Best Champagne offers this ChristmasÂ '“Â Alistair Murphy
There is no doubt we absolutely love sparkling wine in the UK. We are not only one ofÂ Champagne's biggest markets but also drink more prosecco than just about everyone else.
We don't really need a special occasion to pop a cork but ChristmasÂ is one ofÂ those timesÂ when pouring a glass of something fizzy is obligatory.
I'm going to focus thisÂ week on Champagne as this time of yearÂ means there are promotions on the shelves andÂ with a few weeks to go there is still time to shop around.
Looking back over my Christmas tasting notes from the past few years, Les Pionniers Brut NV (Co-opÂ Â£18.99) consistently scores very highly and I make no apologies forÂ including it again.
In a recentÂ tasting organised by Which?Â magazine, it also came out top in Champagne under Â£35, scoring higher than several leading Champagne houses.
Made for the Co-op by Piper-Heidsieck, for myÂ money I think this is the best sub-Â£20 Champagne available this Christmas.
It offers a rich, biscuityÂ nose with a creamy mousse and well balanced acidity. There is some complexity here before aÂ lengthy finish '“ perfect if you fancy some fizz with your breakfast on the big day itself but this would happily see you through the whole celebration.
Of the Grande Marque Champagnes, Bollinger is a Champagne that is always close to my heart andÂ Bollinger Special CuvÃ©e NV (widely available Â£44.99 RRP and on offer in various supermarketsÂ including the Co-op Â£37.99 untilÂ January 3 also Waitrose HALF bottle Â£17.99 on offer from Â£22.99Â until January 1) is the epitome of this great house and seldom disappoints.
Pale gold in colour,Â it's full bodied with real complexity in a pinot noir blend. ThisÂ is one of thoseÂ Champagnes you can match with food, it can certainly work well with white meatsÂ depending on the accompaniments.
Taittinger Brut RÃ©serve NV (widely available Â£42.85 RRP andÂ Waitrose on offer at Â£27Â untilÂ January 1) is another perennial favourite, made by one of theÂ last great independent Champagne houses.
A nice contrast to the Bollinger Special CuvÃ©e, theÂ nose is lighter with citrus notes, dried fruits and hazelnuts, before an elegant, well balanced palateÂ with a long, fresh finish.
This is the perfect aperitif Champagne but would also work withÂ smoked salmon or a light cure gravlax.
If you want to push the boat out a little further, thenÂ Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV (Majestic Â£69.99 or Â£59.99 as part of a mixed six) is very classy indeedÂ and comes beautifully presented in a clear bottle.
From the oldest Champagne house of all, it is made from 100 per cent chardonnay. A very distinctive yellow colour, theÂ nose has aromas of white flowers, pear and citrus fruit, the palate is very fresh with more citrusÂ fruit and a little spice in the background before a very precise, long finish.
This makes aÂ gorgeous aperitif or match with oysters, as we will be doing as part of our festive lunch.Â