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Making Your Christmas Sparkle

Christmas and New Year bring bubbles to the fore so here are my recommendations on the great value options that I have unearthed in a variety of retailers.

A large proportion of the champagne and other sparkling wine drunk in 2018 will be consumed in the next couple of weeks.

Indeed, one supermarket told me that on a day just before Christmas one year, it sold more prosecco than milk.

So here are a few suggestions on bubbles I think you will enjoy at this special time of the year.

As usual, to help when you are buying the bottles, just click on the bottle shot below for an enlarged image.

A repeat but well worth it

I have praised this straight forward and dependable prosecco before but, since the £8 discounted price runs through until the New Year, it seems well worth reminding you all about it.

Opening with an active, creamy mousse, Fillipo Sansovino Millesimato Prosecco (£8 – instead of £9.98 until 2 January at Asda and 12%) develops apple lemon and peach fruit components that are given freshness by crisp grapefruit zestiness yet still have savoury cream soda elements sitting in the background.

Here is the first of two home runs

Although much English sparkling wine now uses the classic champagne grapes, over 80% of this version from Surrey is actually a combination of muller thurgau and two even less well known grapes – that doesn’t stop it ticking boxes though.

Soft and ripe, Denbies Chalk Valley English Sparkling Wine (£15 – instead of £16 until 1 January and 13%) has gently savoury edged apple, lemon and pear fruit with just a background hint of honey.

A fizzy homecoming

Ruth and Charles Simpson spent 16 years in Languedoc honing and sharpening Domaine Sainte Rose wines into the force they currently are.

In 2014, they created a vineyard and, later, winery back in the UK to produce quality wines in Kent and this is their first English sparkling wine.

Delicate yet lively, Simpson’s Wine Estate – Canterbury Rosé (£35 at www.simpsonswine.com and 12%) draws well defined raspberry and red cherry flavours from its 100% pinot noir components but supports them with a good mousse, firm acidity, and a savoury (almost dark chocolate) background.

Now for Champagne

The premium discounters invariably have tasty champagne for Christmas that punches well above its actual price point and this foundation of the Aldi wine collection has long represented outstanding value for money.

Don’t just take my word for it though, try Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (currently £11.49 at Aldi and 12%) for yourself see how the winemaker has created a skilful balance between well-judged brioche depth and the wine’s tingling lemon and apple acidity.

And another from the High Street

This pinot led champagne made for the Co-op by Regis Camus at Piper Heidseick finishes up on my Christmas recommendations most years and the discount until practically the end of next month is a good excuse for including it again.

In truth, Champagne Les Pionniers Brut (£17.99 – instead of £18.99 until 29 January – and 12%) pretty much selects itself by virtue of its vibrant bubbles, firm lemon acidity and creamy biscuit based depth that all merge so well with its peach and raspberry fruit.

Here’s what extra time on lees does

Now we move on from Supermarket champagne (but still find one that comes down to a competitive price point with a great multi-buy offer) and to a version with a 40% chardonnay contribution but, more importantly, with six years lees aging to add richness.

The resulting roundedness is clear in Champagne Castelnau Brut Réserve NV (£28 at The Wine Society which drops to £20 a bottle if you buy six and 12.5%) driven perhaps by a gentle biscuit background that adds contrast to the wine’s pithy lemon, apple and grapefruit flavours, good acidity and all round sophistication.

Stepping up the luxury ladder

For a luxury champagne, head to Berry Bros & Rudd (or their website) to sample this excellent blanc de noirs – and it is no surprise, given the grape involved, to discover this is from a top part of the pinot dominated Montagne de Reims.

Marvel at the balance and subtlety of Champagne Mailly Blanc de Pinot Noir (£45 at www.bbr.com and 12%) and the clean, mint influenced backdrop it provides to the wine’s apple and grapefruit spine and the gentle mousse that accompanies it.

Here’s another quality champagne

Tyson Stelzer (of the excellent book The Champagne Guide) describes this as “beautifully poised” and “perpetually among the most reliable non-vintage (champagnes) on the shelves”.

Gosset are very innovative keeping wine fresh and vibrant by (unusually for the region) not using malolactive conversion – here’s a link that gives you an idea what that is all about – Wikipedia does it in more technical detail.

Whatever the process, enjoy the small busy bubbles and, especially, softness and smoothness of the (just) chardonnay-led Gosset Grande Reserve Brut Champagne (£49 at www.davywine.co.uk but available at other independents too and 12%) with its crisp grapefruit acidity, brioche background and rich pear and red apple principal fruit.

Finally a word for you and yours

Christmas is a time for drinking good wine not reading web posts about it so today’s is the last of these posts until 16 January. 

We resume then with a review of budget wines.

In the interim, there will be occasional updates on our Facebook Page. To get them automatically, just “like” the page in the time honoured way – and, of course, urge wine loving friends to do the same.

More importantly though, thank you for your support this year and have a fabulous Christmas and New Year celebration. 

I shall look forward to seeing you all again in 2019.





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8 Responses

  1. Brian, thank you for your ever-wise words during 2018. All the best to you and yours for a healthy and safe 2019. Keep the wise words coming – wouldn’t be the same without you!

    1. Thanks Chris, I really appreciate your kind words and shall try to be as wise next year – no guarantees though!

  2. I’m pretty new to your posts, but read them with interest. Keep up the good work, and have a good break from writing about wine, if not drinking it.

  3. Cheers Brian all the best to both of you . I follow your column regularly and sometimes buy one .. Like the reviews keep going …

  4. Thank you very much Richard for your kind comments and good wishes. I will certainly take a break from writing about wine – but not, as you seem to acknowledge, from drinking it! ….. Best

  5. Thanks so much for your kind words, Richard – they are really appreciated and I am glad that my musings prove helpful.

  6. Thanks Phil – really pleased that you enjoy the column and hope that you and yours have a great time over Christmas …… Brian

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