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Website © 2019 Joanna Simon

Header photo © Waitrose & Partners Drinks / Cat Garcia

Festive fizz 2017: anything except Champagne



The first of the season's round-ups is sparkling wines – anything alcoholic and fizzy except Champagne (the Champagne round-up follows shortly). They're selected for quality, interest and value for money and it's ended up as five rosés, three whites and two reds from five different countries across both hemispheres. There's no Prosecco this year – I'm prepared for the brickbats – but if you're looking for one, Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano 2016 is better than most. The wines below are all dry, except for the red Shiraz, and they're in ascending order of price, give or take an occasional special offer. To keep numbers manageable, I've excluded England's Nyetimber, because I recommended two cuvées here last year, but I can't recommend this Sussex producer too highly. Every year, quality steps up and they cellar extremely well (stocked by Waitrose, Majestic, Ocado, Fortnum & Mason, Lea & Sandeman, Tanners and many other independents).

*finest 1531 Crémant de Limoux Rosé 2015, France

Mouthwatering raspberry and strawberry flavours, supple and elegant. Méthode traditionelle and Chardonnay-dominated with 10% Chenin Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir. Aged on lees for 12 months. One of this year's South of France 'Le Top 100'.

£11, Tesco

Santa Digna Estelado Rosé Brut Uva País, Chile

Made from Chile's red País, a rather lowly grape that has recently shown that, given tlc, it can produce interesting, appetising reds or, in this case, the palest of pink, traditional-method sparkling wines with red berry fruit and grapefruit tanginess.

£10.99, Roberts & Speight; £10.99, Dylans Wine; £12.95, Soho Wine Supply

Paul Mas Prima Perla Crémant de Limoux Rosé Brut, France

Another pink Limoux blend of Chardonnay, Chenin and Pinot Noir. There's a suggestion of strawberry here, too, but it's more about cherries and zingy fresh acidity.

£13.99, Soho Wine Supply

Arthur Metz Crémant d'Alsace Brut Prestige, France

A huge hit at a recent tasting I did of Alsace and Napa Valley wines and a useful reminder for me of what good value these Alsace Crémants (i.e. méthode traditionelle) can be. Appetisingly fresh and rounded with juicy apple and peach flavours and a touch of wet-stone minerality. Mainly Pinot Blanc with some Pinot Gris.

£14.99, Hennings

Francesco Bellei Pignoletto Ancestrale Modena, Italy

Slightly cloudy, crisp, dry and chewy, with apple skin, leafy herb and peach flavours and a bitter-almond twist. Pignoletto is the grape variety and Ancestrale is the method by which the second, bubble-creating fermentation occurs in the bottle, as in Champagne, but the deposit of dead yeast is left in the bottle instead of removing it,

£14.95, Jeroboams

* finest Franciacorta Brut, Italy

More expensive than most Prosecco, but so much classier and closer to Champagne in execution and style. Dry and refreshing with a cushion-soft mousse and a hint of nuttiness. A blend of Chardonnay (80%) with Pinot Bianco, fermented in the bottle.

£15, Tesco

Dowie Doole Moxie Sparking Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia

Exuberant, deep red, richly fruity, full -bodied red fizz from Australia. Falls somewhere between medium dry and medium sweet and can be served with food or without. It's my current Wine of the Week, so read more here.

£17.99–£21.99, Armit Wines, Twelve Green Bottles, Hard to Find Wines, The Dorset Wine Company, Shaftsbury Wines

Hattingley Valley Sparkling Red Pinot 2015, England

Hurry – limited edition! An unusual, new red English fizz made in Hampshire by the traditional method (à la Champagne) from Pinot Noir and some of the earlier maturing Pinot Précoce. It was first fermented and matured for six months in Burgundy barrels (or 80% of it was) then, once bottled, it was aged for 13 months on the lees. It has a beautiful, pure Pinot perfume of cherries, roses, strawberries and other red berries, then, on the palate, pomegranate as well as sweeter red fruits, creamy almond patisserie, a touch of bitter almond and structure-giving sour-cherry acidity and green-tea like tannins. It has a dosage of 5g/l and tastes almost bone-dry. Drink it as an aperitif or with charcuterie, or try it with cold roast beef. Perhaps surprisingly, it also goes with smoked salmon – a rich, smoky one (peat and heather smoked, for example).

£25, hattingleyvalley.co.uk and some local Hampshire shops

Aldwick Court Farm Jubilate Pinot Noir Rosé Brut, England

Pinot Noir from Somerset: juicy and bright with strawberry and raspberry fruit and a round, creamy mousse. Not complex, but a real crowd-pleaser (as we saw at one of The Wine Gang festivals recently).

£27.95, Novel Wines

Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut 2014, England

Very stylish, super-pale, traditional-method pink fizz from Cornwall. Lovely wild-strawberry fruit, supple, soft texture, fine, zesty acidity and beautiful balance.

£26.99 on offer, Nickolls & Perks; £29, Booths; £32.50, Vinoteca

Photographs by Joanna Simon

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