I’m not much given to crystal ball gazing, but I feel fairly confident that between now and the end of the year, bubbles are going to play a part in your life.
If you’re planning on any kind of Christmas drinks, then fizz is surely part of the picture. And some occasions are so special as to require the ultimate in fine fizz: Champagne.
So, here is my guide to festive fizz: from surefire party hits that won’t have your guests looking for the nearest pot plant to empty their drinks into – but which won’t be overly demanding on the pocket either. Plus some of my absolute favourite Champagnes, when only the best will do.
Follador Prosecco Superiore 2017 – £14.99 Waitrose
There has been a great wave of Prosecco flowing through the UK in recent years. I’m always happy to have a glass of it – but this one, made by Follador, is a bit of a cut above, a little drier than most and with a grown-up precision to the pear tinted fruit. Keep a bottle in the fridge door for festive drop-in guests.
Cava Conde de Haro 2015 – £13.50 The Wine Society, £14.99 Waitrose
Pity poor old Cava – it used to be our go-to fizz when you wanted bubbles, but when the budget didn’t run to Champagne. Now that Italian crowd-pleaser Prosecco has taken that crown and Cava has rather taken a back seat. But a really good one like this, made by renowned Rioja producer Muga, might just convince you to give it another go. With a creamy mousse and a refined palate, this will please even the most fussy fizz fan. This can handle any festive occasion, including lighter and seafoody dishes.
Champagne, like no other wine, is dominated by brands. Veuve, Moët, Bolly…I don’t even need to spell out the full name for you to know who I mean.
Brands give the reassurance of familiarity, consistency of quality and a certain cachet. And you don’t need me to tell you to buy them. What you do need from me is a tip for the more under the radar Champagnes that offer great quality and that over deliver in terms of value for money.
Mailly Champagne Brut NV – £34.99 from The Wine Reserve Cobham
This is made by a co-operative, rather than a “grande marque” Champagne house and definitely over-delivers for the money. This is a big-boned, food friendly style, so serve it with Christmas dinner starters – but you could happily carry on with it for the turkey and trimmings (trust me).
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV – around £43-5
“Charles” is something of a wine trade secret and a Champagne that I would never like to be without (if my budget permitted!). This full-flavoured but elegant Champagne can see you through from aperitif to main course without batting an eyelid.
Gosset Grande Réserve – around £50
Gosset is a favourite house Champagne at some pretty classy restaurants. It has delicacy but depth of flavour and is always delicious – a refined aperitif par excellence.
San Leo Rosato NV – £10.49 Waitrose
This is a fun and frothy Italian that puts a smile on the face of the cash-strapped Christmas or New Year party-thrower (or goer). Fresh, fuity and not at all serious – it’s a joy.
Greyfriars Rosé NV – £21 from the vineyard
Keep it local with this delicious mouthful of hedgerow fruit complemented with a creamy mousse. Perfect pre-Christmas dinner fizz, or a fitting way to see in the New Year.
Rosé Champagne, by any objective measure, cannot justify its premium price tag, as it is in most cases just the regular cuvée with a little red wine blended into it. However, objectivity be damned, Champagne says special occasion, ergo pink Champagne says it, with knobs on.
Billecart-Salmon Rosé NV – around £60
If you want to seriously impress someone who knows their way around the fine end of wine – or just want to treat yourself – this is THE rosé Champagne to go for. A beautiful marriage of freshness and elegance with a more serious underbelly, this would be a perfect match for smoked salmon (and not just because of the name).
The leftfield choice
Villa Caldini Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro 2017 – £14 from Oddbins
Forget any preconceptions you might have about Lambrusco – this is a seriously fun (if that’s a thing) dry sparkling red. Like Beaujolais with bubbles, its crunchy berry fruit is just made for cold meats. The perfect Boxing Day pick-me-up.
Taste them live!
Join me at my Luxury Festive Champagne Evening, Thursday 13 December at High Clandon Estate Vineyard’s Glass Barn. The very finest Champagnes, including some of my favourites here, alongside an iconic prestige cuvée, fine vintages and more. There will be artisan cheese and charcuterie to enjoy and a log-burning stove to keep us cosy.
Tickets via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/luxury-festive-champagne-evening-tickets-52346328277 Get 10% off with the code “Fizzfan”.