DECIDING to go for bubbly is easy, but selecting which one is not, writes Brian Elliot
The next ten days will see most folk drinking more sparkling wine or Champagne than during the rest of the year put together. That is as it should be; Christmas and Hogmanay are special – even magical – times of the year. Deciding whether to go for bubbly, therefore, is easy – but selecting which one is not. Here are some pointers to choices I do not think will disappoint.
One of this year’s most impressive sparklers has been Sainsbury’s Champagne Blanc de Blanc (£22.50), which is made by Duval-Leroy and was voted best supermarket Champagne in the annual Which? taste test. It’s easy to see why, thanks to its combination of citrus acidity, luxuriously long mousse and extra sherbet prickle on the tongue.
For those after something a little sweeter, look out for the words “demi sec” on the label, which mean more residual sugar has been left in the wine, often making it a good pairing for pudding. Champagne Jacquart Demi Sec (£35 at Great Western Wines) is also perfect for those who find Champagne too lively or citric. It has limited mousse and restrained bubbles, but still packs in biscuit aromas on the nose, pear and cooked apple on the palate and even a touch of cinnamon.
Time to move on to vintage champagne with 2005 Champagne Taittinger (around £40 at Oddbins, Majestic and other retailers), which is beautifully balanced and has smoothness, depth and texture. An initial attractive toastiness leads into flavours of apple and greengage, plus a pleasing edge of minerality.
Another vintage champagne well priced currently is the pleasingly complex 2004 Laurent-Perrier Vintage Champagne (£34.99 instead of £47.99 at Waitrose until 4 January). Its crisp apple acidity and touches of mint neatly lead into an impressive depth, containing a hint or two of honey, and then wrap it all in a soft and gentle texture.
If one bottle just isn’t going to be enough for your party, then opt for the double-sized Champagne Pol Roger Magnum (£79 at M&S Online). Here, Pol Roger has blended almost exactly one third each of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – the three main Champagne grape varieties – to provide smoothness, substance and structure yet carefully balanced the wine’s lemon flavours with its yeast-induced biscuit components.
Switching from Champagne to other sparkling wines, we come to Codorniu Gran Cremant Vintage Cava 2012 (£6.99 instead of £10.49 at the Co-op until 2 January). This is a welcome newcomer and good, given the somewhat patchy world of Cava. Enjoy, in particular, the soft, rounded gentleness and controlled acidity that nevertheless leaves its freshness undimmed. Red apple is the dominant fruit, combined with a touch of green plum and a hint of lemon set against a minty backdrop and creamy depth.
Another mellow and gentle option is the Piccini Prosecco Extra Dry (£7.50 on a half-price offer until 29 December at Tesco Wine by the Case), with its fresh flavours of apple and pear, coupled with tangerine acidity. There’s a lively mousse and real depth with the subtle touch of sweetness that good prosecco does well.
Whatever you choose, though, I really hope that the festive season proves to be especially sparkling for you and yours – lubricated, perhaps, by some of the selections set out here.
2013 Evans & Tate Breathing Space Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River
Western Australia, 14.5 per cent
Margaret River does cabernet well as this tasty red testifies. There is real intensity to the wine’s cherry and blackcurrant fruit and enticing chocolate, almond and vanilla backdrop – although, by contrast, both the acidity and tannin are skilfully restrained.
£8.99 until 2 February at Majestic, where minimum purchase rules apply
2013 Eitzinger Gruner Veltliner Langenlois
Austria, 12.5 per cent
“Gru Vee” is Austria’s signature grape with its typical combination of bright freshness and textured substance. This version has all the lemon acidity and white peach influences you would expect but enlivens them with touches of sherbet, green pepper and spiciness – and even just a suggestion of sweetness.