Uncork the festive fizz

Les Pionniers Champagne
Les Pionniers Champagne
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Christmas Day is the one day of the year when you really don’t need an excuse to open a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine.

Fizz seems to have been very much in the news this year, whether it was the rise of Prosecco or the attention-grabbing English vineyards, some of which are now producing truly world-class fizz.

Taittinger Brut Reserve NV

Taittinger Brut Reserve NV

So here are my suggestions for getting the most out of your sparkling wine this Christmas.

Prosecco has enjoyed an almost meteoric rise in popularity this year, so much so that there are rumours of shortages and I am afraid there will certainly be price rises next year.

Meanwhile, San Leo Prosecco (Waitrose £10.49 down to £7.79) is good value and exactly what this type of wine should be – light and frothy with green apple fruit, not to be taken too seriously. It’s also available in magnums, which is a bit of fun.

Cava has not had the best of press, but watch this space as maybe due to the success of Prosecco, producers are raising their game.

Codorníu Selección Raventós NV Cava (Majestic £11.99 but as part of a mixed six £7.99) has some chardonnay in the blend and is all the better for it. There are better quality Cavas but this is good value and has nice citrus fruit and some body. In fact it would work well with Lawrence’s mackerel terrine (see below).

In terms of Champagne, looking back at my notes over the past few years, Les Pionniers Champagne NV (Co-op £16.99) is consistently my favorite supermarket own-label Champagne and so it is again this year.

It’s still great value. Indeed it’s difficult to know how they produce it at this price. There are citrus and biscuity notes with real complexity and a creamy mousse.

Taittinger Brut Reserve NV (widely available and Tesco £35 down to £25 until December 8) is one of the few Champagnes still made by the family whose name appears on the label.

It’s a lighter style with summer fruits, a touch of honey and brioche on the nose followed by a wonderfully balanced mouth feel. Try this with some smoked salmon or maybe sushi.

If I had to choose one Champagne to take to a desert island it would be Bollinger Special Cuvée (widely available and on offer but Tesco £40 down to £30 until December 31). It has weight but real elegance with toasty flavours and hints of honey. There is richness as well as complexity.

It’s the type of fizz you could drink all day, even through the turkey. Now there’s a thought.

As for what I will be drinking on the day itself, well it’s been mentioned in this column before but it’s been such an amazing year for English sparkling wines I think I’ll be celebrating Christmas with a bottle of Hambledon Classic Cuvée (hambledonvineyard.co.uk and local independent merchants from £28.50) and toasting our Hampshire vineyards.