Can a good socialist tell the difference between cheap plonk and the best bubbly?
Our plucky columnists put their palates and their politics on the line to find out. Berry Bros & Rudd's vintage champagnes were rigorously blind-tasted against supermarket fizz by Jon Henley, assistant comment editor David Shariatmadari, Zoe Williams and Marina Hyde.
Darker appearance than most on offer. Marina was impressed with bubbles that "really applied themselves to the task of bubbling". Complex and layered, smoky and rich. Despite the words "cat pee" appearing in one taster's notes, "smells like teen spirit" and "burnt rubber" in others', it achieved no less than four out of five from all, which may tell us quite a lot about our panel's personal tastes.
This was found to be silky and light, with Jon finding notes of honey and lychee. The word "smooth" appears in all testers' notes. One judge was so taken with it, they awarded full marks, while it was "a bit insipid" for another ("a champagne that blends into the background"). It's "attractive but knows it" offered another judge, grudgingly.
Pierre Darcys Champagne Brut Asda, £10 (normally £24.99)
Marina was unimpressed with the laziness of the bubbles in this one and another thought it "eggy". (Since they gave it four out of five, we assume eggy is good. Like cat pee, and burnt rubber.) One judge said "exotic – not bad at all", while David detected "a touch of bubblegum and candy floss" and found it "on the sweet side but quite cute".
Premier Cru Brut Tesco, £19.99
Marina had this down as being a bit dirty, all leather and lace, like an Alice Cooper video (again, this translated to a high mark for her), while another thought it young and fresh. "Bitter, too dry, like sucking a lemon" disapproved Jon, bringing it down to a three.
Ruinart, Rose BB&R, £55
"Pink! So pink!" This "light and summery" fizz brought some relief for glassy-eyed panelists intently staring from one pale yellow glassful to another. Smooth and savoury, its structure particularly impressed Zoe: "Sort of architectural, opening out like a cathedral."
Vintage Champagne 2004 Waitrose, £30.99
This "floral" fizz inspired a lyrical "scent of a French meadow after the rain" from one sipper and a rather less poetic "smells like a hangover" from another. It was nice and easy, and softer on the palate than others, and while someone found it "a bit thin" it was enjoyable overall. Bubble watcher Marina observed that it "whizzed around a bit but it was less fizzy when its big moment came (we've all been there)".
This was "smooth and mild, no bitterness". David thought it had notes of caramel, but a cheap version, "Cadbury's caramel", he concluded.
Looks much more dainty than it is, thought one judge. "Petrolly," said Zoe, "quite Bruce Willis macho, in a nice way – if I smelled that at a party, I'd think they probably wanted me to leave quite soon."
"Tastes a bit childish but I like it," said Zoe, "thin and a bit sweet, like a schoolkid in an M&S advert." A second agreed: "Too sweet for me," though a third thought it bitter. David found much to like in its notes of butterscotch, "warm and homely like honeycomb".
Alfred Gratien, Brut BB&R, £30.60
Marina felt she could relate to this "pale and uninteresting" sample; for another it was brandy-like. A third found it quite bitter, while David thought it "steely, elegant, a bit of a Sean Connery".
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