Champagne is probably more important in Oxford, generally speaking, than it is at other universities but during Matriculation weekend it is crucial. You might be tempted to spend a fiver on a bottle of prosecco/cava/sparkling rubbish but, whilst obviously there is nothing wrong with that, I would encourage you not to. Matriculation is the symbolic culmination of all the effort you put in to getting in to Oxford and it also represents the beginning of your academic career and therefore you deserve to indulge yourself. Champagne is obviously, however, expensive so I’m here to help you get the most out of your money.
Oddbins: While these shops are quite good value for other wines (their 2 for £10 deal, for example), their champagnes are quite overpriced at the moment. They do at least carry a wide-range and the shop on the High Street is the most convenient place in Oxford to buy Dom Pérignon (£117.25 – not good value). No Cristal, sadly. I’ve made the assumption that you have heard of these wines but to clarify they are the prestige cuvées of the Moët & Chandon and Roederer houses respectively. Oddbins do currently have a special offer on Heidsieck Blue-Top so that if you and two friends each buy a bottle it works out at £20 each but I’m afraid Blue-Top does not come highly recommended. Also avoid Mumm. They are currently offering Laurent-Perrier Rosé at £45, which is good value and a decent wine if you fancy spending that much.
Majestic: There are several of these stores around Oxford but most are a decent trek away (unless you’re at Hugh’s) and they have a six-bottle minimum spend. But, if you are willing to buy some other wines at the same time (they have some for under a fiver), then you will find their champagnes are good value. They also deliver, so you don’t have to carry the bottles back yourself and their staff are very knowledgeable. They currently have Taittinger on offer for £25 which is a great price for a delicious non-vintage wine. Non-vintage means that the wines from several harvests are blended to produce a single wine which is representative of the house’s style.
Tesco: Obviously this is the most practical place to shop for most people and, due to their size, they are often able to price more competitively than other wine merchants. Currently their offer on Francois Dubois Rosé NV is good value at £17.50 but, if you fancy something really exceptional, they also stock Moët & Chandon vintage 2002; currently it has a youthful palette nuanced by the beginnings of mature wine flavours (especially nuttiness) – well worth it.
Treat yourself and enjoy!
[Picture: Sergey Melkonov]