Soda Stream Champagne – would YOU be fooled?

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Soda Stream Champagne – would YOU be fooled?

Champagne is undoubtably the drink of the elite, and the very word conjures images of wealth, luxury and glamour. This prestigious drink is not for everyday consumption by the masses – the hefty price tag ensures it maintains its exclusivity. What makes it so expensive, and what’s so special about champagne anyway?

The famous experiment

When uberchef Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck set up a stall in the banking district of London, he offered his sophisticated passers-by a taste of 2 ‘champagnes’, and asked them to say which they preferred. One was a champagne, and the other was a supermarket wine called Blue Nun which he had fizzed up with a Soda Stream machine. You can watch the video of this astonishing experiment at the end of this post. Guess which beverage won? Did Heston turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse?

You can hear the French shrieking ‘sauvages‘ from all the way over the Channel: more 50% of participants gave the crudely carbonated Blue Nun the thumbs up. It must have confirmed all Gallic suspicions about the English and their questionable taste. (As an aside, let me mention that the English icon of style, Victoria Beckham, is said to prefer Blue Nun to champagne!!)

Experts could rip Heston’s experiment apart – who is to say that his subjects had expert palates? He doesn’t specifically mention which champagne he used (seems like Jacquard), and he could easily have picked one of the poorer relations in the champagne family (there are some decidedly average champagnes on the market – all that glitters is not gold). But in the wake of this experiment, you can hear hordes of people asking ‘well, if you can make it in a Soda Stream, why is champagne so bloody expensive?’.

Why can’t you make champagne in Soda Stream?

Lots of reasons, actually. The first being that the French Appellation laws mean that only grapes grown in the designated region of Champagne in France may be used to produce champagne. Try calling your finest sparkling wine from say, California, ‘champagne’, and the wrath of the French will descend upon you in the form of pitch-forks and massive law-suits. It doesn’t stop with ‘terroir’. These laws make the production of champagne one of the most regulated industries in the world.

In order for a French wine-maker from Champagne to produce a sparkling wine he can legally call ‘champagne’ he has to conform to endless regulations to see that he is not taking short cuts. These include such exhausting requirements as having to harvest the grapes by hand, limits on the maximum weight of grapes that may be harvested from any one vineyard, more rules about the production of the must from pressing the grapes, minimum and maximum alcohol content….and on and on.

What is the difference between cheap sparkling wine, and good sparkling wine and champagne?

There are two ways of getting ze sparkle into ze bottle. The first is the crude carbonisation that makes your soft-drink fizzy (you can follow in Michelin star Chef Blumenthal’s illustrious footsteps, and do it yourself with Soda Stream). This screams ‘tacky’, and ‘cheap’ – you don’t need to be a wine critic to know that. The second is the prestigious ‘Methode Champenoise‘. It is an expensive, time-consuming process which results in the bubbles being produced in the bottle during a ‘second fermentation’, and nothing legally called ‘champagne’ is made in any other way.

Is there any way to tell proper champagne from cheap stuff?

The ‘Methode Champenoise’ creates a finer, long-lasting bubble than you get from simply carbonating the wine. Remember this if you ever get pulled over to participate in a Blue Nun type experiment. Look at the bubbles in the bubblies, and compare them. The Soda Stream version will produce larger, coarser bubbles, and the champagne will have tiny little shooting stars. This could be something fun to try on unsuspecting friends – it would be interesting to see what the results were. Let me know if you do!

If you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear them.

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About the Author

Marie-Ora is obsessed with pronunciation, languages, food, wine, cooking, 4Foots. and chocolate. When she isn't working, she enjoys snacking, sipping on wine, reading and napping, and is currently researching methods to do all 4 simultaneously. Although Marie-Ora has absolutely no vices, she is easily provoked by mis-pronunciations, bad coffee, and unwarranted hype.

9 Comments

  1. JRS  September 6, 2011

    Snigger!! I always suspected that the various obnoxiously priced drinks were a con. Once worked in a restaurant where the owner used to re-bottle leftover wine – no-one ever caught on, even when he was charging ridiculous amounts for the bottle. I think that the sieve, the funnel and the decanter were his best friends. By the way, not defending this, it’s actually disgusting in so many ways, but just saying, people pay bucketloads when it can’t possibly make any difference to them….

    (reply)
    • Marie-Ora  September 6, 2011

      The word ‘sieve’ sends chills down my spine!!!!! What did he need the sieve for?????? You surely are not saying he was reclaiming wine from *eyetwitch* glasses of wine patrons didn’t finish???????????????

      (reply)
      • JRS  September 6, 2011

        Yup. I can go into detail about why the sieve, but let’s just say that ANY leftover wine was recycled. At a rate that Greenpeace would be proud of.

        (reply)
        • Marie-Ora  September 6, 2011

          Noooo! That is not recycling – that’s a bio health hazard. Thank-you for sharing this (I think). Next time I go to a restaurant I will watch extra carefully to see that foil is intact…..

          (reply)
  2. Shane  October 30, 2011

    Oh yuck JRS — > I also worked in a restaurant where they would re-use everything, even left over soup.

    Disgusting…

    But I dig the soda stream idea for wine. I once tried to refizz beer and it exploded.

    (reply)
    • Marie-Ora  November 2, 2011

      It’s terrifying to think what goes on behind kitchen doors in restaurants….

      (reply)
  3. Frank  April 14, 2014

    Surprisingly, the bead on a Sodastream carbonated white wine (I used a Semillon Sauvignon Blanc) is as fine as the real thing. While carbonated water has large bubbles, carbonated wine has a fine bead – not as easy to spot as I thought – Heston’s experiment may have succeeded for the same reason.
    A word to the wise – the Sodastream warnings aren’t overly conservative, it’s easier to make a mess and waste large amounts of wine than to create a passable sparkling wine.

    (reply)
    • Marie-Ora  April 14, 2014

      I’ve been looking forward to some feedback from someone who has tried this! Very interesting – wow, I would not have thought you would get that result. But looks like you tried a couple of methods?

      (reply)
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