ALISTAIR GIBSON: Put some sparkle into your Christmas with quality fizz
We drink so much sparkling wine in this country now, I'm not sure there is really any need for aÂ special occasion to pop a cork. But Christmas is one of those times when itÂ doesÂ seem de rigueurÂ to be pouring the fizzy stuff. Â
There is more than enough fizz on the market nowÂ to suit just about every budget and taste bud '“Â from prosecco through to luxury-endÂ Champagne and, of course, not forgetting that all-important English sparkling wine.
Here are a fewÂ suggestions for last-minute shopping.
If you're looking for good value Champagne then the place to start is Veuve Monsigny ChampagneÂ Brut NV (Aldi Â£10.99, 75cl) which managed to outscore the likes of Veuve Clicquot and MoÃ«t &Chandon at a tasting carried out recently for Which?
To be honest, I'm not sure how they manageÂ 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 LesÂ Pionniers Brut NV (Co-op Â£16.99) which it seems to me, year-in-year-out, is totally reliable and greatÂ value.
It's made for the Co-op by Piper-Heidsieck, so it has great pedigree, and has a lovelyÂ creaminess and a complexity that belies its sub-Â£20 price tag.
Waitrose Blanc de Blancs Brut NVÂ (Waitrose Â£17.99 on offer from Â£22.99 until December 26) is a little more delicate, made entirelyÂ from chardonnay.
I love its elegant, fresh style with some complexity and it'sÂ really good value whileÂ on offer.
Of the Grande Marque Champagnes, Bollinger is one I constantly return to and
Bollinger Special CuvÃ©e NV (widely available and Majestic Â£43.99 but Â£34.99 if part of a mixed sixÂ bottles) is the epitome of this great house.
It is pale gold in colour and full-bodied with real complexity inÂ this pinot noir-based blend.
Outside of Champagne, the Loire Valley is a great source of quality sparkling wines and L'Extra parÂ Langlois Brut NV, CrÃ©mant de Loire (Majestic Â£13.99 but Â£10.99 if part of a mixed six bottles) is aÂ real cracker and a great all-round fizz of the holidays.
Made from chardonnay and chenin blanc,Â this has green apple and citrus fruit with a lovely, clean, elegant finish.
It works by itself but at thisÂ price it makes a great buck's fizz, the sort of bottle to have in the fridge just in case!Â
Lastly, what am I going to be popping on Christmas Day?
Well, I can't help but wave the flag for theÂ great fizz currently being made in Hampshire, and if I had to pick one it would be HambledonÂ Premier CuvÃ©e NV (direct from the vineyard at Â£42.50, also available from Fareham Wine CellarÂ and Hermitage Cellars).
It's one of the finest expressions of English sparkling wine so farÂ produced and beautifully packaged with a complexity to rival the very best NV Champagnes.Â EveryoneÂ introduced to this glorious wine Â has been amazed by the quality.
HappyÂ Christmas from the downs of Hampshire.
Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mailÂ [email protected]