lanson Black Label Champagne NV, $49.90

This bubbly beauty is a bouquet of citrus, stone fruits and florals. With generous lemon curd and creamy, toasty complexity, Lanson's Black Label NV Champagne is a consistently crisp, fresh and delicious bubbly.

Piper Heidsieck Brut Champagne NV, $47.30

With a higher percentage of pinot noir and pinot meunier in the blend, this Piper Heidsieck bubbly offers a fruitier, more easy-drinking style of champagne. It’s a great all-rounder.

Duperrey Champagne Brut Premier Cru, $44.95

For something fine, fresh and fruity, it's hard to beat this impressively easydrinking number from Duperrey. Flavours of lemon yoghurt and stone fruit are balanced by fresh minerality, while subtle honey notes and nuttiness linger on the palate. 


Save on wine

RACV Members can save on wine by purchasing a Woolworths’ WISH gift card. Go to the Woolworths RACV Member Offer website, enter your membership details, then redeem your gift card at thousands of participating stores across Australia, including Dan Murhpy's and BWS.