There is no doubt we absolutely love sparkling wine in the UK. We are not only one of 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 Christmas is one of those times when pouring a glass of something fizzy is obligatory.
I’m going to focus this week on Champagne as this time of year means there are promotions on the shelves and 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-op £18.99) consistently scores very highly and I make no apologies for including it again.
In a recent tasting organised by Which? magazine, it also came out top in Champagne under £35, scoring higher than several leading Champagne houses.
Made for the Co-op by Piper-Heidsieck, for my money I think this is the best sub-£20 Champagne available this Christmas.
It offers a rich, biscuity nose with a creamy mousse and well balanced acidity. There is some complexity here before a 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 and Bollinger Special Cuvée NV (widely available £44.99 RRP and on offer in various supermarkets including the Co-op £37.99 until January 3 also Waitrose HALF bottle £17.99 on offer from £22.99 until January 1) is the epitome of this great house and seldom disappoints.
Pale gold in colour, it’s full bodied with real complexity in a pinot noir blend. This is one of those Champagnes you can match with food, it can certainly work well with white meats depending on the accompaniments.
Taittinger Brut Réserve NV (widely available £42.85 RRP and Waitrose on offer at £27 until January 1) is another perennial favourite, made by one of the last great independent Champagne houses.
A nice contrast to the Bollinger Special Cuvée, the nose is lighter with citrus notes, dried fruits and hazelnuts, before an elegant, well balanced palate with a long, fresh finish.
This is the perfect aperitif Champagne but would also work with smoked salmon or a light cure gravlax.
If you want to push the boat out a little further, then Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV (Majestic £69.99 or £59.99 as part of a mixed six) is very classy indeed 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, the nose has aromas of white flowers, pear and citrus fruit, the palate is very fresh with more citrus fruit and a little spice in the background before a very precise, long finish.
This makes a gorgeous aperitif or match with oysters, as we will be doing as part of our festive lunch.