I read here that tourists had been drinking "French champagne" in a well known cabaret in Paris.
Actually "champagne" can only be French because no sparkling wine is allowed to call itself champagne if not produced in the area of Champagne (33.000 hectares). As a general rule, grapes used must be the white Chardonnay, or the dark-skinned "red wine grapes" Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.
The champagne producers are very strict on their label protection. Some years ago they sued a French manufacturer of perfumes because he used the word champagne for one of his perfumes bottled in a flask copying the champagne cork!
Nevertheless it might happen that a tourist is served a glass "champagne" which is in fact another sparkling wine. Probably he will not taste the difference because they produce in France sparkling wines by the "méthode champenoise" (double fermentation process) which are called "crémants" and are often very good. The method of production is nearly the same, the grapes "cépages" are from others parts of France.
Personally I often observed that the difference in taste between a good "crémant brut" at about 10 - 12 €/bottle in the shops is much smaller than the difference in price with a champagne. Well known commercial brands of champagne are sold in France and Belgium (we are the number 1 champagne drinker per capita outside France) at about 25 - 30 €/bottle in any shop large or small. Of course there are superior types of champagne like the "milésimés" vintages whose prices start at 50 € and can reach 400 €.
My preference goes to the "Crémant d'Alsace" but that's a question of taste. The grapes are: cépage pinot blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay or riesling.
Others might prefer a "Crémant de Bourgogne" or a "Crémant de Loire".
My philosophy is consequently champagne on the great occasions, crémant in daily life.
There are Nicolas wine shops all over France, Belgium and Great Britain but the shop at the Place de la Madeleine is the largest and shows in his superb cellar a selection of wines, champagnes, alcohols in the upper class competing in this way with neighbours Fauchon and Hediard. Here you will find exceptional and rare vintages but off course at high prices up to 1.000 € and more for a bottle.
The range of Nicolas start at 2,50 € but the lowest prices I saw were around 10 €/bottle.
For the lower prices you better go to one of the other Nicolas shops in Paris than the "haut de gamme" shop at La Madeleine.
A few years ago I bought some of their champagnes at their shop of Troyes-en- Champagne and the ratio quality/price was very good in the less than 25 € range.
In August 2013 the shop was closed for renovation works.
On the way to Le Grand Colbert I found time to pick up some wine at the Nicolas wine shop on 22, rue des Petits Champs where I had a nice conversation about American/French relations & politics with the proprietor of the store, Florent. He advised me on wine & showed me a bottle Pouilly sur Loire, a nice inexpensive substitute for Sancerre (about 8€) and 2 bottles of the Nicolas brand (less than 3€ apiece).
What to pay: 2-3€ for the least expensive bottles to several hundred euros for wine & champagne.
Nicolas is the name of a chain of wine shops you find all over Paris. They are known not only for their great selections but also for the excellent service.
I accompanied my aunt to the location on rue de Buci as she wanted to get a bottle of white wine to bring home. The clerk was very patient and explained the different choices they had.
What to buy: Nicolas has an extensive wine selection in their shops so you can pretty much find what you're looking for easily.
What to pay: Varies per product
MAny wine stores in Paris and some with great pedigree ,however, when it comes to the best range of simple wines to the fancy ones, and great uniform service in all, the Nicolas wine shop chain is the best.
You can have it here in Paris or in other city in France and will get the same service, I follow them all over, and never disappointed, use to shop here as was on way home each day I worked in Paris ,but where I work now they have one and its the same coverage, service, and friendlinest with good advise.
Actually this one is the biggest in France, with a bar à vins, and free tastings fridays and saturdays from 12h to 20H.
What to buy: wines of France of course
What to pay: a range of house wines to buy them by the case and all the great wines of France at good prices, all ranges.
Wine for everyone's taste
What to buy: The local wine with what looks like a hand written lable, white, red and rose. A good friend of ours recommended it to us and we were hooked.
What to pay: As little as £2.50