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The Festive Champagne and Sparkling Wine Guide 2023

Welcome to my roundup of Champagnes and sparkling wines for the festive season. It's always a pleasure to publish this – with an appropriate glass to hand, of course.

There should be something for everybody, from party goer to Champagne aficionado, and something for every occasion, from 'hey, it's Friday, let's break open the fizz', to opening the presents on Christmas morning to New Year's Eve, Twelth Night and deep into 2024.

There are a few that I've recommended before, but I've prioritised producers and cuvées that I haven't featured previously. The 15 Champagnes come first, in ascending order of price as far as possible, apart from the three Piaff cuvées that I’ve grouped together. The nine sparkling wines from everywhere else follow, also in ascending price order.

If comparing prices, remember that, as well as differences in delivery charges and multibuy discounts, the same Champagne will be sold by some retailers in a gift box, which ups the price.

House of Townend Special Reserve Champagne

Excellent value Champagne made specially for House of Townend by Champagne Elmer in Epernay. The 60:40 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is aged for at least 5 years on lees and has a dosage of 10g/l, giving toasted sourdough, sweet lemon and frangipane flavours, textured, creamy depth and balancing zesty acidity. 12%

£26.99 (down from £27.99), House of Townend

De Saint-Gall Le Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru Champagne

Creamy, biscuity and chalky with softly citrusy fruit, this is a characteristically sleek and melifluous all-Chardonnay Champagne from a co-operative group that has vineyards in many of the best villages in the Côte des Blancs and is headquartered in Avize. De Saint-Gall is a name to have on your radar all the time. 12.5%

£29.95–£46.68, Dalling & Co, 8wines, Vinatis UK, The Champagne Collection, Amazon UK, XtraWine and many other independents

Castelnau Brut Champagne

A gentle nose embracing toasted-almond biscuits, pistachio, jasmine, vanilla and red apple, then a palate of delicate creamy richness and a fresh, salted-almond finish. Previously called Brut Réserve, the blend is 40% Chardonnay, 40% Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir, with 30% reserve wines, and it’s aged for 5 years in the cellars giving the roundness and breadth.

£33.81, The Wine Society

Harvey Nichols Premier Cru Brut Champagne

An open, inviting, richly fruity and biscuity, Pinot-dominated blend made specially for HN by Lombard & Medot in Epernay. Sweet red apple and strawberry take the stage with almond shortbread and easy acidity to crowd-pleasing effect. It spent 30 months on lees and has 7g/l RS. 12%

£35, Harvey Nichols

Virginie T Brut Champagne

I have to preface this by saying that I tasted a cuvée based on the excellent 2008 vintage, while Private Cellar is now selling one based on the very difficult 2011 vintage. I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt because Virginie Taittinger (yes, that Taittinger) has a réserve perpetuelle to maintain the style of the Brut and also, when it’s a largely unlovely vintage, she and her son Ferdinand Pougatch Taittinger are more selective and make smaller quantities. So, to the 2008 base, 70% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier, aged at least 8 years in the cellars and given a dosage of 8g/l: a lovely combination of generous fruit and hazelnut with intensity and precision and sustained chalky finish. 12.5%

£35.10, Private Cellar

Le Mesnil Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne

The small Le Mesnil co-operative in the eponymous Grand Cru of the Côte des Blancs also produces a vintage Blanc de Blancs, several vintages of which I’ve recommended, but I don’t seem to have recommended the non vintage here before. Time to put that right with this dreamy combination of crystallised lemon, acacia honey, crème fraiche and elegant mineral notes. 12%

£39.99, Waitrose

Palmer & Co Blancs de Blancs Champagne

Another all-Chardonnay Champagne from a stellar small co-operative, but here the members’ vineyards are predominantly Grands and Premiers Crus in the Montagne de Reims. Using a significant amount of reserve wine and ageing the Champagne for 5 years on its lees has brought biscuity richness to the oyster-shell minerality, toasted almond nuttiness and floral and citrus-fruit elegance. A low dosage of 6–7g/l maintains the purity of expression. 12%

£39.99–£52.95, Ministry of Drinks, Waitrose, North & South Wines, Iconic Wines, Urban Grapes, Amazon

