The Sublime Joy of Costco’s $28 Champagne
Only in Alberta you say? Pity.
Kirkland Signature NV Champagne $28 (Alberta only)
I was back in Alberta for Thanksgiving and there are few things I’m more thankful for than the shear existence of the Costco liquor store. Most B.C. wine lovers have known about the glories of Alberta’s private liquor stores for ages, but what isn’t talked about as much as how much prices have crept up in the province in the last few years. Don’t believe us? Look at the bottle of the lovely super Tuscan Il Fauno at Calgary’s famed Willow Park and at our much derided BCLDB. And don’t even get me started about how much craft beer is in Alberta.
But then there’s Costco and its attached liquor stores. It’s heaven. Heaven. No sooner had I walked in did I see this:
What is that you ask? And why is it so big? It’s a 1.75 litre bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. And, as you can see, it’s $399. For reference a 750ml (i.e. 42% the size) bottle will set you back $300. So now you know what I want for Christmas.
But I wasn’t here for whisky, I was here for something a little lighter, both on the palate and the pocketbook. Real honest-to-goodness Champagne for less than $30. I first came across this wine on vacation in Kauai a few years where it was $22 and I drank a lot of it. To answer your first question: Yes, this is real Champagne (roving French patent attorneys would have a field day if it weren’t). It’s actually made by Janisson from the well regarded village of Verzenay (although it’s tough to get a lot of info on this) and evidently is a blend 65% Pinot Noir, 25% Pinot Meunier, 15% Chardonnay. Those are relatively classic proportions (Veuve Cliquot is usually in the 50% to 55% Pinot Noir, 15% to 20% Pinot Meunier, 28% to 33% Chardonnay range) and the result is what I’ll call, non-pejoratively, a middle-of-the road Champagne. It doesn’t have the heft of Krug or the lightness of Ruinart or the finish of either of them. It is most closely akin to the workhorse that is Veuve—a nice mix of citrus, almond, light toast that tastes great on its own and pairs almost seamlessly with almost any food you can throw at it.
But the real charm of it is that you can buy it and drink it like everyday wine. A bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, a relentlessly forgettable wine, is $20. For a few bucks more, you’re popping corks and living large. I imagine if I lived in Alberta I’d at some point tire of Costco a touch. The selection is quite limited and skews towards more fruit-forward wines, but for the few times a year I’m there, it’s nirvana.