Christine Austin reveals the best bottles of festive fizz to let into your ‘bubble’ this Christmas
No matter how many people are allowed in your “bubble” this Christmas, it is essential that you have your own stock of bubbles to hand. As always, there are plenty of special offers on the shelves, and if you like a particular fizz then it is always worth buying more than you need and tucking a few bottles away for spring and summer when we might be allowed to gather our families together properly.
I have tasted through them all and selected the best. From cava to champagne, there are some great deals, and don’t neglect fizz from our own English vineyards where quality is definitely high and prices have come down.
Whatever your budget, this is my top dozen for flavour and value together with a few festive drinks that may come in handy. Now that skiing and sunshine breaks are off most people’s agendas, there is plenty of time to stay home, stay safe and sip.
Finest Vintage Cava Reserva 2018, Spain, Tesco, down from £9 to £7.50: One of the best cavas on the shelves, this comes from historic producer Segura Viudas. Made from local cava grapes Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada, it has a splash of Chardonnay which adds depth and a creamy note.
Organic Prosecco, Italy, Aldi, £7.99: Remarkable flavours for money in this eco-friendly Prosecco. No pesticides or herbicides are used and the whole winery is committed to renewable energy. The wine is soft and creamy and with a long finish.
Waitrose Champagne Brut half bottle, down from £11.99 to £9.99 until January 3: Small gatherings demand smaller bottles and this Waitrose own-label champagne is deliciously elegant and refined. Keep a few bottles handy.
Bouvet Saumur Brut, Loire, France, Majestic Wines, £13.99, down to £9.99 on a mix-six deal until January 1: Traditionally made, with the second fermentation in the bottle, so it gathers a touch of toast along with the zesty, floral and honeysuckle flavours. Dry and rounded on the palate, this has a lively, fresh style that tastes well above its price point.
Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot, Adelaide Hills, Australia, Waitrose, down from £15.99 to £10 until Wednesday: Salmon pink in colour with fresh strawberry flavours and a light, crisp style from the cool Adelaide Hills.
Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut, France, Aldi, £12.99: A great value champagne that provides flavours well above its price point. Soft, creamy, baked apple notes with a hint of toast and a balanced finish make this one to pour anytime over the festive period.
Les Pionniers Champagne Brut, France, Co-op, down from £19 to £15 until January 1: This stunning offer is for Co-op members only. Non Co-op members must pay £18 for this delicious, creamy, toasty champagne.
Jansz Premium Cuvée N.V, Tasmania, Booths, £15 (usually £17) until January 3: From the chilly island of Tasmania comes this fresh, crisp, elegant fizz. Made from the classic grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in the classic method, it goes perfectly with smoked salmon nibbles.
The Best English Sparkling Brut, Morrisons, £16 (usually £25) until January 1: Made by an offshoot of one of the most prestigious English wine producers. Good complexity, balanced acidity and the three grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – are in perfect harmony.
Taste the Difference Brut Rosé Champagne, Sainsbury’s, down from £22 to £19 until January 1: There is something about drinking rosé champagne by the fire when it is cold and blowy outside. Almost naughty, with its pink colour and red fruits among the creamy bubbles, it celebrates the springtime ahead.
Devaux Blanc de Noirs Champagne Brut, Majestic Wine, £25.99: At last Devaux’s excellent champagnes have reached a major retailer. This is a delicious champagne, deep in flavour, with the taste of lemon zest on warm brioche.
Bollinger Special Cuvée NV Brut, Morrisons, down from £45 to £35 until January 1: Lockdown and a shortage of celebrations have caused an overstock in champagne, so trade up to taste some really good fizz. Bollinger is creamier, toastier and rounder than many others. It is my favourite evening champagne. Asda and Sainsbury’s also have this at £35, with different offer dates.
Nosecco, Sainsbury’s, down from £3.75 to £3.50 until January 1: Despite the current crisis not everyone will turn to drink. This is one of the best no-alcohol prosecco-lookalikes. Slightly sweeter than the real thing, it is a good compromise on flavour.
Palo Cortado Sherry, Spain, Morrisons, £5.50 (usually £6.25) for a half bottle, until January 1: If you haven’t sampled Morrisons range of sherries sourced from top producer Lustau you are missing a treat. Try Palo Cortado, a taste stepping stone between a fino and an oloroso. It is bone dry, layered with nuts, prunes and orange zest.
Irresistible PX Sherry, Co-op, £6: This is the gloopy end of the sherry spectrum, but you don’t drink it, you pour it over ice cream for a nutty, figgy, toffee treat.
Silvaner Beerenauslese Pilgerpfad 2018, Rheinhessen, Germany, Lidl, £6.99: A not-too-sweet dessert wine that can team up with a lemon tart or replace a pud altogether. Light, floral with a clean finish.
Finest Sauternes 2015, France, Tesco, £12: This has a rich, honeyed taste backed by a clear streak of orange-zest freshness that cleans the palate while matching fruit-based desserts.
Blandy’s Duke of Clarence Madeira, Tesco, £12 : If you haven’t sampled Madeira before, try this with a mince pie or slice of fruitcake. It is the first step to exploring the sheer delight of Madeira.
Raisthorpe Gin Liqueur Mixed Berries, Raisthorpemanor.com, £17.95 for 35cl: Full of red fruit flavours, this is delicious poured over ice and topped up with Raisthorpe strawberry and pomegranate tonic.
Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas 2005, Portugal, Waitrose, down from £31.99 to £25.59 until January 3: A fabulous vintage port that needs to stand up for a day before you open it, then decant into a jug, before you swirl out all the deposit and pour the port back into the bottle. Full of black fruits, liquorice, chocolate and a streak of spice. Partner with an aged cheddar cheese.
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