Welcome to the final of my four wine-related “Advent Windows” that all aim to offer guidance towards wines you might like to consider for the Christmas season – and this time it seeks to help make it a sparkling occasion.
Much (and, possibly, most) of the champagne and other sparkling wine drunk in 2021 will be consumed in the next couple of weeks.
Here, then, are my thoughts on which ones should, I suggest, be on your shopping list.
Once more the overall guiding principles are accessibility, a mildly loosened budget and value for money (with “gold plating” again highlighting truly exceptional value).
As usual, where they are available, pictures and hyperlinks are used to help simplify any search for the bottle in question.
Slightly less fashionable these days (wrongly)
Taken perhaps by surprise by the prosecco revolution, Cava has had a hard time recently (and has come off second best when trying to compete on price) but get it right – as this one does – and it can show real class.
Nicely balanced, Prestige Cava Brut (£10 available in M&S stores and on the Ocado website and 12% abv) leads on from a restrained mousse but good (if gentle) mouth-feel to deliver grapefruit and orchard fruit flavours combined with evolving lemon acidity, traces of tropical fruit ripeness and creamy texture.
Keeping it in the family
As well as being a major player in the main business, Tony Laithwaite’s wife Barbara has developed the vineyard in Oxfordshire that produces this lovely chardonnay-led sparkling wine (made by son Henry) which brilliantly shows off what is so good about English sparkling wine
Ripe with an exuberant mousse, 2016 Wyfold Vineyard Brut (from £26.40 at Laithwaites and 12%) provides green apple, grapefruit and pithy orange flavours with fresh lemon acidity, attractive biscuit hints and a saline edge that all integrate nicely with those active initial bubbles.
Maintaining a tradition and legacy
Although South Africa’s Graham Beck himself died some 10 years ago, the winery he created (and the cause of Cap Classique sparkling wine production he so vociferously championed) live on in the shape of wine like this splendid pinot noir led sparkling rosé.
With measured bubbles but plenty of verve, Graham Beck The Rhona Rosè (£13 in M&S stores and £14 on the Ocado website – and 12%) has classily restrained cherry, red currant and tangerine flavours partnered by gentle lemon acidity, contrasting savoury hints and a clean but energetic sensation on the taste buds.
And so to Champagne
Long standing subscribers will know that this champagne is a seasonal regular on the MidWeek Wines site and once again provides nicely crafted fare that is great value and of a standard that the “big four” supermarkets struggle to match at this price.
Opening with tempting biscuit aromas, Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (£13.99 at Aldi and 12.5%) brings us soft apple and citrus flavours accompanied by proportionate lemon acidity, an active mousse and sweet hints on the finish that are all nicely counterbalanced by a vague nuttiness.
And another regular contender.
This beautifully balanced champagne is made for the Co-op by Piper Heidsieck (although that’s supposed to be a secret) who are famed for their excellent stock of reserve wines that help to maintain year-on-year consistency.
The wine won a recent Which? Best Buy award handsomely outscoring some of the industry’s big names that cost appreciably more.
For more information on the role of reserve wines, use this link for a detailed look at the process.
Rich with creamy depth, Les Pionniers Non Vintage Champagne (£19 at the Co-op and 12%) offers us neatly balanced melon, orange and cooked apple flavours supported by lemon centred acidity with hints of raspberry and touches of sweetness but a buttered toast background too.
Now for Vintage Champagne
Here we have a particularly good – and well priced (but see the next paragraph) – example of the extra richness and toast or biscuit flavours and aromas derived from the extra maturation time vintage champagnes enjoy.
However, rumours suggest that Asda is about launch major offers on parts of its champagne range so do watch their website to catch any significant discount that is applied to this one.
NOW DROPPED IN PRICE TO £17.33
Despite apparently lazy bubbles, Extra Special Louis Bernard Champagne Vintage Brut (currently £26 at Asda and 12.5%) contains energetic effervescence to underpin its rich but smooth orange, apple and biscuit flavours, gentle grapefruit acidity and supplementary touches of mint and almonds.
And another one
Like the Aldi example mentioned previously, Lidl’s entry point £14 champagne (also called Comte de Senneval but without a date) is a nicely balanced affair and great value for money but I would still argue for trading up to this vintage version.
After busy bubbles and a polished biscotti nose, 2014 Comte de Senneval Brut Champagne (£19.99 as part of the current Lidl Wine Tour and 12.5%) exhibits soft peach, greengage and Granny Smith apple flavours with tangy grapefruit acidity which gives it more vibrancy than many other vintage champagnes yet still retains creamy texture and nutty elements too.
Now for some Premier Cru
This unoaked wine has secured a terrific following among Wine Society regulars and is indeed a good example of the greater finesse Premier Cru vineyards can bring and how extra dryness can make versions like this perfect as aperitif champagnes.
While the classification system governing Champagne’s 300+ villages is not an absolute quality guarantee, insiders accept that grapes from the 42 premier cru villages (and the 17 above them in the hierarchy) are usually responsible for superior champagne
Unhurried bubbles and subtle aromas open proceedings for Champagne Jean de Foigny Brut Premier Cru(£22 at The Wine Society and 12.5%) which are followed by soft – but especially dry – crunchy pear and apple flavours, modest lemon acidity and a savoury (possibly mineral) backdrop.
And our final champagne
Slightly confusing, I accept, but “première” in this context describes the blend (cuvee) not the vineyards or the villages.
The producer fuses grapes (45% pinot noir and 33% chardonnay here) from meticulously selected locations, adds a large reserve wine component and extra aging in order to create this rather special wine.
As this wine is selling fast, it may be advisable to check stocks in your local Majestic store by using the “Shop Local” facility on their website
Long and delightfully balanced, Champagne Bruno Paillard Premiere Cuvee (from £32.99 at Majestic stores and 12%) features melon, red fruit and pithy grapefruit flavours complemented by firm but lively acidity, lemon curd depth and some attractive contrasting biscuit influences too.
There, then, is a diverse collection of sparkling wines (including half a dozen champagnes) that I hope will help add effervescence and zing to your own way of bringing the curtain down on a decidedly odd year and easing you gently into the next one.
HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS
Despite the optimism my previous paragraph exhibits, no one yet knows exactly how Christmas 2021 will pan out but one thing is a given – it is a time for drinking wine, not reading about it.
That being so, this is the last post before the Christmas and New Year festivities begin, but MidWeek Wines will be back with a Top Tips and Current Promotions feature on 13 January 2022 – and I hope to see you all again then.
Meanwhile, though, I trust that you and yours will enjoy this very special time of year and that it will lead nicely into a contented, healthy and trouble free 2022 for you all.
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