Category Archives: Sparkling wines

Sparkling Wines for a Sparkling Time

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Sparkling wineIt’s that time of year again!  So, if you’re going to have some friends around over the holiday season, what better choice to welcome them than with a glass of something sparkling? 

‘It’s Christmas so it must be Champagne’ will be the view of many but, as regular readers to this Blog will know, English Sparkling wines are consistently beating the Champenois  at their own game and, for me, a bottle of something from Nyetimber, RidgeView or one of the many other accomplished English sparkling wine producers is a better choice – as well as a good talking point.  You’ll find them at many wine merchants and Waitrose supermarkets for £20 – £30 – the same sort of price you’d pay for a reasonable Champagne.

But, if your budget won’t stretch that far, there are many excellent value alternatives.  French wines made outside the Champagne region but using the same production method are called ‘Crémants’ and bottles from Alsace or the Loire can often be found in supermarkets and are frequently very good buys.

From Spain and Italy respectively, both Cava and Prosecco have become increasingly popular in recent years – and for good reason; but do avoid the ultra-cheapies: sparkling wine making is a complex process when done properly and bottles selling for around £6 or £7 are likely to be pretty basic and uninteresting.  Prefer something around £10 and, if you’re going for a Prosecco, look for the letters DOCG rather than just DOC on the label – the ‘G’ is important and will be on all the best examples.

But that’s just Europe.  If you normally prefer still wines from the New World, why not sparkling wine from there, too?  New Zealand has an ideal climate and Pelorus (Majestic, £17.99) and Lindauer (same supplier, £10.99) are favourites of mine, while Champagne producer Moët and Chandon have set up in Argentina and clearly know what they’re doing – their Brut and Rosé are each £12.99 (Majestic, again).

So, there you are.  My quick guide to some sparkling wines for a sparkling holiday season.

 

Prosecco: A Sparkling Success

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ProseccoThe Italian sparkling wine Prosecco is becoming more and more popular here in the UK – and so it should! It’s not just the bubbles that make it fun to drink but there’s the flavour, too; clean and fresh with attractive hints of apple and pear, it’s the perfect wine to welcome your guests or to celebrate an occasion. And, perhaps best of all, you can buy a really enjoyable bottle (such as the one pictured above) for as little as £7 (Co-op supermarkets). As you can see, I’m an enthusiastic member of the Prosecco fan club. But where I disagree with many Prosecco lovers is that I don’t look on it as a cheap alternative to Champagne. Yes, they are both wine and both have bubbles in, but there the similarity ends.

They are made using different grape varieties (Glera for Prosecco, one or more of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay for Champagne) in different countries (Italy and France respectively) and with subtly different methods of production, which I won’t go into here. But there’s an even more significant reason why Prosecco will never taste like Champagne nor Champagne like Prosecco: what happens once they are bottled. While Prosecco will be shipped to the retailer almost immediately so that customers can enjoy its typically zesty, fruity flavours, Champagne will be stored in the producers’ cellars to mature for at least 15 months for non-vintage wines or 3 years for vintage. This ageing process introduces yeasty, bready notes and a certain richness of flavour to Champagne – characteristics that you would never expect from Prosecco.

So, which is best? No doubt, many would argue Champagne. But, for me, the two wines are so different, each should be enjoyed for its own special qualities.