Gosset Grande Réserve Brut Champagne

The flagship Champagne of the house of Gosset is a blend of equal amounts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with 10% Pinot Meunier, but it takes its style cue from the Pinot Noir grown in the Grand Cru of Aÿ and from 36 months' ageing, which brings depth of flavour. It’s generous in fruit, well structured, dry and mineral with zingy acidity and a modest dosage of 8g/l. Should you want a non-vintage to cellar, it ages well. It's also available in dinky half-bottles. 12%

£41.99–£49.31, Waitrose, Bon Coeur Fine Wines, House of Townend, The Secret Cellar, Lea & Sandeman, Hedonism, The Finest Bubble, Weavers Wines, Ocado, Amazon, Master of Malt, The Whisky Exchange, The Wine Society and many others

Piaff Brut Champagne

Piaff, the name taken from a horse dressage move, was established in 2016 and was new to me this year. The winemaker is Maxime Mansard whose family have been Champagne makers for five generations and have 24ha of vineyards in the Vallée de la Marne, mainly in Cerseuil. The nicely approachable Brut has an appealing nose of white flowers, grilled hazelnuts and pears and a flowing, fine-textured palate of lightly lemony, peach and buttery apple-pie flavours, with a squeeze of grapefruit to give it bite. The blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier (35:35:30) is aged on lees for 2 years and, like the other two cuvées, has a dosage of 7–7.5g/l. 12%

£41–£41.95, Amathus, Master or Malt

Piaff Brut Rosé Champagne

Aged on its lees for 2 years like the Brut, this is a fleshy but elegant Pinot-dominant blend (50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay) with strawberry and lemon-balm fruit framed by patisserie cream and shortcake. 12%

£51.50–£51.95, Amathus, Master or Malt


Piaff Blanc de Blancs Champagne

The all-Chardonnay cuvée is aged for 3 years on lees, a year longer than the other two, and it shows in the toasted nut, crème caramel and brioche richness that underscore the white-peach precision and briny minerality of the chalk-grown Chardonnay. 12%

£69.30–£69.95, Amathus, Master of Malt

Laurent Perrier Brut Millésimé 2012 Champagne

Most houses have moved on from this vintage, but Laurent-Perrier, which declares fewer vintages than most, is still on its beautifully polished 2012. Tiny bubbles and seamless freshness support nougat, a hint of honey and refined butter-smooth complexity. Snap it up while you can. A magnum perhaps? (£125, Waitrose). 12%

£54.99–£59.99, Virgin Wines, Waitrose, Perfect Cellar, The Bottle Club, Tanners Wines, Xtra Wine, North and South Wines

J Dumangin Le Vintage 2009 Extra Brut Champagne

A great opportunity to buy a mature vintage Champagne (in a very good vintage) from a respected grower at a very fair price. The 2009, more or less half and half Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Premier Cru vineyards, has honeyed depth, rich fruit and texture, nervy acidity and a clean, bone-dry finish – and it still has cellaring potential. 12%

£56.25–£59.95, Yapp Brothers, The Whisky Exchange

Nicolas Maillart Montchenot Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut Champagne

Lea & Sandeman have long championed grower Champagnes. This one, an 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier blend, is from 10th generation Montagne de Reims grower Nicolas Maillart and specifically from the family’s vineyards in the hamlet of Montchenot in Premier Cru Villers-Allerand. The fruit is lush, ripe and appley, yet also has beautiful clarity and intensity, and the palate is poised and silky with chalky persistence. A distinguished and distinctive Blanc de Noirs.

£61.95 (or £56.95 in any mix of 6 bottles of Champagne, spirits, sweet or fortified) Lea & Sandeman

Bollinger PN TX17 Champagne

The perfect bottle for a Champagne connoisseur, or when you feel you deserve a real treat. It’s the third in Bollinger’s series highlighting specific terroirs for Pinot Noir, in this case Tauxières, and the base wine is from the 2017 vintage – so now you know why it’s called PN TX17. It has pin-prick bubbles and beguiling notes of raspberry, apricot, dried flowers, patisserie cream, salted almond and roasting coffee beans. 12%

£78.77–£91.99, Private Cellar, North & South Wines, ND John Wines, NY Wines, House of Townend, Waitrose


