Christmas without bubbly is unthinkable. Christine Austin separates the corkers from the duds.

Fizz is essential for Christmas. Whether you pop the cork at breakfast-time, while you open presents or you wait until evening when all the visitors have gone, there is nothing like a glass of bubbles to make the day seem special.
This year there is a flurry of cheap champagne on the shelves and I have tasted through them all and just selected the best.
But don’t neglect fizz from other parts of the world including our new English vineyards where quality is definitely high and prices have come down.
Whatever your budget, these are the best wines for your money.

Under £10

Codorníu Brut NV, Cava, Majestic, down from £9.99 to £6.66 on a mix-six deal until February 1: A great value, fresh-tasting, zesty fizz that is good on its own, but perfectly fine with a splash of orange juice for a Christmas breakfast.

Morrisons M Signature Cava Brut, £7: Cava has definitely moved up the quality scale in recent years. This is full of crisp, lively flavours with just a touch of toast on the finish.

San Leo Prosecco Brut, NV Italy, Waitrose, down from £10.49 to £7.79 until January 3: Of all the Prosecco wines I have tasted in the last few months, this one shone for its light, clean, floral notes and fine, frothy bubbles.

Finest Prosecco Bisol, Italy, Tesco, £8: With white blossom on the nose and ripe apples and pears on the palate, this is good enough to last from present opening to lunch.

Mount Bluff Brut NV, New Zealand, Marks & Spencer, down from £13 to £10 until January 1: Made from classic grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this is a crisp, lively fizz with a touch of class.

£10 to £15
Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut NV, Aldi, £10.99: Top marks to Aldi for this terrific value Champagne. It has all the right flavours – ripe apples, baked brioche and a touch of honey and nuts on the finish. The fizz does go flat fairly quickly, so chill it down, tilt the glass and pour gently.
J de Telmont Grande Réserve Champagne NV Majestic, £19.99 down to £13.32 on a mix-six deal until February 1: A yeasty, toasty brioche style of fizz with a clean, bright finish. Perfect with canapés.
Oudinot Brut NV, Marks & Spencer, down from £25 to £15, until January 1:
Consistently one of my favourite supermarket champagnes. This always hits the right notes with ripe pear fruit, creamy, toasty notes and just enough zing to keep you sipping. Buy more than you need to last until summer.
Sainsbury’s Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut NV, down from £20 to £15 until January 1: I like this Champagne, even at its full price but on offer it is a bargain. Only Chardonnay grapes are used for this one, making it zesty and citrusy with just a touch of creaminess.

£15 to £20
Finest Premier Cru Champagne Brut, Tesco, down from £18 to £16 until January 3: Another firm favourite, still performing well in the flavour stakes. Made from 70 per cent Chardonnay which gives it a real zing, with 30 per cent Pinot Noir adding richness and fruit. Stock up, it won’t come to any harm with a few extra months in the bottle and will drink wonderfully in summer sunshine.
Les Pionniers Champagne Brut NV, Co-op, £16.99: No deals on this one, but even so it is great value. Rounded, stylish, and with just enough weight to be a good choice for the obligatory mid-morning glass on Christmas Day.
Duval-Leroy Premier Cru Champagne NV, Waitrose, down from £29.99 to £19.99 until January 6: Grapes for this wine come from some of the best villages in the region, and it shows in its generous flavours, elegant structure and long finish. This is a fizz to see you through the whole of Christmas Day.
English Sparkling Wine 2013, The Wine Society, £20: The clever people at The Wine Society have gone to Ridgeview to make their own-label English fizz from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The result is a light, elegant wine, with a clean, meadow-fresh note.
Grand Cru Vintage Champagne Brut 2007, Tesco, down from £24 to £20 until December 29: Tasted side by side against some really serious champagnes, this held its head up and surprised me with its deep complex flavours and long, generous finish.

£20 to £30
Nyetimber Classic Cuvée 2010, England, Majestic, down from £35.99 to £26.98 on a mix-six deal until February 1: If you haven’t tried an English fizz before then start with this one. It has spent five years on its lees gathering savoury, yeasty character and smooth, elegant flavours. Great with smoked salmon on Christmas morning.
Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne NV, Waitrose, down from £36.99 to £27.74 until January 6: Taittinger is the first champagne house to buy land for vineyards in England, but they won’t be in production for many years. Meanwhile drink their excellent Champagne, noted for its harmony and elegant style.
Budget breakers
Pol Roger Brut Reserve NV, Waitrose, down from £40.99 to £32.79 until January 6: Tasted blind against a Gold-medal winning supermarket champagne, a whole roomful of people preferred this one for its purity of style, finesse and balance. A mid-afternoon into evening champagne.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, Halifax Wine Co, £39.50: Tasted blind against Krug, this didn’t win but it stood its ground with honeysuckle, citrus and brioche notes and a perfectly balanced, long finish. And you can buy three bottles for the price of one Krug. Terrific flavour.
Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV, Roberts and Speight, Beverley, £41.89: Top quality grapes from the best vineyards on the Côtes des Blancs plus around 30 per cent of Reserve wines provide this taste sensation. Clean, fresh and precise, it balances refreshing style with elegance.
Krug Grande Cuvée Brut NV, Le Bon, Sheffield, £125: Why wait until you win the Lottery to taste a gem such as this? Send all your visitors home early and settle down with the one you love and a bottle of Krug. It really does have something extra, in flavour, style and complexity. I could tell you about the 400 components, the vineyards, the reserve wines, the barrels, but I won’t. Just taste it.

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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