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A Sparkling End to the Year

Today’s post turns the spotlight on sparkling wine to celebrate Christmas and the New Year and includes a few English versions that I think you will especially enjoy.

Having recommended a wide selection festive wines over the last few weeks, our site today puts the spotlight on bubbles for Christmas and the New Year.

As before, there is a clear focus on the traditional but, given the season, prices have been set a bit higher.

True to MidWeek Wines guiding principles, though, recommendations set out to be accessible and most are available in High Street stores.

Remember that many featured wines now have a hyperlink to the retailer’s website for all the reasons I set out down the page in a recent Top Tip.

As ever, use any available pictures to help find the wine where they form part of a crowded display.

Great Party Wine

Keep a bottle of this handy for unexpected guests or other informal Christmas events since it caters for most tastes with a measure of sweetness (counterintuitively, what Extra Dry signifies) and because it is sourced from the area around Conegliano and Valdobbiadene – where some of the best prosecco vineyards are found.

Behind its mellow red apple fruit, Prosecco Spumante Conegliano and Valdobbiadene Extra Dry DOCG (With a list price of £7.49 at Lidl and 11% abv) has sherbet freshness, a good mouthfeel, and an inviting edge of ripe pear sweetness.

As you can see from the comments, a regular (and long term) MidWeeker also add this advice “2016 vintage cava from Aldi seen on the shelves this weekend is surprisingly good and a cut above any Cava sold in recent times at around £6.99!” ….. Thank you Richard.

Sparkling wine from France

So jealously does France protect the “Champagne” name that sparkling wine from the eight other regions using the “traditional” secondary fermentation method cannot mention the champagne name on the label; so, they are usually called “Cremant”.

Bordeaux cremants are neither the best known (with only a couple of hundred acres devoted to them) nor the most typical (often using sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes) – but this one really impressed me.

With its invigorating mouth feel (despite relatively slow bubbles) Calvet Cremant de Bordeaux Brut (£8 – instead of £10 until 1 January – at Tesco and 12%) has fresh citrus acidity (possibly sauvignon at work) combined with fleshy apple fruit, toasty depth and subtle hints of orange.

A welcome newcomer

I have not seen this particular name before but it turns out to be an enjoyable (and terrific value) blend of grapes from several English vineyards with chardonnay contributing just over half of its content and pinot noir providing the lion’s share of the remainder.

Soft, slightly sweet touches are clearly in evidence in Ellercomber English Sparkling NV (£18 – instead of £24 until 1 January – at Sainsbury’s and 11.5%) which is centred around raspberry and red apple fruit supported by lemon acidity, a good mousse and just a gentle hint of biscuit.

And a second English option

Staying with English sparkling wine, this is a hugely impressive version from Mountfield in East Sussex – not a dozen miles from where I grew up but which was then merely famous for its gypsum mines – but here is a bottle that fully justifies its price premium.

Curious isn’t it? It never occurred to me then that there might be a connection between one calcium compound (gypsum) and a wine related one – the chalky soils of Champagne.

As for the wine, it was the delicate balance that first called my attention to 2013 Hoffmann & Rathbone Classic Cuvee (£37.95 at www.davywine.co.uk and 12%): which neatly unites lime based fruit, a lively but smooth mousse and a roundedness with clear biscotti influences.

Now for a pink option

Our English rosé is from a vineyard that has been going for about 10 years and lies to the west of Alton where it uses pinot noir and meunier for this wine but adds a tiny drop of the early ripening pinot noir précoce (frühburgunder in Germany) to the mix.

Delicate but with creamy richness, 2015 Hattingley Valley Rosé (£36 from www.hattingleyvalley.com and 12.5%) is a delightful cocktail of raspberry, apple and red cherry fruit, enlivened by vibrant lemon acidity, a nice soft mousse and just a whisper of sweetness.   

Back in the Supermarkets

Both Lidl and Aldi have good value festive season champagnes (often dropping prices still further for the last few days before Christmas) and I am constantly impressed by this well-made blend of pinot noir, meunier and chardonnay – in equal measures.

Floral and lively, Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (currently £12.49 at Aldi and 12%) opens with tingling lemon and apple acidity built around an attractive mousse coupled with an appealing depth that completes the package.     