¡H! Barcelona Organic Cava Brut, Spain

This is a party animal if ever there was one. Made from three traditional local grape varieties and the traditional method (similar to Champagne), this is a breezy, bright Catalunyan crowd pleaser, with apple, citrus and bready sourdough flavours. And it's organic to boot. 11.5%

£9.99 in any 12-bottle mix (£14.99, singly), Laithwaites

Bird in Hand Sparkling 2022, Australia

Other stockists are available, as they say, but Waitrose is selling this party-ready pink at a knock-down tenner for the festive season. It’s Pinot Noir-based, powder pink and brimming with soft, fresh strawberry and summer-pudding fruit. 12.5%

£10 until 1.1.24, Waitrose; £15–£15.75, Tesco, Sainsbury’s

Follador Prosecco Superiore Torri di Credazzo

Superiore by name and superior by nature. This is not your run-of-the-mill Prosecco but one from a single, family-owned vineyard in the favoured Torri de Credazzo area. Stylish floral and peach flavours with just a whisper of fresh dill. 11.5%

£12.49 (down from £15.49, Waitrose Cellar)

Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut

The name behind some very fine Chablis, Simonnet-Febvre (once you know you don’t sound the ‘b’ it’s easy to pronounce) also produces elegant Crémant. This is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot that undergoes the bubble-inducing second fermentation in bottle like Champagne and is aged for 2 years before being released with a low, 7g/l dosage and with a delicate peal of bready, biscuity, citrus and pear tones. 12%

£15, Tesco

Flint Vineyard Charmat Rosé 2022, England

England’s answer to pink Prosecco. Vivacious pink colour, exuberant strawberry fruit atop meringue – yes, I’m thinking strawberry pavlova – and refreshing lemon zest acidity. To be a tad more technical, it’s made in the same way as Prosecco, the second fermentation taking place in a huge tank (charmat method) rather than in the individual bottles, and the grape varietes include Pinot Noir, Rondo and Reichensteiner. It's not cheap, but it’s got fun written all over it and it's smartly packaged. Look out for Flint’s still wines, too, especially the Pinot Noir Précoce and Bacchus Fumé. 12.5%

£21.50–£27.50, Jarrolds department store deli, Adnams, Flint Vineyard, WineFolk, Grape Britannia, Pinneys of Orford, Hawkins Bros, Swig, Reserve Wines

Roebuck Reserve 2020, England

A new, softer, fruitier style of sparkling wine from the super-sunny 2020 vintage at this West Sussex estate. It’s made by the traditional method (like Champagne) from the classic grape variety trio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with a little bit of oak to round it out, but it’s aimed at drinkers who are new to English sparkling wines and might find the acidity too sharp, especially if they’ve come over from Prosecco. If you're a fan of classic English fizz, I can recommend Roebuck’s longer-aged Classic Cuvée (£38–£43, Roebuck Estates, Hennings Wine, Flagship Wines, Noble Green Wines).

£26.99 mix 6, Majestic

Woodchester Valley Reserve Cuvée, England

I sang the praises of this classy, traditional-method Cotswold fizz in October; click here for more.

£30.75, Woodchester Valley Vineyard

Nyetimber 1086 2010

I know, I know… the price, but Nyetimber’s 1986 prestige cuvées hold their own against the top prestige cuvées of Champagne. Since the 2010 white was released four years ago (above left), the vanilla brioche and crème brulée notes have blossomed and the texture has become more luxurious and caressing, but it's still anchored by lemon and orange vibrancy and an absorbing mineral quality. The blend is 45% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir and 11% Pinot Meunier and the dosage is 9.7g/l

£150, Nyetimber

Nyetimber 1086 Rosé 2013

I was wowed by the first vintage, the 2010, and I think this second release, 2013 (above right) is even better. It's not showy but it's a little more expressive, even more graceful and serene. As in the debut vintage, the red fruit – fraises des bois on a bed of English rose petals – has a vinosity that reminds me of fine Burgundian Pinot. There’s a creaminess to the palate that’s quite plush yet sophisticated, there’s some hazelnut and patisserie cream and the acidity is chiselled and refined and carries the wine through to a long finish. The blend is 64% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay and the red wine component is a fairly substantial 14% (aged in used oak). The 2013 was aged on lees for nearly 6 years and the dosage is 8g/l.

£175, Nyetimber

Photographs by Joanna Simon


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