Thursday 4 May 2017

Tesco Champagne v Mouthwash – Go Compare!

What?? Tesco has been selling a Champagne at a lower price than mouthwash, according to the calculations of The Drinks Business. What on earth are they suggesting? Surely Champagne and mouthwash can hardly be mentioned in the same breath, bad or otherwise?

There must be issues here which go beyond mere price alone. And so it falls to Sediment to properly compare the two: Tesco’s £9 a bottle (on offer) Louis Delaunay Champagne; and Listerine, the most famous of mouthwashes. Each with their history and tradition. Each similarly chilled and served.

(NB: if you try this yourself at home, and your wife is anything like Mrs K, you may have to explain why there is a bottle of mouthwash in the fridge. Or champagne in the bathroom.)

In terms of appearance, the Tesco Champagne wins hands down. Louis Delaunay presents all the classic elements of Champagne, from the green glass bottle, the foil and the wire cage, to the traditional typeface and parchment-coloured label. Although, the back label speaks in surprisingly modern colloquial language, of “a lemony fresh wine with white peach flavours and citrus zing”. “Zing”? A common Champenois term, is it, “zing”?

Shrewdly, perhaps, Listerine’s label says nothing of its flavour. But it does convey a lot of information and guidance which might be useful for first-time Champagne drinkers too, such as how much to put in one’s mouth. Indeed, for the £9 Champagne audience, perhaps Tesco might consider something similar to Listerine’s warning, not to “swig from the bottle”?

However convenient for guests, it is hard to imagine putting out a bottle of Listerine, without suggesting that your meal presented some kind of oral hygiene hazard. Whereas the bottle of Louis Delaunay Champagne would grace any dining table. Particularly given the judicious absence from its labels of the word “Tesco”.

The Listerine label carries very precise instructions about how to open the bottle; the Champagne, despite being much more difficult to open, does not. I wonder which closure is actually more child-proof?

The Listerine also conveys instructions about how to close the bottle again, an act I imagine unlikely to be troubling customers of £9 Champagne.

In the glass, it is easy to distinguish between the two. The one exhibiting a kind of cloudy malevolence is, I was relieved to see, the mouthwash. And the Listerine has no mousse. The only way to achieve mousse in the mouthwash would be to eat one before you swill.

The Champagne requires you to get your nose right into the glass to pick up its very light, citrussy bouquet. That is a bad idea when it comes to the Listerine. It launches a sinus-pursing assault, with an antiseptic aroma redolent of surgical procedures.

And flavour-wise, in a traditional sniff, sip and spit tasting, the Champagne definitely comes out on top. It’s a bit bland, with a slightly bitter aftertaste, but it’s genuinely dry, faintly appley and perfectly drinkable. Whereas the Listerine is like an immensely strong eucalyptus cough lozenge. I mean, my palate has suffered some pretty dreadful stuff while writing Sediment, but this Listerine has been the worst. No wonder it hasn’t got an IWSC medal.

But… the mouthwash has merits of its own. It has to be said that chilled Champagne is very unsuited to swilling. I tried it, with a dose of Champagne measured in the handy Listerine cap, its flavour only marginally tainted by the plastic. The chill and the effervescence combine in a kind of oral explosion, like setting off a fire extinguisher in your mouth. It makes the insides of your cheeks crackle. After a second or two it has become a mouthful of froth, threatening to exit via your nose  – and after the full Listerine-recommended 30 seconds it has all but evaporated, leaving a sort of residue coating your teeth and gums.

And have you ever tried gargling with Champagne? May I recommend that you don’t? It took a warm cup of tea before I could speak properly again. It’s like having a small spiny creature wriggling in your oesophagus, as the cold needles of effervescence stab into the lining of your throat.

So you spends your money, and you takes your choice. Yes, Louis Delaunay also comes in a rosé, but then Listerine also comes in attractive shades of blue, green and purple. Yes, there is more drama in opening a Champagne bottle, but the Listerine screwcap doubles as its own shot glass, a marketing trick which Champagne seems to have missed.

And yet it’s clear that even Tesco, despite selling the two at comparable prices, accords one a greater ostensible value than the other. Read into this what you will: the Champagne on their shelves carries a security tag. The mouthwash does not.



  1. Of course, you haven't mentioned a very important advantage of the Listerine: that it comes in the traditional bottle size of one imperial pint (or as near as makes no difference). This makes it, as Winston Churchill said, perfect for two at lunch or one at dinner.

    1. "As near as makes no difference"? I'm glad I'm not the chap saying that to Winston Churchill…


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