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Website © 2019 Joanna Simon

Header photo © Waitrose & Partners Drinks / Cat Garcia

Festive Fizz 2019: anything but Champagne


The first of the season's round-ups of recommendations is sparkling wines, from far and near but not Champagne – that gets its own show soon. Give or take special offers, they're in ascending order of price, except that this year I've given English sparkling wines their own zone (scroll down). Their quality warrants it. I'd like to have included more, but wanted to keep numbers manageable. One wine I intended recommending is out of stock, but it's worth noting for when it's back: Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot Crémant du Jura, a Chardonnay with fresh apple fruit against a light, toasty, creamy background (£14.25, Yapp Bros).


We kick off with a Pignoletto, but there's no Prosecco. I didn't taste any basic Procecco that shone above others. If you want better quality, choose a Superiore, i.e. one that carries a strip label with the letters DOCG on the capsule, the word Valdobbiadene on the label (the region from which the Superiores come), or Cartizze which is the finest enclave of Valdobbiadene. 


Taste the Difference Pignoletto Brut, Italy

An alternative to Prosecco (boy, do we need one), made from a different grape variety (Grechetto rather than Glera) in Emilia Romagna rather than the Veneto. It fields fruity, soft appeal, like Prosecco, but with crisper apple-pear fruit and leafy freshness. 

£9, Sainsbury's


L’Atzar Cava Reserva 2017, Spain

Dry, flowing and refreshing, with a streak of Rich Tea biscuit under the apple lemon, lime and fresh herb flavours. Good value for carefully matured vintage Cava, and delightful label too.   

£10.99, Waitrose


Graham Beck Brut, South Africa

Made in the same way as Champagne with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but the result is softer and more immediately approachable, with lightly toasty, nutty fruit, making it a useful fizz for bridging the gulf between Champagne and Prosecco drinkers. It comes with good credentials too: tagged ‘the President’s choice’ because it was served at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration and Barack Obama’s presidential win.

£11.99–£15.99, Majestic, Waitrose, Ocado


Domaine des Hauts Perrays Crémant de Loire Brut, France

France’s various Crémants are made in a similar way to Champagne (with the second fermentation taking place in the bottle) but not necessarily from the same grapes or aged as long. The enticing quince and honey perfume and citrus tang in this one come from Chenin Blanc, which is supported by a little toasty Chardonnay and some Cabernet Franc. Look out also for Crémants from Alsace (see below), Bourgogne and Jura.

£13.95/£12.95, Lea & Sandeman


Domaine Paul Ginglinger Crémant d’Alsace Brut Prestige 2016

An elegant, delicately creamy, dry, pure Chardonnay Crémant that was aged on its lees for two years and had a dosage of only 3g/l, giving it its perfect aperitif-style purity. Michel Ginglinger, the thirteenth generation of Ginglinger winemakers, also makes very good Pinot Noir red wines.

£13.95, The Wine Society


Jansz Premium Rosé Brut, Tasmania

Another southern hemisphere fizz – pink this time – that can perform the tricky act of satisfying Champagne drinkers and drawing in diehard Prosecco fans. It was my Wine of the week earlier this year: more details here

£15.80–£21.99, Frazier’s Wine, Slurp, Ocado, Flagship Wines, NY Wines, Corks Out, Selfridges



Altemasi Trentodoc Millesimato 2015 Brut, Italy

An Italian answer to Champagne, made from Chardonnay grown in the Dolomite mountains and aged on its lees for more than 36 months. Layers of peach and grapefruit with crème fraiche depth and saline freshness. Very good value. And there’s an even finer Reserva, Graal 2012, which has 30% Pinot Noir and is aged for 72 months on lees, but the 2012 hasn’t arrived yet and I haven’t tasted the 2010.

