Wine: A sparkling Christmas

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With the festive season the perfect excuse to pop a few Champagne corks, Christine Austin looks at the best offers.

Christmas is a time for fizz and festivity and with 32 million bottles of champagne heading our way every year it is clear that either the recession is over or that we all need a lot more bubbles in our glasses just to keep spirits up. Pop the cork when the neighbours come round, when it is present-opening time, or just because it is Christmas.

This year there are some terrific bargains to be had on champagne, but to save you ending up with something thin and acidic in your glass I have checked out the best tastes and the best prices. Here is my selection of the ones to buy this Christmas.

Under £10

Sainsbury’s Asti, £5.25: When did you last try Asti? It is full of frothy fruit with a fragrant, grapey taste. Pop the cork on this mid-afternoon, with a sliver of cake or a sneaky plateful of last night’s pud.

Extra Special Prosecco, Asda, down from £8.25 to £6.50 until January 2: Good floral fruit and a sweet, crowd-pleasing plate. Prosecco has really climbed the popularity charts and this one is good.

Philippe Michel Crémant de Jura, France, Aldi, £6.99: This is a terrific 100 per cent Chardonnay fizz, made in exactly the same way as champagne, from grapes grown in the Jura region of France. It has a soft creamy mousse and a fresh-tasting, crisp, dry finish. It tastes well above its price point and should be a staple for any large gathering.

San Leo Nerello Mascalese/Glera Rosato NV Italy, Waitrose, down from £10.49 to £6.99 until January 2: With just a hint more sweetness than brut champagne, and a delightful pale pink colour, this is a great wine to pour when the neighbours descend en masse.

Champagne Veuve Monsigny by Philizot & Fils, France, Aldi, £9.99: I earmarked this one for a mention when it was at its regular price of £12.99 and it has now been reduced to £9.99, which makes it a real bargain. They can’t tell me how long this offer will last, so get in the car and snap it up while they still have stock.

It isn’t the greatest of champagnes, but it is certainly the greatest of the cheapies out there.

Bouvet Ladubay Saumur, NV, France, Majestic, £13.49 down to £8.99 on multibuy: From the Loire where they have been making quality fizz for centuries, this is Chenin Blanc grapes, fermented and matured in the bottle in the traditional way. It has soft honeysuckle and floral notes with matured bruised apple and citrus notes.

£10 to £15

Oudinot Brut Champagne, Marks and Spencer, down from £25 to £15 until December 25: A sure-fire favourite and consistently good with a rounded toasty style. It won’t come to any harm if you buy enough to last you through next summer so clear a space under the stairs for a box or two.

Cloudy Bay Pelorus, New Zealand, Tesco, down from £19.99 to £14.99 until December 25: A classic blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay made using traditional methods to get the fizz into the bottle, this is one of the best of the New World sparklers. There are nutty, yeasty notes alongside crisp apple freshness.

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne, Sainsbury’s, down from £29.99 to £14.99 until December 24: Another half-price offer which always makes me suspicious, but other major retailers have this at £20, so the Sainsbury’s offer is a good deal. A light fresh style of champagne that will still taste good in the springtime.

£15 to £20

Tesco Premier Cru Champagne, down from £19.99 to £16.99 until December 25: A consistent medal winner with toasty brioche and apple notes. It always performs well even in classy champagne company.

Charles de Cazanove NV Brut Champagne, Co-op, down from £33.99 to £16.99: Now hitting its comfort zone at half price, but still with good flavour for money, this has a toasty style and a long, generous finish.

Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne, Tesco £18.99 for 37.5cl: Only half a bottle for this price, but sometimes a half is just what is called for. Popping the cork on a half-bottle is more spontaneous, it is quicker to chill and easier to polish off so you don’t need to hunt for the champagne stopper. The quality of Moët has been steadily improving and now it has a lovely rounded, complex style.

Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs Champagne NV, down from £21.99 to £16.49 until January 1: Fatter and rounder in style than many other champagnes, this is the one to choose if you want to serve champagne through a meal. It has enough power and weight to cope with everything from canapés to roast 
chicken.

£20 to £30

Jacques Boncoeur Brut Reserve Champagne, Bon Coeur Fine Wines (01765 688200) £21.99: Specially blended for Bon Coeur and now with several medals to its credit, this is a rounded, toasty champagne with hints of tarte tatin underpinned by light, clean freshness. If you buy a mixed case with the equally medal-decorated Boncoeur Rosé the deal gets even better.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvée West Sussex, England, Waitrose, down from £29.99 to £22.49: If global warming continues then we will all be drinking English fizz so get your taste buds in tune with this rich, creamy, toasty fizz with a streak of Granny Smith apple freshness.

Ayala Brut Champagne, Latitude, Leeds, (0113 245 3393) £25.99: Now owned by Bollinger, Ayala has been steadily improving year on year. The style is lighter than Bolly, with clear, clean lines and a soft, aromatic style. A mid-morning to lunchtime champagne.

Is the economic crisis over?

Gosset Grande Reserve Brut, Champagne, Field and Fawcett, York (01904 489073) £45.95: When you can buy Aldi Champagne at £9.99 why would anyone pay £45.95 for something else? The answer is sheer quality. This champagne consistently out-shines some of the better-known names with weight, toast and above all, elegance.

Pol Roger 2004, Vintage Champagne, Latitude £60: Glorious right now but still with years to go, this is for those quiet Christmas moments, à deux at the end of the day, or when all your guests have gone home. Elegant, smooth, and utterly gorgeous.

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