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Pop, Pour and Party: Unwrapping the Best Seasonal Sparkling Wines!

Today sees the fourth and final part of my Christmas wine recommendations.

This is the season when more “fizz” is drunk than at any other – both to celebrate Christmas and to “wet the head” of the emergent New Year.

Lots of sparkling fare abound but Champagne probably tops most lists -including today’s recommendations.

Given the financial pressures for many, the focus however is on great value and easily accessible options – but a couple of more expensive choices are included if that will work for you.

Several different styles are featured, so I do hope that there really is something for everyone here.

In the usual way, hyperlinks and pictures are used where possible to help you locate the bottle in question, although at this time of year, things do change quickly.  

An ever-present budget choice.

Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (£14.99 at Aldi and 12.5%):

Although, of course, “Veuve Monsigny” is an Aldi brand name and the actual supplier can change, this has been consistently good for quality and, especially, value.

It remains a reliable budget friendly option for anyone seeking an “everyday champagne” – if such a term exists.

Despite initial exuberance, the bubbles here fade quite quickly but still lead nicely into light, cooked apple, melon and plums and custard flavours.

Citrus acidity, a savoury gravel-based backdrop with touches of biscuit and marzipan, complete the picture.

My top choice for bargain champagne.

Montaudon Champagne Brut (£14.99 at Lidl and 12%):

I think it was last year that Lidl switched Champagne suppliers to this one, and the result is impressive.

One expects acidity to be the major player with inexpensive champagne, but this is actually carefully balanced – also providing a creamy texture and lovely softness behind its flavours.

It certainly gets my vote.

Well-paced bubbles and attractively fresh aromas abound here and are built around its creamy pear, ripe melon and white currant flavours.

Those are neatly partnered by hints of mint and pithy grapefruit acidity.

Onto the original “Big Boys”

The Best Etienne Leclair Brut Champagne (£21 at Morrisons and 12%):

Seemingly, the original “Big 4” supermarkets are not trying to try to compete on price with the premium discounters.

Instead, they seem to have positioned their mainstream, entry point champagne in the “low twenties” – with occasional cheaper one off’s which, candidly, do not always work.

Here is a dependable, good value illustration of that circa £20 policy at work.

Clean with a salty tang, it delivers fruit forward apple peel, citrus and lemon curd favours and a suspicion of sweetness.

Embellishments for those bedrock constituents appear in the form of a vanilla-rich texture and an energetic mouthfeel.

NB:- This may not be available on line but should be in physical stores.

Going up a rung in the Classification System

Veuve Monsigny Premier Cru Champagne (£19.99 – down £2 -at Aldi and 12.5%):

Premier Cru villages usually hold that official designation because of the consistently high quality fruit from specific vineyards within them.

That extra quality is certainly in evidence in this example -which, incidentally, is a limited parcel and is likely to run out by (or, possibly, before) Christmas.

With a lively mousse and big bubbles, it has well integrated tangerine, apple and raspberry edged flavours.

That extensive flavour range is nicely supported by toasty aromas, firm lemon acidity, a vibrant mouthfeel and a long finish.

Moving into the pink

Louvel Fontaine Champagne Rosé Brut (£22 – instead of £25 from today until 3 January, in Asda stores but unavailable online – and 12%):

A combination of high demand yet limited supply, and its more complex production process, means that pink champagne is usually a pound or two dearer.

So, even before discounting, £25 is a fair price for this nicely configured example which is 90% pinot noir with a small chardonnay contribution to add freshness, acidity and, perhaps, extra elegance too.

Appealingly pink in colour with powerful aromas, its foundation is a cocktail of floral red currant, strawberry and red cherry favours.

Able support is provided by the accompanying traces of biscuit and – despite the wine’s slightly lethargic bubbles – vibrant lemon acidity.  

My top choice champagne today.

The Society's Champagne Brut (£33.81 at The Wine Society and 12.5%):

In a world where it seems “constant change is here to stay”, it is nice to record that The Wine Society has been dealing with this Champagne house for over a century.

Given the quality of this example, that should not surprise us.

