We drink so much sparkling wine in this country now, I’m not sure there is really any need for a special occasion to pop a cork. But Christmas is one of those times when it does seem de rigueur to be pouring the fizzy stuff.
There is more than enough fizz on the market now to suit just about every budget and taste bud – from prosecco through to luxury-end Champagne and, of course, not forgetting that all-important English sparkling wine.
Here are a few suggestions for last-minute shopping.
If you’re looking for good value Champagne then the place to start is Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut NV (Aldi £10.99, 75cl) which managed to outscore the likes of Veuve Clicquot and Moët &Chandon at a tasting carried out recently for Which?
To be honest, I'm not sure how they manage to sell it at this price, but it’s well made with nice red apple fruit, zesty acidity and lively bubbles.
Of the other supermarket entry-point Champagnes, I’ve always had a soft spot for Co-op Les Pionniers Brut NV (Co-op £16.99) which it seems to me, year-in-year-out, is totally reliable and great value.
It’s made for the Co-op by Piper-Heidsieck, so it has great pedigree, and has a lovely creaminess and a complexity that belies its sub-£20 price tag.
Waitrose Blanc de Blancs Brut NV (Waitrose £17.99 on offer from £22.99 until December 26) is a little more delicate, made entirely from chardonnay.
I love its elegant, fresh style with some complexity and it's really good value while on offer.
Of the Grande Marque Champagnes, Bollinger is one I constantly return to and
Bollinger Special Cuvée NV (widely available and Majestic £43.99 but £34.99 if part of a mixed six bottles) is the epitome of this great house.
It is pale gold in colour and full-bodied with real complexity in this pinot noir-based blend.
Outside of Champagne, the Loire Valley is a great source of quality sparkling wines and L’Extra par Langlois Brut NV, Crémant de Loire (Majestic £13.99 but £10.99 if part of a mixed six bottles) is a real cracker and a great all-round fizz of the holidays.
Made from chardonnay and chenin blanc, this has green apple and citrus fruit with a lovely, clean, elegant finish.
It works by itself but at this price it makes a great buck's fizz, the sort of bottle to have in the fridge just in case!
Lastly, what am I going to be popping on Christmas Day?
Well, I can’t help but wave the flag for the great fizz currently being made in Hampshire, and if I had to pick one it would be Hambledon Premier Cuvée NV (direct from the vineyard at £42.50, also available from Fareham Wine Cellar and Hermitage Cellars).
It’s one of the finest expressions of English sparkling wine so far produced and beautifully packaged with a complexity to rival the very best NV Champagnes. Everyone introduced to this glorious wine has been amazed by the quality.
Happy Christmas from the downs of Hampshire.
Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.