Prosecco or Champagne? Christine Austin picks the best tastes for the festive season

Fizz is essential for Christmas.  Whether you pop the cork at breakfast-time, when the wrappings come off the presents or wait until evening when all the visitors have gone, there is nothing like a glass of bubbles to make the day seem special.

As always there are plenty of special offers on the shelves, and if you like a particular fizz then it is always worth buying more than you need and tucking a few bottles away for spring and summer.   I have tasted through them all and selected the best. Don’t neglect fizz from our own English vineyards where quality is definitely high and prices have come down.

Whatever your budget, this is my top twenty for flavour and value.

Sparkling wine

Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore, Sainsbury, down from £10 to £7.50 until 1 January

Consistently good with creamy pear and apricot flavours, and now on offer it is even better.  For parties trade up to the magnum at £16.50

Solato Lambrusco, Italy, Asda £7.50

Surprise your guests with a frothy red wine packed with dark plummy flavours and a sprinkling of herbs. It goes well with a Boxing Day buffet.

 

The Best Vintage Cava Brut, Spain, Morrisons £8.25

Of all the cavas tasted this season this one is definitely the best.  Rounded, tasty flavours with a touch of earthy complexity.

 

Exquisite Collection Crémant de Jura 2016, Aldi £8.29

Every year I expect the quality of this wine to fall and the price to rise.  But it hasn’t happened yet. Jura is a tiny region and until Aldi discovered this clean, lively, lemon and crunchy-apple style of fizz no one really thought much about it.  The bottle is stylish and so is the wine.  It tastes well above its bargain price point.

La Gioiosa Prosecco Valdobbiadene, Majestic, £14.99 down to £8.99 on mix six deal

Prosecco is so easy to say but the place at the heart of the production area, where the best wine is made, is very difficult. This wine comes from Valdobbiadene – (pronounced Val-dob-bee-ah-din-ay) where grapes are grown on steep hillsides and quality is much higher that basic Prosecco. It has aromas of white flowers with apricots, ripe apples and just a touch of honey on the palate.

Crémant de Bourgogne, La Cave des Hautes Côtes, Marks and Spencer down from £12 to £10

Made mainly from Burgundian Pinot Noir, with additions of fresh-tasting Aligoté, some Chardonnay and Gamay in the mix.  The result is a rounded, elegant, peach and red apple style of wine that works well as an aperitif but has enough body to enjoy with canapés, starters and fish.

Cave de Lugny Sparkling Burgundy Blanc de Blancs NV, Waitrose down from £13.99 to £10.49 until 1 January

Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, from Macon in Burgundy, this is deliciously creamy with apple and peach-edged fruit and a toasty finish.  Enjoy as an aperitif or with scallops and smoked salmon.

Taste the Difference Crémant de Loire, NV, Sainsbury down from £11 to £9 until 1 January

Made from a blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay this is an elegant, aperitif-style wine with crisp, apple-fresh flavours with a smooth, biscuit finish

Balfour 1503 English Sparkling Rosé, Kent, Morrisons £18

This strawberry-scented wine comes from the Hush Heath estate in Kent and is made from all the classic grapes – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.  Just like that Champagne, it is made in the traditional, in-bottle fermentation method, which ensures small bubbles and a great taste.

Giotti Prosecco DOCG, Jeroboam Aldi £39.99 for 3 litres

You need a roomful of people to do justice to this big bottle. It holds 24 glasses of frothy, fruity fizz that will make your party go with a swing.

Champagne

Champagne Brut NV, half bottle, Waitrose down from £11.99 to £9.49 until 1 January

If opening a bottle of champagne seems like extravagance, then a half bottle is just a treat. Keep some halves in the fridge for quiet nights in.

Adrien Chopin Brut Champagne NV, Morrisons, down from £18 to £10 until 1 January

Best buy Champagne for Christmas.  I liked this champagne at its full price, but now it costs just a tenner I like it even more.  Aged for three years on its lees to capture all the right yeasty, lemony flavours, it is worth stocking up with enough to last you through the summer. Bargains like this don’t come along very often.

Comte de Senneval Champagne Brut NV, France, Lidl £11.49

A creamy, rounded style of champagne with just the right amount of toast and a zesty, lemony finish.

Louis Vertay Brut Champagne, France, Marks and Spencer down from £20 to £15 until 1 January

Terrific flavours for money in this mainly Pinot blend. With sleek, toasty brioche notes and enough flavour to last all day.

Les Pionniers NV, Champagne Brut, Co-op down fro £18.99 to £17.99 until January 29

This gorgeous, award-winning fizz comes from Piper Heidsieck and is bright with apple and citrus notes and a creamy, toasty finish.  It is one of the most consistent supermarket champagnes on the shelves and will be a sheer delight on Christmas morning.

Special Reserve Vintage Champagne Brut 2007, Waitrose £25.99

Not on offer but still terrific flavour for money. Sourced from quality producer Champagne Castelnau, this Chardonnay-dominated vintage wine has a precise, elegant style with a long elegant finish.

 

Moët et Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne, NV, France, Tesco down from £34 to £28 until 1 January

The best price I can find for this classic of the champagne shelves.  Great improved in quality in recent years it has delicious lemon and toast character and a long, balanced, canapé-friendly finish.

Henriot Champagne, Blanc de Blancs, NV, Roberts and Speight £44.99

Top quality grapes from the best vineyards on the Côtes des Blancs plus around 30% of Reserve wines, provides this taste sensation.  Clean, fresh and precise in style. Pure elegance in a glass.

Gosset Grande Reserve Champagne Brut, NV, Bon Coeur £47.29

From the oldest wine producer in Champagne, this exceptional wine has toast, honey and white floral notes with almonds and a hint of spice. It is the perfect start to Christmas.

Billecart-Salmon Sous Bois Champagne Brut, Field and Fawcett £72.50

Expensive and utterly gorgeous, this comes from the small, family-owned house of Billecart-Salmon.  This wine has been aged in wood before the classic bubble process, then aged 6 years on lees.  The result is a complex wine with broad toasty flavours that can accompany lunch or supper.

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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