Most commendations focus on the wine’s richness but, to me, it is the delicacy and balance that make it well worth spending the extra £10 to £15 needed to secure it.

That balance is well demonstrated in the way its soft orange, apple and grapefruit flavours merge and mingle with lemon acidity, appealing yeasty aromas and a sophisticated richness.

Coming Nearer Home

Deluxe Sparkling Wine (£14.99 at Lidl and 12%):

Land prices, if nothing else, ensure that English sparkling wine is seldom cheap, but this Lidl option weighs in at a good price.

It is unusual too as it is much more savoury than most English wines with pronounced quinine, sea shell and sour dough elements – good to partner egg dishes, perhaps.

With small bubbles and a slightly yeasty nose, it also provides rounded orange, quince and apricot flavours.

In addition, lemon acidity and almond influences sit alongside the sour dough and mineral components already mentioned.

Top Billing for English sparkling wine goes to …

2019 Rathfinny Rosé Brut (£43 at www.Rathfinnyestate.com – click on the down arrow for single bottle options – and 11.5%):

Rathfinny really do have the English sparkling wine scene nicely sorted.

This superb rosé of theirs, for me, comfortably outperforms many similarly priced rosé champagnes.

Led by pinot noir (60%), the rest is almost equally chardonnay and pinot meunier and it is blended with oak aged pinot noir to get the colour right.

With a creamy texture and very long finish, the result features skilfully balanced raspberry, cherry and orange flavours that are supplemented by fresh acidity and good depth.

Finishing with words for you, gentle reader.

I always maintain that Christmas is a time for drinking good wine not reading about it.

That is then followed by a period when we are drinking up what we over-ordered at Christmas or viewing Visa statements with dismay – or both.

Either way, January is not usually a popular time for buying wine.

Hence, like Santa Claus, MidWeek Wines takes a break now.

I shall be back with Top Tips on 18 and 25 January and resume twice weekly posts at the start of February.

Meanwhile, a big thank you to all subscribers – your numbers have risen by almost 30% this year (the best ever) and engagement levels remain astonishingly high.

I really appreciate that support.

Finally – and most importantly – 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 2024 for you all. 


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Comments

41 Comments

Richard C

Thank you for another year of great tips Brian, I hope you enjoy a well-deserved break!

Brian Elliott

Many thanks Richard and I hope that all goes well for you too.

Mr Erik Burgess

Always interested in reading your recommendations every week Brian. All the best for the festive season and 2024

Brian Elliott

Thanks Erik and an especial thank you for your support on Twitter (now known as …. etc etc)

William

I second Richard’s comment. You’re an absolute discovery for me. I only subscribed some three months or so ago and very much look forward to Mid Week Wines dropping into my mailbox. We have taken up many of your recommendations and my cellar is looking “healthy “ again. Having bought many of your recommended wines and enjoyed them, has been an eye opener as I have been rather traditional in my choice, mainly old world from established producers ( and rather expensive!). Thank you for taking me “off piste” and I look forward to your return. Season’s greetings to you and your family

Brian Elliott

Thank you, William, for such a lovely comment. Part of the joy of a site like this is acquainting folk with unexpected gems, and it is so gratifying to know that it works. May your New Year continue to be “off piste” and as healthy as you tell me your cellar now is.

Richard from Leeds

Seasonal Greetings Brian, Eddie & all !
Have much appreciated receiving all the content and purchased numerous tips, feedback & comment recommends during 2023.
Many quality offerings now sampled and useful money saved on offers & double dipping.
Enjoy your break and good cheer from the high Pennines !

Brian Elliott

May I reciprocate from the plains of Lincolnshire. Thanks, too, for including Eddie in your message. He really is the king of “double dipping”.

Chris Scott

Thanks for all the top tips during the year and all the best to you and yours over the festive period. Drink well….
PS – Remember I always do “dry” January so save the sweet recommendations until February please.

Brian Elliott

Thanks Chris – I shall be thinking of you during the “hair shirt” time over Dry January and hope to find some sweeties for you to enjoy when “Moist February” dawns.

