Festive fizz

Over the past few years Prosecco has become a byword for great value sparkling wine. However, as Christmas approaches, do we to stick to this or trade up to a particular favourite Champagne or look a little further afield?

Party fizz
Obviously this is where Prosecco comes into its own. Affordable, light and easy drinking, we can’t seem to get enough of it (leading to scare stories about supplies running out). As it’s Christmas don’t go for the cheapest (blandest) options, try the excellent value Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Prosecco Superiore Brut (Sainsbury’s £10 with a further 25% discount on purchases of any 6 bottles of wine for delivery by 6 December*) or Jeio Brut from Bisol, one of Prosecco’s most reliable brands (Flagship Wines of St Albans £12.95).

Unlike most Prosecco, Cava is bottle fermented like Champagne, often offering better value on the quality stakes. However, it is drier, firmer and more tangy in flavour making it better for nibbles (and it’s a dream with fish and chips). Codorníu Seleccíon Raventos NV (Majestic Wines £11.99 or £7.99 mixed six price with current 33% discount on Cava) is a particularly good. However, for a few pounds more at £16.99 you can have the excellent value Co-op own label Les Pionniers Champagne Selected Cuvée Brut recently named best non-vintage bubbly by Which magazine.

Away from the Champagne region, France produces some great value bubbles often labelled Crémant. Look out for multi awarding winning Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura Chardonnay (Aldi £7.29). There’s also the ever-reliable Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs (Majestic £13.99 or £11.19 mix six price or Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Pinot Noir (currently a steal from Sainsbury’s at £7.50 with a further 25% discount*).

Fancy fizz for gifts
This is when you might want a recognisable and reassuring brand and/or smart packaging. English sparkling wine is now on par with or even better than many Champagnes and Nyetimber is the leading brand: Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2010 (Wine Society £27.50). Whether it’s down to climate change or rapidly growing expertise or, indeed both, English fizz keeps getting better and better.

However, if you’re considering a Grande Marque (ie big brand) Champagne, the most reliable include Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV (Majestic £45 or £29.98 mix six price or £32.24 from Waitrose until 6 Jan 2016 ), Bollinger Special Cuvée NV (currently reduced to £30 with a further 25% discount*) and Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV (Majestic Wine £35.98 mixed mix price).

In contrast small growers also offer top-notch fizz such as Bérèche et Fils Brut NV (Wine Society £26): delicious as well as stylishly packaged. Or how about a jeroboam of The Society’s Champagne Brut NV? It’s the equivalent of four bottles, therefore reasonably priced at £119.

Spoil yourself fizz
This is what you might crack open on Christmas Day depending on numbers or save for an intimate evening. Splashing out on some Krug sounds blingy, but it’s utterly delicious and goes a long way – rich and satisfying (it’s been aged in oak) and wonderful with a simple, luxurious supper of smoked salmon, new potatoes and salad or a smart cheeseboard (and work out cheaper than dining out). Krug Grand Cuvée (Majestic £135, mix six price £121.50).

More realistic price-wise, Pierre Gimmonet Premier Cru Brut was our wedding fizz – elegant, pure, racy and fantastic value for money (Wine Society £24). Another gem from the Wine Society is Deutz, Cuvée William Deutz Vintage Brut from the exquisite 2002 vintage which is drinking beautifully now and whose £85 price ticket doesn’t quite reach Krug’s dizzy heights.

Finally, at the other end of the scale, I’d be just as happy with a stash of half bottles of Waitrose Brut NV (£10.99). Ideal for a cheeky little aperitif, sipping in the bath or brightening up a dull day.

Cheers – wishing you the very best for the season!

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