But for a little more money

Full marks to Tesco for this guy that won silver at the International Wine & Spirits Competition and is made with grapes from Premier and Grand Cru vineyards in the Cȏte des Blancs – legendary chardonnay country (and, appropriately, that variety provides 70% of the blend at work here).

Amazing then how little money will secure Finest Premier Cru Champagne (£20 at Tesco and 12.5%) for you and, thus, allow you to relish its apple fruit, lemon based acidity, subtle mousse and bready depth.

Now for a more specialist option

In terms of innovation and open mindedness, Gosset is close to (if not at) the front of the queue with its policy of aging wines for something like double the legal minimum and eschewing malolactive conversion – all factors which, in my view, contribute to the brilliant results on display here.

Enjoy then the textured depth of Gosset Grande Reserve Brut Champagne (£50 at Waitrose and 12%) with its apple and pear fruit, lively grapefruit acidity and nutty background.

Finally, then, a Vintage

The Wine Society have been working with Alfred Gratien champagne for over a century, so it is no surprise that the supplier understands exactly what ticks boxes for the Society’s members – and delivers it handsomely in this example from the generous and very palatable 2006 vintage.

Chardonnay dominates the complex 2006 Alfred Gratien Brut Champagne (£42 at The Wine Society and 12.5%) which has mellow lime fruit, zesty acidity, an excellent mousse and the type of brioche based complexity that typifies vintage champagne (and helps explain its higher price).

My 2019 sign off

This is the last of our pre- Christmas selections, so it just remains for me to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a good New Year.

This site attracts one of the highest levels of engagement among its subscribers of all UK wine websites, so let me end the year by warmly thanking you all for your continued support.

We shall be back in business on 15 January with a look at wines attuned to more frugal post-Christmas budgets.

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10 Responses

  1. I always look forward to your updates, Brian. Wishing you a very happy festive period and lots of good, er, wine!

  2. Brian,

    As ever thank you for the great work you do highlighting the best wine selections.

    By return the 2016 vintage cava from Aldi seen on the shelves this weekend is surprisingly good and a cut above any Cava sold in recent times at around £6.99!

    Kind regards,

    Rich Wheeler

  3. Thank you Brian

    For all your missives this year. I do enjoy them and much of what you suggest that I try too is very good.
    I shall be in Lidl tomorrow and will pick up your first-listed recommendation Prosecco Spumante Conegliano and Valdobbiadene Extra Dry DOCG. I see the current price is a welcome reduction to £6.99.
    Best wishes to you and yours for Xmas and New Year.
    Eddie Walker.

  4. Hi Brian, just to say best wishes to you and yours for a great Christmas and a healthy and safe 2020. At this end of things we have a few bottles poised ready to go over the next couple of weeks or so!! Keep up the good work – things wouldn’t be quite the same without your wise words!

    Chris Willis (LIF all those years ago!)

    1. Hi Chris and good to hear from you. I hope that those bottles prove to be all you hope for – and that 2020 is the same. All the very best … Brian

  5. Hi Brian
    Nice selection to sign off the year with, the ‘Ellercomber English Sparkling’ sounds interesting as does the ‘Hattingley’. I’ve really enjoyed English fizz this year, It seems to be getting better and better, one my favourite being ‘Simpsons Chalklands’.
    Just like to wish you and all Midweekers a very happy Christmas and healthy 2020.

    Salud & drink well

  6. Thanks for your kind words Richard – and for the Cava tip. I have added your thoughts as a postscript to the main post ….. Best to you and yours ….. Brian

  7. Many thanks Eddie ….. I hope you enjoy that Prosecco, it certainly ticked boxes for me. I saw the reduction on the Lidl website but was unsure when it would expire so simply showed the listed price in my post. Better, I feel, to make any surprises pleasant ones! …..Enjoy the Christmas and New Year too ….. Best ….. Brian

  8. No doubt the fantastic 2018 summer helped English Sparkling Wine but one gets the strong sense that the major step change in quality over the last few years is not a one vintage wonder but a permanent feature of the wine scene. I hope you too have a great Christmas and stay healthy throughout 2020 …. Brian

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