Brian H

As one of your new 30% Brian, I am so pleased to have found your site. Your knowledge and insight is a pleasure to read, and I look forward to expanding my wine horizons further with you in 2024.
Wishing you a happy, peaceful and winefilled festive season, and a well earned break.

Brian Elliott

I will try not to make it too wine-filled – but probably fail! I really appreciate what you say so much as one gets too close to things to assess how well they hit the spot. Plenty of scope for 2024 – wine horizons stretch well into the middle distance.

Stephen Barrett

Top tips always.

Brian Elliott

Here’s to many more in 2024. Happy Christmas.

Dave Harrell

Thanks for all the recommendations in 2023, Brian. Have a great Christmas and best wishes for 2024!

Brian Elliott

Thank you Dave and tight lines for 2024. I enjoy reading your fishing tales on Facebook.

Alf King

Great tips throughout the year, thanks Brian.

Enjoy your break.

Brian Elliott

Thanks Alf and glad that the tips are proving useful to you. Should be plenty more in 2024.

Paul Davies

Many thanks for your perceptive comments ,tips and recommendations this past year.
I do feel that you have created an accessible wine website for all.They just happen to be nice, knowledgeable and like minded wine lovers with great stories and experiences to tell.
We all look forward to hearing from you in the New Year.

Brian Elliott

I think that is one of the most gratifying parts – the number of well-informed folk that participate in the Comments section and are happy to share their knowledge and experience with others. Such a contrast to so many social media platforms and the sheer nastiness many of them seem to attract.

Angela Culver

Merry Xmas to you and your family from Kent – my husband and I always look forward to receiving your regular posts. You now deserve a well earned break. Get thru the New Year happily and safely – and looking forward to your posts in the New Year. Cheers!

Brian Elliott

Thank you Angela and glad you both find the posts useful. A safe journey into 2024 for you too.

Eddie Walker

To you and your’s Brian and all your fans and subscribers here at Mid Week Wines,
a Very Merry Xmas and a Happy New year … cheers !!!

Brian Elliott

Thanks Eddie and happy “double dipping” through January and beyond.

David E

Montaudon Brut was the champagne tasted against Möet in Lidl’s Chateau Noir (tasting in the complete dark) that I went to, thanks to your mention in MWW. I would have given them equal marks but both were spoiled by being poured too early into broad tumblers (presumably so you wouldn’t knock them over as you reached in the pitch black). But don’t take my word for it. I got EVERY wine wrong in the red-rosé-white identification test, although in my defence the red was lightish in body, and the white full – and all were served at the same temperature. Didn’t stop me going away from the tasting in a very bad mood!

Brian Elliott

Unusual to come away from a wine tasting in a bad mood, but truly “blind” tasting is a lot more difficult than people imagine. Interestingly, over 80% of attendees at those Chateaux Noir events preferred Lidl’s Montaudon Champagne Brut over Moët. In addition, 7 in 10 voted the popular champagne as their favourite beverage of the evening – so I am not alone in rating it.

Richard Wyndham

Have a great break, Brian. Gives me time to drink enough bottles to free up space in my racks for more recommendations!
I point I have recently (re-) learnt is the importance of very well rinsed glasses for fizzy wines. For “formal” drinking I use champagne flute glasses, which are always hand washed, and rinsed. For informal I just use my regular wine glasses that go through a 30 minute dishwasher cycle. After noticing that sparkling wines no longer seem to keep their bubbles for very long, I took 2 glasses and rinsed one very well, and not the other. Poured out fizz and the difference was quite marked! So ANY remnants of rinse aid kills the bubbles! BTW don’t judge me for use of dish washer – I recently read that Jancis Robinson specifies dish washer safe wine glasses.
I also recall that Edmund Penning-Rowsell, an old school Claret authority and author, used to embarrass hosts and companions alike by ostentatiously taking out a large cloth and carefully wiping his dinner wine glasses before allowing the wine to be poured!

