Watch out Champers, there's aÂ new kid in town '“Â Alistair Gibson
Over the past few years we have become a nation of sparkling wine drinkers. The UK has long been one of Champagne's biggest markets.Â
But for many the King of FizzÂ was reserved mainly for weddings and birthdays and indeed Champagne sales have actually fallen in the past 12 months.Â
English sparkling wine has been enjoying huge success asÂ consumers wake up to the delights of home-grown fizz and it has become a majorÂ presence on restaurant lists and supermarket shelves.Â
But it is the rise and rise of prosecco, with its gentler price and drink-me-nowÂ style which has, in many ways, changedÂ the market entirely with sales of sparkling wines as a whole doubling since 2012.
But is the prosecco bubble about to burst? Sales are beginning to slow down and a recent report put this down to overexposure andÂ overstocking at supermarkets.
So, what's next? The answer would appear to beÂ FrenchÂ crÃ©mant, the little, less well-known, brother of Champagne, with sales at Waitrose up more thanÂ 70 per centÂ in 2017 onÂ the previous year.
CrÃ©mant can be produced in sevenÂ specific regions across France, including the Loire, Burgundy and Alsace. Although the grape varieties used may vary from region to region, the method of production is the sameÂ as in Champagne, where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle.
Prices areÂ higher than prosecco but less than Champagne, allowingÂ consumers to trade upÂ without having to reach the heady heightsÂ of Champagne.
CrÃ©mant de Loire is one of these styles which is worth seeking out, with chenin blancÂ often being the common component. These winesÂ not only make good aperitifs andÂ party wines but also some interesting food pairings, particularly with seafood suchÂ as oysters and crab.
Prince Alexandre CrÃ©mant de Loire (Waitrose Â£9.69 on offer fromÂ Â£12.99 until August 28) is a good place to start, made from a blend of chenin blanc, chardonnay and cabernet franc.
It's quite elegant with a fine bead of tiny bubbles, notesÂ of pear, apple and a little honey on the nose followed by a fresh palate with lively acidityÂ and a nice clean finish.Â
It's very good value while on offer and would make a lovely lateÂ summer garden party wine.
Abbesse de Loire CrÃ©mant de Loire RosÃ©Â (Laithwaites.co.uk Â£13.99) is made mainly from cabernet franc and is a very pretty,Â pale pink colour.
The bouquet is very reminiscent of an English summer with red berriesÂ and a little blackcurrant, followed by citrus and soft strawberry fruits on the palate, crispÂ acidity and a nice mouth filling finish.Â Another lovely aperitif but you could also pair thisÂ with a bowl of strawberries to finish a meal.
If I had a wine of the week it would be L'ExtraÂ par Langlois Brut NV CrÃ©mant de Loire (Majestic Â£13.99 but Â£10.99 if part of a mixed six)Â made by Langlois-Chateau who are owned by Champagne Bollinger '“ and the qualityÂ shows.
This is all about orchard fruit with pears and apples on the nose with just a touchÂ of honey, this follows through on to the palate with fresh, zesty acidity and good length.
This is one for a plate of oysters or some local Hampshire smoked trout.