£20.11, tannico.co.uk; £100.99 for 6, kwoff.co.uk 


Roederer Estate Quartet Brut, Anderson Valley, California

Champagne quality and complexity in this sparkling wine made in Anderson Valley, California by one of my favourite Champagne houses, Louis Roederer. Lemon-scented fruit and toasted brioche flavours from a patiently matured blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Excellent.

£23.50–£25.99, champagnedirect.co.uk, The Wine Society, Waitrose



THE ENGLISH ZONE

Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2018, England

Very different from the other English wines below, which are all made in the same way as Champagne. This, instead, is closer in mood to Prosecco and works as both an alternative or an antidote to the ubiquitous Italian fizz. It’s a lightly carbonated, easy-drinking off-dry style with the zesty elderflower and gooseberry flavours of the Bacchus grape.

£17.99, Waitrose, Majestic (mix six price); £102 for 6, chapeldown.com


Selborne Classic Cuvée Brut, England

Made from Hampshire grapes in partnership with the admirable Hambledon, this has lovely brioche, honey and ripe apple flavours and lemon-zest zing. It's 51% Chardonnay and more or less 45% Pinot Noir with a smidgen of Meunier. Very good value, especially at the current offer price.

£19.99 until December 2, then £24.99 (when you buy any 6 bottles), Majestic


Morrisons The Best English Sparkling Brut Vintage 2010, England

Morrisons are not letting on about who the producer Rolling Green Hills is, but I suspect a connection with one of the very best and best-known English sparkling producers. Certainly it tastes like it, with its walnutty, toasty richness and fine acidity. The blend is 59% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir and 8% Meunier. The non-vintage is also good (£20), but this is worth the £5 extra.

£25, Morrisons


Nyetimber Classic Cuvée and 1086 Rosé 2010, England

If you’re in the mood to splash £175, I can recommend Nyetimber’s new 1086 Rosé 2010, with its deep, expressive red-fruit (reminiscent of classy Burgundian Pinot Noir), rich but fine texture and precision-tool acidity. I’m looking forward to tasting the white 1086 very soon – both 2009 and 2010 have been released (£150). Failing £175, or nerve, the Classic Cuvée (West Sussex and Hampshire) is always a winner: the current bottling is biscuity, complex, crisp and perfectly proportioned. The Blanc de Blancs 2013 is also excellent, as reviewed here earlier this year (stockists include Hennings and Tanners, £38.50–£42). 

Classic Cuvée is widely stocked, but these are some of the more competitive prices currently: £25.99, Majestic (when you buy any 6 bottles); £28.95, Hennings Wine; £29.99, Laithwaites, £32.50, Fortnum & Mason 



Harrow & Hope Brut Rosé 2015, England

Outclassing many a more expensive pink Champagne, this salmon-pink, silky textured Champagne-style fizz has delicious red-cherry fruit. It's Marlow-born and bred Pinot Noir with a touch of Meunier.

£32, Laithwaites; £192 for 6, harrowandhope.com


Bride Valley Blanc de Blancs 2014, England

Delicate but long-lasting toasted-biscuit, cream, citrus and mineral flavours from chalky slopes in West Dorset. Textbook all-Chardonnay Champagne-style fizz.

£33.95, The Whisky Exchange; £37.50, English Wine Kiosk; £38, waitrosecellar.com and selected stores


Black Chalk Classic 2015, England

One of England’s finest – toasty, creamy and taut, with citrus and apple fruit and a whisper of honey. It’s from Hampshire and is a classic Chardonnay, Meunier and Pinot Noir blend. There’s an excellent pink too, Black Chalk Wild Rose 2016 (£40).

£34.95, The Whisky Exchange; £35, blackchalkwine.co.uk; £37.99, Kwoff 


Fox & Fox Tradition Blanc de Noirs 2014, England

Single-vineyard Pinot Noir (with 5% Chardonnay) from Mayfield, East Sussex. Intense, ripe and zesty with apricot, crushed citrus and brioche flavours. Confident and complex.

£40, foxandfox.wine


Photographs by Joanna Simon

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