Brian Elliott

Ah! I hadn’t picked up on the bad effect of rinse aid but then neither flutes nor the tall Riedel (that I prefer even for champagne) fit into our dishwasher. Incidentally, I have just switched to microfibre cloths for polishing glasses but it is too early to make judgements yet.

Jerry W

Good stuff, Brian. Many thanks, Happy Xmas, and give your liver a pat from me

Brian Elliott

Thanks Jerry. Oddly enough, my liver checks have, to date, come back as “normal”. Heaven alone knows what “abnormal” folk must have been drinking!

Calum MacLeod

Thank you, Brian, for a year of excellent recommendations, an ever-reliable guide to the gems on crowded wine shelves!

Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2024.

Brian Elliott

Always good to welcome a first-time contributor to the Comments column, Calum – particularly so when it involves so many nice words. So, thanks for the good wishes and I hope to see more of your comments next year.

Dave Cronin

Hi Brian
I wish you all the best and thanks for all your help finding us the best good affordable wines out there, I’m sure it’s appreciated by all. Wishing all the Mid Weekers a lovely Christmas as well and a shout-out for Eddie for his informative posts. Good job all!

Brian Elliott

I will gladly endorse that praise for Eddie. I used to try to provide that type of information myself and know how fast things change, so full marks to Eddie for making a much better job of it than I ever did.

Eddie Walker

Thank you Dave .. and Brian for the platform here and then the continuing endorsement for providing information on deals as they happen. Getting in asap to facilitate subscribers here having their best-chance is not always easy now with so many of the discounts coming thick and fast as they do, and then often disappearing quickly as well.

Just to mention that like us all who get bombarded with information on the net once we have been identified as ”interested parties” in any commercial purchasing situation, there is way more out there happening than I ever speak about.

I try and keep it to the five-plus-two main players on the High Street because generally throughout the country the majority of subscribers here will have ease of access to these retailers. With the caveat that it cannot be 100% coverage of everything but it might involve the more occasional players like M&S, Co-op and Booths but not often the actual specialists like Majestic, Laithwaites and TWS, the latter being one of my favourite suppliers that rarely discount at all.

Other subscribers to MWW will thankfully cover other outlets as they themselves identify deals especially that’s a big help to everyone who is budget conscious but wants enjoyable drinking.

A personal greeting to you and yours Dave for the festive season … salud …

Brian Elliott

Fair point Eddie. Understandably, you do have to focus on what the major players are doing with discounts – and rely on fellow MidWeekers to call attention to other promotions that they encounter

Phil bowman

Hi Brian
Have followed you since work for a long time and have actually tried different wines some recommended by you , mainly Aldi Lidl and Asda , You have broadened my choices , thank you for that , Have a great Christmas and come back with more interesting picks
Phil

Brian Elliott

Hi Phil … It seems a lifetime since we worked together but I am really pleased to hear that my musings here have helped you find a wider range of wines to enjoy. Here’s to more tasty glassfuls in 2024 for us both.

Eddie Walker

I’ll put this short note on here for anyone who does stumble across it before the end of Tuesday 19th December and can if they wish react to having something they fancy … a few bottles maybe … but didn’t know it could be as cheap as this.

So Sainsbury’s 25% off buy 6 offer is almost finished but discounted shelf prices are now being flagged-up that run until Monday 1st January. There is an overlap that provide considerable double-dip discounts none more so than the more expensive bottles like Beronia Rioja Reserva that goes £16 to £10.50 down to £7.87 and the DV Catena Malbec that starts at £13 .. down to £10 and therefore £7.50. Massive drops for these bottles and many others for those with the time and inclination to get in fast and stock up.

Paul Davies

I very much enjoyed Arthur Metz Cremant d’Alsace Brut available from Ocado at £12 down from £16..Very smooth,full of bubbles, soft and very easy drinking.Avoids the over tartness of cheap sparklers.Light but with hints of shortbread.A great party sparkler and much better than many Proseccos .No wonder most Cremant stays in France for domestic consumption.

Paul Davies

Update Asda do an Extra Special Arthur Metz Cremant d’Alsace down from £11 to £9.Bargain?


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